. "INTRODUCTION." Intellectual Property Rights and Research Tools in Molecular Biology: Summary of a Workshop Held at the National Academy of Sciences, February 15-16, 1996. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1997.
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Intellectual Property Rights and Research Tools in Molecular Biology: Summary of a Workshop Held at the National Academy of Sciences, February 15–16, 1996
the course of the litigation, many research scientists received a letter from Promega suggesting to them they had been named as infringers against the Roche patent. Although Roche stated they had no intention of naming any scientists in the suit, the letter sent a chill throughout the research community and raised fears that patents might be blocking access to research tools. In addition to those controversies, less notorious controversies have surrounded other research tools in molecular biology.
Attitudes toward patenting in the research community have changed substantially since the late 1970s, when Stanford University's decision to patent the recombinant DNA technology developed by Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer met considerable resistance among academic scientists. Today, universities and academic scientists routinely pursue patent rights, often in competition with their counterparts in the private sector. University patenting steadily increased from 1965 to about 1980, when there was a sharp increase in patenting that has continued into the 1990s. From 1965 to 1992, university patents increased by a factor of over 15 from 96 to 1500, whereas total patents increased by only about 50% (Henderson and others 1994, 1995). The greatest portion of the increase in university patenting has been in biomedical sciences, and many university patents cover inventions that are useful primarily for scientific research.
There is no clear line separating the interests of the public and private sectors in intellectual property. It is sometimes celebrated and sometimes criticized throughout the research community, not always in the same terms or for the same reasons. University scientists complain that the eagerness of private firms to preserve intellectual property poses a threat to open scientific communication, that the prospect of obtaining patents influences research agendas, that overly broad patents stifle research, and that licensing practices impede access to and use of genetic materials and DNA technology. Yet few scientists today would voice wholesale opposition to patenting itself; scientists' concern is more likely to be how to ensure access to patented inventions on reasonable terms. Representatives of the private sector have a somewhat different list of complaints, including the overeagerness of university technology transfer managers to file patent applications, their overestimation of the value of their intellectual property and the underestimation of the additional investment required to turn a research discovery into a product, and their readiness to grant exclusive, rather than nonexclusive, licenses.
Increasing alliances among academe, industry, and government, driven by a combination of economic and legal changes, have challenged institutions in the public and private sectors to balance their sometimes competing interests in the protection of intellectual property. Over the last two decades, public investment in research has been rewarded by a dazzling series of advances in molecular biology. At the same time, scientists have had to adapt to declines in the growth of public funding to explore these research frontiers. The commercial potential of the advances has motivated the private sector to provide additional resources,