Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, June 10, 2006

OA to biotech patents

Patently Transparent, Nature Biotechnology, May 2006. An editorial. Excerpt:
With the proliferation of gene patents and the increasing profusion of biotech patents and licenses with overlapping and competing rights, the ability to interpret and filter intellectual property (IP) has never been more important. Last month’s announcement by Australian startup CAMBIA, and its initiative BIOS (Biological Innovation for Open Society), of the creation of an open-access patent database collating IP data from several national patent offices promises to radically improve that process....

[S]earching for a biotech patent has become an inexplicably frustrating and convoluted process. There is no streamlined and universal approach for searching patents filed at the various national and international patent offices....Worst of all, each patent of interest must be downloaded and printed one page at a time --even though it might be 100 pages long. The explanation is not some technical difficulty, or even a lack of funding or resources. According to the EPO, “this was done as a voluntary restriction at the request of the commercial [patent search firm] operators.” In other words, searching and accessing patents has been made difficult purposely so that patent search firms can more readily charge clients for searches.

Fortunately, help is now at hand. CAMBIA’s Patent Lens is a freely accessible IP database that contains 2.5 million patents from the USPTO, EPO and PCT, together with a powerful search engine. The interface makes possible searches of the full text of patents from all these patent databases.... It is estimated that underexploitation of technical information (an estimated 80% of which is published in patent documentation and nowhere else) costs European industry alone $20 billion each year—simply because the inability to access relevant patent information results in duplication of effort or the creation of products that overlap with prior art.