Thursday, July 20, 2006

The WARF/Thomson patents on stem cells and the Wright Brothers

The invention of three-dimensional control by the Wright Brothers, most pointedly including lateral control, was so basic to any aircraft design that, without it, no aircraft could have flown successfully. The Wrights had a broad patent.

To get around the Wrights' patent, Glenn Curtiss resurrected Langley's Aerodrome, a piece of "prior art" to the Wrights' patent. That particular effort, which incorporated post-Wright insights into a nominal pre-Wright aircraft, failed. Curtiss was making other efforts to get around the Wright patent when World War I intervened, and a patent pool was created. By the time of the patent pool, Wilbur Wright was dead, and Orville had sold his interests, so the dispute no longer involved the Wrights. Although the pool did not create any American-made fighter aircraft used in World War I, it did create a surplus of airplanes after World War I, and the Wright patent was not further litigated prior to its expiry in 1923.

In the re-exam filed against patents of Thomson/WARF, US 5,166,065 is cited as an anticipating reference. There is no disclosure within the '065 of an actual human (or primate) stem cell line, just as there was no disclosure of an aircraft which actually flies in the Langley work. In US 5,843,780, Thomson mentions an unsuccessful attempt at human stem cell formation using LIF.

Without making any judgment on the merits of the re-exam, IPBiz reminds folks that the purpose of the patent system is to reward those who bring novel, useful, and enabled inventions to the public. "Killing off" patents that do work based upon prior art that did not work is probably not a good idea, as the courts indeed determined in the case of the assertions of Curtiss made against the Wright Brothers.


Of the history of stem cells, see

Lensch and Daley, Origins of mammalian hematopoiesis: in vivo paradigms and in vitro models.Curr Top Dev Biol. 2004;60:127-96.

A. G. Smith, Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol 17, 435 (2001).

One website describes US 5,166,065 as follows:

USP 5,166,065 (Amrad Corp.) for the use of leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) in
maintaining ESCs in culture. Human ESCs are included. The European equivalent, EP
380,646, was the subject of controversy.

[IPBiz post 1800]


Post a Comment

<< Home