Patents and Research
Developing a new technique involves, normally, a substantial investment. Going a step further and bringing it to market is an extra undertaking with even more money required. With Dispertech , the core of our business is to commercialize a device, and associated consumables. How can we protect the investment after we've validated the market? If anyone can jump right at the best time of the development, all the risk is absorbed by only one player.
However, patents should not be a block for innovation , and therefore a patent should not prevent a scientists from performing research, regardless of the commercial status of the patented invention. This is what the German patent law specifies:
Patented research tools used in research not relating to the tool as such but to other subject matter are frequently required for studies and experiments. They involve, for example, laboratory equipment, chemical reagents, cell lines, antibodies, or the use of patented receptors for application in screening processes. [...].
Because the patent protection of research tools does not extend to the information generated therewith, no cease-and-desist claim exists for the use of the obtained data in further technical developments, even if the use of the tool was not authorized. 6
And the research can be carried out at public institutions, but also within private companies. The biggest challenge is whether publishing research results would constitute an infringement of the patent. Publications do have commercial interests that go beyond (and include) the patented invention, just that probably in a different domain (e.g. the publication industry vs the microscopy industry).
However, the patent law in the US has a clear scope:
Under U.S. law , a patent owner can hold another person liable for infringement when that person makes, uses, sells, offers to sell, or imports the patented invention into the United States without authorization.
Even though the snippet above is referring to consumers reproducing patented content (specifically through 3D printing), it is not different from a researcher reproducing patented research .
There is another distinction to make between the role of patents and research as an activity and patents and researchers as people. Patents may have a personal impact that must be further explored.
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