Friday, February 23, 2007

Intellectual honesty?

Further to the Rogerio Lobo affair at Columbia, the following comment was submitted to The Scientist:

Of the title of the article --How About Some Intellectual Honesty? It's time for scientists to speak up when something's not right--, two more relevant topics have arisen.

#1. Of a certain article in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine by researchers at Columbia, Bob Park's WN of 23 Feb. 07 notes:

The editor of JRM still refused to retract the article. This week, the remaining author, a businessman who owns fertility clinics in Los Angeles and Seoul, was charged by the editor of Fertility and Sterility with plagiarizing the work of a student in Korea on a different paper. The avenging angel was Bruce Flamm, M.D., UC Irvine, who has hounded the authors, Columbia, and JRM relentlessly since the paper was published.

IPBiz had an earlier post which included the text:

The Journal of Reproductive Medicine (JRM), which published the study (K.Y. Cha, D.P. Wirth, and R.A. Lobo, "Does prayer influence the success of in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer?" 46:781-787, 2001), not only refused to publish letters critical of it, they refused to even acknowledge their receipt. As months went by the JRM steadfastly refused to respond to e-mails, calls, or letters about the study.

#2. In the area of patent reform, a topic of interest to Congress in the month of February 2007, there has been much discussion of the poor quality of patents being issued by the US Patent Office. Certain economics professors have spoken of "a torrent of poorly reviewed patents, pouring out onto a legal landscape in which even trivial patents can be wielded as potent litigation threats." In addition to the economics professors, authorities cited include the FTC and the NAS. The difficulty is that the underlying evidence for all groups is the same, a study utilizing a model in which the patent grant rate could (and in some cases did) exceed 100%. One can't have perpetual motion machines and one can't have a "grant rate" in excess of 100%. Something's not right here, but no one is speaking up.

For reference, see also:

Lawrence B. Ebert
Feb. 23, 2007

Of the first point, one really has to question "how many" people have the stamina to hound anyone relentlessly, especially about something the science of which many people might question anyway.

Of the second point, I had contacted two New Jersey Congressmen about issues in the patent reform debate. One, Chris Smith, responded with a form email, and another, Rush Holt (who holds a Ph.D. in the sciences), didn't bother to respond at all.

In the past few years, a description of Congressional reaction to patent reform might have been captured by text in the article by ROBERT A. ARMITAGE, The Conundrum Confronting Congress: The Patent System Must Be Left Untouched
While Being Radically Reformed, 5 J. Marshall Rev. Intell. Prop. L. 267:

Should we look to a limitless sky by simply having the
wisdom to leave the patent system untouched, or are we
standing under a falling or fallen sky that only
radical reforms can repair? With the stark dichotomy
between the limitless sky and the falling or fallen
sky, it should surprise no one that when patent
lobbyists visit Capitol Hill, they inevitably leave
our legislators and their staffs perplexed.
Congressional leaders can only scratch their heads at
the disparate views on the patent system that they are

ABOUT IT 20-21 (Princeton Univ. Press 2004).

One gets the idea that in 2007 patent reform is going to be "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead." [In the present context, one might paraphrase a different theme from the Civil War: "It is well that patent reform is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it." (Similar words might have been come up at Mobile if ships in addition to the USS Tecumseh had been blown up by the mines.)]

Of the Jaffe/Lerner business, a couple of additional points, to be developed later:


Although Professor Field suggested that other IP professors might criticize the work of Jaffe and Lerner, in fact other IP professors are USING the work of Jaffe and Lerner:

The fundamental problem is the assumption that the
grant of the patent actually promotes innovation.
Certainly, the theoretical and policy justifications
for a patent system are to promote innovation. 77

Footnote 77: See, e.g., Adam B. Jaffe & Josh Lerner,
Innovation and Its Discontents: How Our Broken Patent
System Is Endangering Innovation and Progress, and
What To Do About It 23-24 (2004).

On the issue of whether the purpose of the patent system is to promote innovation (as distinct from promoting the disclosure of information), one might review
Edward C. Walterscheid, The Nature of The Intellectual Property Clause: A Study in
Historical Perspective (Part 1), 83 J. Pat. & Trademark Off. Soc'y 763:

Yet on its face the purpose of the clause is to promote the public interest through an increase of the public domain or commons of intellectual ideas and thought.


One also has the text:

For example, noted economists Adam Jaffe
and Josh Lerner, both of whom have published
extensively on various aspects of patent incentives,
also recently delivered a detailed analysis of the
problems in the U.S. system. See generally, Adam B.
Jaffe & Josh Lerner, Innovation and Its Discontents


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