UW-Madison inches up from 7th to 6th place in world race for patents

Karen Herzog , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

With 168 patents issued last year, the University of Wisconsin-Madison moved back into sixth place among 100 universities surveyed around the world last year, according to a news release from the school.

UW inched up from seventh place among the Top 100 Worldwide Universities for U.S. utility patents granted in 2016. It had been in sixth place a couple of years ago.

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Q&A: How WARF Plans to Stay Relevant in Lean Times for Tech Transfer

Angela Shah

Quick, name one of the oldest—if not the oldest—university tech transfer institutions in the country.

If your brain automatically took you to a spot in New England or sunny California, think again. It’s the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF, which was founded nearly 90 years ago in 1925.

What would become WARF started when Harry Steenbock, a University of Wisconsin biochemistry professor, discovered a way to increase the vitamin D content of food, which could eliminate rickets, a crippling bone disease in children caused by a deficiency in that vitamin. Quaker Oats offered him $900,000—worth almost $12 million today—for the rights to his invention.

But Steenbock believed that the university should benefit from research he had conducted there. And so, he began to petition regents to set up a foundation composed of alumni that would manage patents from university research, and license the inventions to people in the business world who could make them into useful, profitable products. Any royalty income from the products would flow back to the foundation, and be put back into additional UW research, creating what WARF founders envisioned would be a virtuous cycle.

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Groups attack Wisconsin Alumni Foundation's embryonic stem cell patent

By Kathleen Gallagher of the Journal Sentinel

Two nonprofit groups are continuing their challenge to one of the Wisconsin Alumni Foundation's key embryonic stem cell patents by asking a federal appeals court to invalidate it.

The Public Patent Foundation, based in New York, and Consumer Watchdog, Santa Monica, Calif., filed a brief Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Public Patent Foundation was one of the successful challengers in the recently decided case in which the Supreme Court ruled that genes cannot be patented.

"WARF's broad patent on all human embryonic stem cells is invalid for a number of reasons and we are confident the Court of Appeals will agree," said Dan Ravicher, the foundation's executive director. The groups believe that all researchers should have unfettered access to embryonic stem cells, which scientists believe could help treat many diseases.

A WARF spokeswoman declined to comment, saying the foundation needed to review the filing with its attorneys.

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Supreme Court rules human genes cannot be patented

By Stephanie K. Baer of the Journal Sentinel

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that isolated human genes are not patentable, but synthetic DNA is.

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Download Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad

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You Don't "Own" Your Own Genes

RESEARCHERS RAISE ALARM ABOUT LOSS OF INDIVIDUAL "GENOMIC LIBERTY" DUE TO GENE PATENTS THAT MAY IMPACT THE ERA OF PERSONALIZED MEDICINE

NEW YORK (March 25, 2013) — Humans don't "own" their own genes, the cellular chemicals that define who they are and what diseases they might be at risk for. Through more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules, companies have essentially claimed the entire human genome for profit, report two researchers who analyzed the patents on human DNA. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual "genomic liberty."

In their new analysis, the research team examined two types of patented DNA sequences: long and short fragments. They discovered that 41 percent of the human genome is covered by longer DNA patents that often cover whole genes. They also found that, because many genes share similar sequences within their genetic structure, if all of the "short sequence" patents were allowed in aggregate, they could account for 100 percent of the genome.

Furthermore, the study's lead author, Dr. Christopher E. Mason of Weill Cornell Medical College, and the study's co-author, Dr. Jeffrey Rosenfeld, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey and a member of the High Performance and Research Computing Group, found that short sequences from patents also cover virtually the entire genome — even outside of genes.

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Seed-patent case in Supreme Court: Loss of patent control could rekindle ‘terminator’ technology.

Heidi Ledford

A technology called a ‘terminator’ was never going to curry much favour with the public. But even Monsanto, the agricultural biotechnology giant in St Louis, Missouri, was surprised by the furore that followed when it patented a method for engineering transgenic crops to produce sterile seed, forcing farmers to buy new seed for each planting. In 1999, Monsanto’s chief executive pledged not to commercialize terminator seeds.

The concept, if not the technology, is now gaining traction again. This week, the US Supreme Court hears arguments that pit Monsanto against 75-year-old Indiana soya-bean farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman, who used the progeny of Monsanto seeds to sow his land for eight seasons. The company says that by not buying seeds for each generation, Bowman violated its patents. If Bowman wins — and observers say that is not out of the question — the decision could make it harder for biotech firms to enforce patents on engineered organisms, from seeds to microbes, prompting them to revisit terminator-like technology.

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Nanotech patent jungle set to become denser in 2013

17 January 2013

Simon Hadlington

As we welcome in 2013, will nanotechnology continue to dominate many of the scientific headlines in the coming year, just as it has done over the past decade? The huge activity across nanotechnology in recent years, reflected in an ever-increasing number of patents, suggests that it will.

In 2012 the US patent office published some 4000 patents under its class ‘977 – nanotechnology’. This was a record, up from 3439 the previous year, 2770 in 2010 and 1449 in 2009.

Do these figures herald an exciting dawn of technological innovation based around components measured at the atomic and molecular scale? Emphatically not and on the contrary, argues Joshua Pearce, who runs the Open Sustainability Technology lab at Michigan Technological University in the US. The problem is that in the rush to patent potentially lucrative new discoveries, a forest of broad and overlapping patents have been filed around the world by commercial and academic researchers. If someone wishes to develop a new product that uses single-walled carbon nanotubes, for example, there is a dense ‘thicket’ of hundreds of patents to be negotiated.

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Biofuels patent marks milestone for Madison research hub

By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel

C5-6 Technologies of Middleton and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center in Madison are celebrating a milestone - the awarding of the first patent from the center's next-generation biofuels research.

The patent covers research into a heat-resistant enzyme that is well suited to break down the sugars contained inside the cells of plants.

C5-6 is the renewable fuels arm of the Middleton biotech firm Lucigen. The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center was founded in 2007 as one of three national centers created by the U.S. Department of Energy to focus on research and development for bioenergy. The center was awarded $125 million over five years.

"It's a good technology and, as much as anything, it makes an important milestone in terms of the center," said David Pluymers, the center's intellectual property manager. "We've been at this for about 4½ years now. We went through a start-up phase and moved to a point where our labs really got rolling."

The Madison center's mission is to find and develop breakthrough technologies that can enable transportation fuels to be made affordably from plants that aren't also food sources. Examples of these nonfood biofuel sources, known as cellulosic biomass, include the corn stalks and switch grass.

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EU bans patents of stem cells if embryo destroyed

AFP - Europe's top court on Tuesday banned researchers from patenting any process to extract stem cells when it leads to the destruction of a human embryo.

In a ruling that could affect medical research, the EU Court of Justice court said the use of human embryos "for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes which are applied to the human embryo and are useful to it is patentable."

"But their use for purposes of scientific research is not patentable," the court ruled.

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Mining Patent Gold: What Every CEO Should Know

By Marshall Phelps and John Cronin

In the weeks since Google acquired Motorola Mobility and its 17,000 patents for $12.5 billion, the media has engaged in an orgy of hand-wringing over a supposedly broken patent system that diverts resources away from innovation and towards litigation instead.

Ignore the histrionics. What the Google-Motorola deal actually proves is that innovation—and its embodiment in intellectual property—is more valuable and necessary than ever for market success. What’s more, patents are no longer simply akin to mining claims that give one the exclusive right to pan for gold. In many cases, patents are the gold itself.

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