Patent goon squad

From OpenWetWare
Jump to navigationJump to search

The general idea would be for scientists (who might be so inclined) to actively keep an eye on new patent applications in their fields of interest in order to push back on overly-broad patents. I think there would be an interest in this sort of thing for synthetic biology at a minimum, but the feasibility is an open question :)

Discuss here

Contentious Patent Applications

It might be an idea to post important patents and allow people to add prior art that they might know about.

Does anybody have suggestions for categories for synthetic biology patents? The patents that are posted now seem to fit into 'devices' and 'assembly'. If we could organize the patents into particular technology categories, we could then create an internal hierarchy of patents based on the breadth of the claims.

Jason R. Kelly: Well, we could just get a laundry list together, some are probably sub-categories of others. Also, we probably care about certain categories more than others.

  • Devices - one or more biological parts that accomplish a specific function
  • Chassis - organisms for operating synthetic systems
  • Assembly - how to put parts together
  • Synthesis - how to synthesize DNA de novo
  • Part collections/libraries - the idea of collecting (and QCing?) parts
  • others?

Part libraries


This seems to be difficult one...we need to define some search terms to find what we are looking for. Actually, identifying useful search parameters for all categories is a good idea

These are the patents over which Codon Devices Inc. is suing Blue Heron Biotechnology (links are press releases from each respective company).


Invitrogen Gateway cloning system

This is potentially an example of a cloning standard that is under proprietary control. However, Invitrogen has an open licensing policy (have not read the details).

According to Invitrogen, Gateway® Cloning Products and their use are the subject of one or more of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,888,732, 6,143,557, 6,171,861, 6,270,969, 6,277,608, and 6,720,140 and/or other pending U.S. and foreign patent applications owned by Invitrogen Corporation.


Prior Art (pre June 5,2003)

Weiss & Knight 1999 - see fig 1, a biological inverter based on gene expression.


Open questions

Please add/edit -- or answer!

  • How hard is it to filter patents via existing search tools (e.g. into sub-fields)?
  • What is the number of 'biology' patent applications submitted each day?
  • Can you get access to the applications early enough in the process to effect the outcome?
  • Is it better to go after existing patents (life the EFF patent busting project) or patent applications?
    • Response from EFF lawyer:
It's very hard to attack patent applications because there
is no formal opposition process and they often change during the
prosecution process so as to be a bit of a moving target.  Also,
we've chosen to go after patents that are actively being used to
attack; when they are at the application stage, it is harder to
predict which ones will be the worst and worth going after.  Good
luck in your effects, though.




  • Hanna Breetz, Technology and Policy Program at MIT
  • Jason Kelly, BE at MIT
  • Royd, CAMBIA