Friday, October 21, 2016

Can an individual, unaffiliated scientist have ground-breaking ideas? Television shows say "yes".

In an earlier post, IPBiz discussed the "Callisto" episode of the CBS show "Bull," the plot of which involved a case of alleged patent infringement. Although many of the legal details were a bit sketchy, the accused infringer was an individual scientist who "improved upon" an invention disclosed in an issued US patent. Whether or not the work of the accused infringer fell within the scope of an issued claim was not discussed.

However, the idea of work of an individual (unaffiliated) scientist being of interest appeared in 1963 in an early episode of "The Avengers" titled "The Golden Eggs," with Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman. In the initial scene in Steed's apartment, Steed (Macnee) notes to Gale (Blackman) that the scientist (Ashe) had his own lab and rarely published results. Although the scientist did not publish, someone had broken into the scientist's lab. The viewing audience knows the scientist was attacked and some eggs were taken, although a newspaper account available to Steed says nothing was taken. Gale tries to get more information from the scientist by posing as a reporter for 'Galileo,' trying a personal approach to science, seeking to know what scientists are thinking and who they are instead of just what they're doing. The scientist tells her it's a 'frightful idea' - scientists are boring, narrow-minded and self-opinionated. [We learn later that the eggs contain a virus, Verity Prime, a sample of which Ashe obtained from a colleague at a conference years earlier. The virus itself was not the invention.]

The theft was orchestrated by a criminal (character Redfern) who paid a lower level criminal ( DeLeon ) to steal the eggs, based on information obtained by bribing Ashe's assistant (Diana).

An interesting exchange: Ashe shows Gale some of his research and laughs at Gale's suggestion that he turn it over to the government.

An interesting twist in the ending. Ashe destroys his research and when Gale tries to return the eggs, Ashe says he won't be needing them anymore.

Returning to "Callisto," there was not much discussion of how an individual unaffiliated scientist could accomplish so much, and there was a suggestion of access to the patentee's work. The accused copyist in "Callisto" was working for the greater good, but the thief in "The Golden Eggs" was working for personal gain (what motivated Ashe was not clear). Neither the scientist/copyist in "Callisto" nor the scientist in "The Golden Eggs" disclosed publicly the results of the work, clearly lost in the case of "The Golden Eggs." The idea of disclosing the work in "The Golden Eggs" to the government was considered laughable, but the scientist/copyist in "Callisto" kept the information as a trade secret.

A link for "The Golden Eggs":

**Another 1963 episode of "The Avengers" titled "The Undertakers" contained the following text:

John Steed: Now the inventor's royalties alone could amount to, wow, a million pounds!
Mrs. Renter: But I already have a million.
John Steed: I'm sure another one wouldn't be in the way, huh?
Mrs. Renter: Well, I'm not so sure. What with death duties, being rich hardly seems worthwhile.


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