Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Industry contracting with academics to advance their message?

On or about 26 March 2008, Robert Bazell of NBC News did a piece revealing that that published studies (suggesting that spiral CT lung scans might help save smokers from cancer ) by Weill Cornell Medical College researchers in 2006 received funding from the tobacco industry which was not disclosed.

A foundation Cornell set up and listed in the New England Journal of Medicine in October 2006 as a sponsor of the study actually got $3.6 million from a parent company of cigarette maker Liggett Group Inc. Cornell’s dean, Dr. Antonio Gotto, acknowledged that the tobacco cash and patents that Cornell researchers hold on related technology should have been disclosed in Claudia Henschke’s journal articles.

Curiously, about the same, the March/April 2008 Stanford Magazine came out with a discussion of a proposed ban on tobacco research:

Arguably, the “tobacco ban” would violate Stanford's policy. But introducing the resolution at the April 19 Faculty Senate meeting, electrical engineering professor Bernd Girod, then chair of the Committee on Research, explained that the ban would not require rewriting policy. “We think that the general principle [on academic freedom] can be limited in rare and exceptional circumstances. In fact, it already is limited, for example, by the policies on conflict of interest or openness in research.” Current grants would not be affected and could be renewed, and the ban would be revisited in 10 years, giving the industry's research foundations a chance to prove good faith.

A key rationale for the ban was the federal court judgment in 2006 that found industry defendants had “used sponsored research in their scheme to defraud the American public about the hazards of tobacco.” They had “identified, trained, and subsidized 'friendly' scientists” and sponsored symposia globally with those scientists without revealing their financial ties. The defendants also “mounted a comprehensive, coordinated, international effort to undermine and discredit” re-search showing the dangers of secondhand smoke and “continue to deny the full ex-tent” of the harm.

IPBiz notes that the idea of using sponsored research to defraud the American public evokes some current "research" in favor of patent reform. Professor Greeley wrote about the tobacco business: It hurts me that my university [Stanford] gives them cover and sustenance. They are using us to whitewash themselves.

Mark Lemley and Carl Shapiro in 85 Tex. L. Rev. 1991 (2007) began: We are grateful to Apple Computer, Cisco Systems, Intel, Micron Technology, Microsoft, and SAP for funding the research reported in this Article. We emphasize that our conclusions are our own, not theirs. Lemley acknowleges Mallun Yen [chief patent counsel of Cisco].

The first paragraph of the conclusion:

Patents are important to innovation. But in industries that are overly clogged with patents and where patent holdup is a serious danger, they can also impede it. The goal of patent policy should be to ensure that patentees can get paid for their technology but that patent royalties bear some reasonable relationship to what patentees actually contributed. Both our bargaining model and our empirical investigation demonstrate that under current law patentees whose inventions are only one component of a larger product are systematically overcompensated.

Footnote 37 is Mark A. Lemley et al., Tracking Patent Trolls (2007) (unpublished manuscript, on file with author).

Footnote 44 is Mark A. Lemley & Bhaven Sampat, Is the Patent Office a Rubber Stamp? (2007) (unpublished manuscript, on file with author) (finding that modern patent applications are filed disproportionately in the information technology industries).

Footnote 51 contains Anne Layne-Farrar and Josh Lerner examine the decisions by patent holders whether or not to participate in nine specific patent pools, eight of which grew out of standard-setting efforts. Anne Layne-Farrar & Josh Lerner, To Join or Not to Join: Examining Patent Pool Participation and Rent Sharing Rules 7 (Nov. 15, 2006) (unpublished manuscript),

It is left as an exercise for the reader to determine how many times Lemley and Shapiro cited their own papers, and how many times they relied upon unpublished manuscripts.


On April 2, NBC discussed a genetic link that makes people more likely to get hooked on tobacco.


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