Monday, January 15, 2007

The patent angle in Mike Hammer's "A New Leaf"

In the 1998 episode of Mike Hammer, entitled "A New Leaf," Mike investigates the death of a tobacco company scientist, Arthur Chilton, who was trying to obtain his own patents on certain tobacco plants. A company executive reminds the audience of how valuable patents can be.

In real life, we have the case of Star Scientific v. Reynolds, which patent litigation arose from a break-down in licensing talks in 1999. Also, in real life, we have a termination of a Mars employee, who tested an invention at work, but who would not assign the independently-created invention to Mars.

From Omissions and Commissions: Durel v. Osram Revisited, Intellectual Property Today, p. 38 (March 2002):

The case of Richard Knecht against M&M/Mars explores the interface
in intellectual property rights between an employees who develops an
[arguably non-work related] invention at home but subsequently brings it to the
work-place. Mr. Knecht had worked for 17 years for Mars, but was
fired over the dispute.

The IPT article was primarily about the gross error in chemical understanding made by the district court in the Osram case:

Osram Sylvania employed a coating of hydroxides of alumininum,
including AlO(OH) and Al(OH)3. By normalizing to atomic numbers (H = 1, O = 8,
Al = 13), the district court concluded that Osram's accused products fell within
the scope of the claim element "metal oxide coating" because such materials were
made up primarily of metal cations and oxygen. Although not clearly stated,
the district court seems to have construed the text "made up primarily of
metal cations and oxygen" to refer to the mass (weight) fraction of these
elements. As can be seen in footnote 3 of the appellate decision (256 F.3d at
1302), the Federal Circuit adopted this by properly calculating the mass (weight)
fraction of hydrogen in AlO(OH) and Al(OH)3 using atomic weights instead of
atomic numbers.


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