Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues
Solutions to the Anticommons in Genome Patenting: Recent Events
Oak Ridge National Laboratory and PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
Since spring of 1998, when concerns over the implications of patenting gene fragments for access to the base genome sequence first surfaced, a number of changes have occurred that have as their goal overcoming inefficiencies due to what Heller and Eisenberg described as a tragedy of the anticommons. The anticommons, too many property rights issued for too few goods, allegedly restricts access to the base genome through a combination of incentives, transactions costs, and institutional rigidities. Since 1998, the base genome has been completed and published, major private sector players have revised their business plans, the U.S. Patent Office has issued new guidance for evaluating gene fragment patent applications, new analysis of the anticommons has occurred and new data have been collected, the Justice Department has revised its Antitrust policy that potentially governs policy options in this area, and a number of scholars have checked in with new suggestions for reducing anticommons costs. This paper reviews these events and arguments, and offers a unique, if untested, solution to the anticommons in base genome patenting policy.
The UC Discovery Grant
University of California, Office of The President
The UC Discovery Grant, awarded by the Industry-University Cooperative Research Program (IUCRP), creates a 3-way partnership between UC, Industry, and the State of California, and help advance research and education while simultaneously strengthening the competitiveness of California businesses.
Launched by the State of California in 1996, the IUCRP, together with Industry and State contributions, invests up to $60 million a year in UC Discovery Grants to encourage research at UC campuses in collaboration with California companies. The program is unusual in its emphasis on early-stage investigations that promise to yield new products and technologies and boost Californias economic productivity.
The UC Discovery Grant supports the following five fields: biotechnology; communications, networking and operating systems; digital media; electronics manufacturing and new materials; and information technology for life sciences. In addition, the program encourages and welcomes interdisciplinary research proposals across these five fields.
Researchers with Principal Investigator status at the ten UC campuses, the three National Laboratories, and the Agriculture Experiment Station are eligible to apply. Business Sponsors must have relevant R&D operations in California, or an R&D alliance with a firm in California. There are three competitive application rounds each yearfall, winter, and spring. For more information, visit: www.ucdiscoverygrant.org.
Design of a Survey of Licensing Practices of DNA-Based Patents
Georgetown University, Duke University, and AlleCure
A Web-based survey on the licensing policies and practices of academic institutions regarding their DNA based patents has been designed, and is currently being tested by a major northeastern university, prior to being administered to two dozen other academic institutions with the highest numbers of DNA based patents. The survey starts with policy questions, and then provides an interface which enables respondents to map licensing information to the bibliographic data of their own set of DNA based patents. The survey will report the percentage of DNA based patents managed by the responding institutions which have been, at one time, licensed. It will also report the number of times these licensed patents have been licensed. More detailed questions will be asked on a dozen licenses for every institution, including dates of execution and termination of the license, degrees of exclusivity and fields of use of the licenses, times when certain income thresholds have been reached, and diligence provisions in the license agreements. These data are expected to yield information on the distribution of times between patent filing, patent issuance, license execution, and other license outcomes, such as product introduction. It will also be possible to associate diligence provisions with degrees of exclusivity and licensing outcomes, where such outcomes may range from termination for non performance to product introduction. No results will be reported on a patent by patent basis, nor will licensee names be identified. Licensing data will be aggregated according to variables such as degrees of exclusivity, or elapsed times between patent filings and license grants.
This is a pilot survey funded jointly by the NIH and DOE.