license for TAQ

Bill Alexander alexanderw at
Tue Apr 16 16:04:38 EST 1996

In Article <1996Apr16.182343.25425 at>, bernard at
(Bernard Murray) wrote:
>In article <fn3jpEAP+1cxEwMV at>, duncan at 
>>...PCR is obvious but if an academic had invented it at around
>> the same time as Mullis you can be sure that either their University
>> would have made every attempt to patent it...
>I think its pretty clear he didn't "invent" it but patented it and
>popularised it after realising the potential (which does deserve
>credit). [Here I use "invent" in its old meaning = came up with the
>idea first/did it first, rather than the new legal context which 
>causes so much confusion ~ patented it first]

The legal def. of invention has not changed.  If someone else published how
to do this amplification before Mullis et al they (Mullis) would not have
been able to get a patent.  An earlier publication would also have to
specifically teach how to do an amplification in order to render the process
obvious.  You cannot be just the first to patent, you still have to be THE
first.  Each patent is searched in the literature to see if anyone else has
done it first and is rejected if a earlier publication (anywhere in the
world) is found.  

>        Also, the patenting explosion is a relatively recent occurrence.

In biology.

>For instance, do you remember the original monoclonal antibody paper and
>how at the time they couldn't convince people that it was worth
>marketing because no one could see the potential?  

I'm not sure if it was legal to patent this biological process (MABs) at
that time.  But suppose they had and it took a few years for them to start
marketing specific monoclonals for different applications.  Would research
have ended?  No.  We would have had one large monoclonal company that could
have built up some good capital.  This company could have brought a lot of
research into the production of monoclonals and could have focused more on
immunology when not much was known about it.  Instead we have a bunch of
different companies who make specific (patented) monoclonals which you can
buy and use save yourself lots of TIME.  Think about some major historical
inventions (telephone, airplane, light bulb, etc).  There usually is a large
company associated that was built around these inventions. 

Oh yes, any patent issued for making MABs would be lapsed by now.  Think
about it.

>On the surface of it
>the original manuscript looks like an immunological curiousity as it
>is not packaged as "here's a great *generally applicable* way to make
>loads of specific antibody".
>        Alas, good science appears to come second to good packaging...

Or do you mean old science is good science?
Packaging was not necessary to sell PCR.  Most labs used it as soon as they
heard about it.  It is used everywhere.  Specific DNA can even be added to
products as a tracer to later be detected using PCR.

Have you read any patents?  Many are very good scientific papers which a lot
of researchers could learn from.

>                        Bernard
>Bernard Murray, Ph.D.
>bernard at  (National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda MD, USA)
Bill Alexander 
alexanderw at

Bill Alexander
alexanderw at

     "640K ought to be enough for anybody." -- Bill Gates, 1981

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