Sunday, August 05, 2007

Loring playing the role of Chanute in the stem cell patent drama?

Further to Loring's patent application on stem cells, 9/199,703 filed on November 24, 1998, one notes that Loring's present contention that Thomson's work is obvious evokes the debate of approximately 100 years ago between Octave Chanute and the Wright Brothers, triggered by an article, quoting Chanute, which appeared in the New York World on January 17, 1910.

To see some of the details, the letter of Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright of January 23, 1910 may be found at invention.psychology.
One sentence of interest: If the courts will decide that the purpose and results were entirely different and that you were the first to conceive the twisting of the wings, so much the better for you, but my judgment is that you will be restricted to the particular method by which you do it. As notes to the letter show, Chanute overstated the results of Mouillard (Chanute was in fact supporting Mouillard's work).

Wilbur Wright responded on January 29, 1910. One finds the text:

If the idea was really old in the art, it is somewhat remarkable that a system so important that individual ownership of it is considered to threaten strangulation of the art was not considered worth mentioning then, nor embodied in any machine built prior to ours.

The patent of Mouillard, to which you refer, does not even mention the control of the lateral balance, nor disclose a system by which it is possible to attain it. I have read several of the books of Marey and Pettigrew, as well as what your book says on d'Esterno, Le Bris, etc., but I do not find in any of them any mention whatever of controlling lateral balance by adjustments of wings to respectively different angles of incidence on the right and left sides. Have you ever found such mention? It is not disputed that every person who is using this system today owes it to us and to us alone. The French aviators freely admit it. No legal disclosure of the system prior to us has yet been produced. Unless something as yet unknown to anybody is brought to light to prove the invention technically known to everybody prior to 1900, our warped judgment will probably continue to be confirmed by the other judges as it was by Judge Hazel at Buffalo.

Wilbur also noted:

We believed that the physical and financial risks which we took, and the value of the service to the world, justified sufficient compensation to enable us to live modestly with enough surplus income to permit the devotion of our future time to scientific experimenting instead of business. We spent several years of valuable time trying to work out plans which would have made us independent without hampering the invention by the commercial exploitation of the patents. These efforts would have succeeded but for jealousy and envy. It was only when we found that the sale of the patents offered the only way to obtain compensation for our labors of 1900 1906 that we finally permitted the chance of making the invention free to the world to pass from our hands. You apparently concede to us no right to compensation for the solution of a problem ages old except such as is granted to persons who had no part in producing the invention. That is to say, we may compete with mountebanks for a chance to earn money in the mountebank business, but are entitled to nothing whatever for past work as inventors. If holding a different view constitutes us almost criminals, as some seem to think, we are not ashamed. We honestly think that our work of 1900 1906 has been and will be of value to the world, and that the world owes us something as inventors, regardless of whether we personally make Roman holidays for accident loving crowds.

One flashes forward to the year 2007 and one finds Loring, Simpson of FTCR, and PubPat making the same arguments about strangulation of a technical field by patents as were made against the Wright Brothers in 1910. This is all a "been there done that moment," with Loring's patent application 9/199,703 showing that there was interest in human embryonic stem cells at the time and that the folks that didn't get there first will complain about those who did, whether in 1910 or 2007.

There is a letter from Chanute to Wright of May 14, 1910, which includes the text:

The difference in opinion between us, i.e., whether the warping of the wings was in the nature of a discovery by yourselves, or had already been proposed and experimented by others, will have to be passed upon by others, but I have always said that you are entitled to immense credit for devising apparatus by which it has been reduced to successful practice.

See also

What californiastemcellreport isn't talking about

Scientific American's The Equivocal Success of the Wright Brothers

Also, The Equivocal Success of the Wright Brothers: Myths about the Wright Brothers, which includes:

It was the Wrights' secretiveness that made this magazine (and many others) skeptical about their accomplishment.


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