Bonum Certa Men Certa

The EPO, USPTO, and Patent Microcosm Peddle Myths About Patents in Public Universities and Research

EpiPen article



Summary: Tackling some of the commonly-spread myths about patents as "saving lives" and "promoting research" (in practice leading to the death of poor people and promoting trolls)

THE patent system exists for a reason, but nowadays that reason is no longer the original reason. “Page not found” says this link EPO's account regarding oppositions to particular patents, which is kind of poetic when one thinks about it. Battistelli's EPO doesn’t want oppositions. Rubber-stamping is better for so-called 'production'. That's not what the patent system exists for.



Following its pattern of 'spamming' (not broadcasting to everyone on a per-subscription basis as in this new example), the EPO is pinging the University of Bonn with some template message like "Got any proposals for our Inventor Award 2017? Submit them here" (Battistelli's lobbying event).

Why is the EPO bothering universities now? It has already sent dozens of such 'spammy' messages, but now it's doing after universities.

"That’s not what the patent system exists for."Mr. Nazer, writing about universities that pursue patents, correctly notes that many of these patents end up in the hands of patent trolls. Here is a portion of what he wrote for the EFF the other day:

EFF recently launched Reclaim Invention, a project to encourage universities to manage their patent portfolios in a way that maximizes the public benefit. Specifically, we’ve urged universities to sign a Public Interest Patent Pledge not to sell or exclusively license patents to patent assertion entities, also known as patent trolls. EFF is proud to partner with Creative Commons, Engine, Fight for the Future, Knowledge Ecology International, and Public Knowledge on this initiative.

As part of our project, we’ve also released draft state legislation that we hope state legislators can adapt to promote pro-innovation technology transfer at state universities. Our legislative language has two components. First, it requires university technology transfer offices to adopt a policy committing them to manage patent assets in the public interest.


If the public cares about innovation and good use of public money, then the public should prevent universities from filing for patents. Universities don't need these, but friends of mine who work at the universities say that they are being pressured by administration staff to just amass patents, not just published academic papers. It's not often that universities sue using patents because usually they do so indirectly or offload their patents to trolls.

"Patent lawyers want us to believe that effective and affordable medicine exists because of patents, but in reality it exists in spite of patents.""75% of the 20 patent lawsuits filed yesterday were filed by patent trolls," United for Patent Reform wrote the other day. "It's time for Congress to take action to #fixpatents!"

The above seems to be a lot lower than the average. For technology patent lawsuits, it's now estimated (based on a complete/exhaustive list) that just under 90% of the time these are filed by trolls. They dominate the system.

Research and development in the public sector need not rely on patents, no matter what nonsense the EPO spreads with stock photography and prose. Patent lawyers want us to believe that effective and affordable medicine exists because of patents, but in reality it exists in spite of patents. Cancer patients, as explained to the EPO, actually suffer from patents, but patent boosters are busy framing the USPTO as a friend of cancer research. To quote this new example from Professor Crouch: "The USPTO is playing an important role in the National Cancer Moonshot, a Presidential initiative we blogged about earlier this summer, to speed up cancer advances, make more therapies available to more patients, and improve the ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage. Today, we are launching the USPTO Cancer Moonshot Challenge to enlist the public’s help to leverage our intellectual property data, often an early indicator of meaningful research and development (R&D), and combine it with other economic and funding data (ie. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Food and Drug Administration reporting, National Science Foundation grants vs. philanthropic investments, venture capital funding, etc.). This comes on the heels of our Patents 4 Patients program, which was launched in July and aims to cut in half the time it takes to review patent applications in cancer therapy."

Actually, a lot of cancer research money comes from the public (government grants, not just donations); afterwards there's privateering with patents (monopoly on treatments and thus overpricing), so who gains and who dies?

EpiPen is under heavy fire this week for price hikes owing to Congressional nepotism, but Professor Crouch links to this horrible new article which glamourises patents (even those that kill poor people) as well as a famous patent troll. It's sad to see that patent myths continue to thrive not just because of the patent industry but also the EPO and USPTO. They want us to believe that the more patents we have, the better. It's usually better for patent offices, trolls, and few opportunists with crooked nepotism (see EpiPen's example).

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