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November 2004
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Discovery of first demethylase molecule, a long-sought gene regulator

Could be target for cancer therapeutics
BOSTON, MA-Researchers have discovered an enzyme that plays an important role in controlling which genes will be turned on or off at any given time in a cell. The novel protein helps orchestrate the patterns of gene activity that determine normal cell function. Their disruption can lead to cancer.
The elusive enzyme, whose presence in cells was suspected but not proven for decades, came to light in the laboratory of Yang Shi, HMS professor of pathology, and is described in a study published in the Dec. 16 online edition of Cell and appearing in the Dec. 29 print edition.

"This discovery will have a huge impact on the field of gene regulation," said Fred Winston, an HMS professor of genetics who was not involved with the work. "Shi and his colleagues discovered something that many people didn't believe existed."

The enzyme, a histone demethylase, removes methyl groups appended to histone proteins that bind DNA and help regulate gene activity. "Previously, people thought that histone methylation was stable and irreversible," said Shi. "The fact that we've identified a demethylase suggests a more dynamic process of gene regulation via methylation of histones. The idea of yin and yang is universal in biology; our results show that histone methylation is no different."

In the cell, yarnlike strands of DNA wrap around protein scaffolds built of histones. The histones organize DNA into a packed structure that can fit into the nucleus, and the packing determines whether the genes are available to be read or not. Acetyl, methyl, or other chemical tags appended to the histones determine how the histones and DNA interact to form a chromatin structure that either promotes gene activity or represses it.

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Femtosecond laser technique opens new opportunities for research on neural regeneration

16 Dec 2004

In a breakthrough for research on nerve regeneration, a team of scientists has reported using femtosecond laser pulses to precisely cut individual axons of nerves in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, one of the most versatile and widely used experimental organisms for genetic and biomedical research. The nerves severed by this precision technique regrew within 24 hours, often with complete recovery of function.

The project was a collaboration between applied physics researchers at Stanford University led by Adela Ben-Yakar and biologists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, led by Yishi Jin and Andrew Chisholm.

The team's findings give researchers an experimental system in which they will be able to investigate in great detail the genetic and molecular factors that control whether or not damaged nerves can regrow, said Chisholm, an associate professor of molecular, cell, and developmental biology at UCSC.

"This technique will enable us to find the genes that are important in allowing an axon to regenerate. In the worm, we can do systematic screening of large numbers of genes, and of drugs and other small molecules as well, to ask how they affect the process of regeneration," Chisholm said.

Full story.

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Uncertain Landscape Ahead for Copyright Protection

Specter to Lead Key Panel as Industry Ally Hatch Steps Down

By David McGuire
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, December 16, 2004; 7:42 AM

In the final few weeks before the 2004 election, lobbyists for high-tech, entertainment and civil liberties interests were crammed into an icy room in the Dirksen Senate office building, trying to hammer out a bill that would have put Internet song-swapping networks like Kazaa and eDonkey out of business.

It was a controversial measure on a difficult topic, and could have easily been lost in the end-of-year shuffle. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) was the lead sponsor of the measure and had ordered the warring factions to keep talking until they came up with language everybody liked.

Talks eventually collapsed, but the fact that the measure was being debated at all in the October before a national election testified to the power that an influential committee chairman like Hatch has in managing the legislative agenda.

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Father of Java labels patent case atrocious

Brendon Chase
December 16, 2004
URL: http://www.builderau.com.au/program/work/0,39024650,39170928,00.htm

The father of Java -- James Gosling -- has called the recent court case between Sun Microsystems and Eastman Kodak over patents "a complete atrocity".

As part of an out-of-court settlement of the case, Sun agreed to pay Eastman Kodak US$92 million dollars to license the patents, which Kodak acquired in 1997 from Wang Laboratories.

"You know this is one of these things where I shouldn't say too much other than that the whole case was a complete atrocity. One of these days we need to write up a pretty thorough account of what happened during the case, but it really opened up my eyes to patents and the American legal system..it was quite bizarre, " Gosling told Builder AU

In November, Sun's chief executive officer, Scott McNealy told Builder AU that the Kodak patent case was an example of the company "taking a bullet" to protect its end-users.

"Customers need to use a software provider with cash in the bank, who protects and indemnifies them and will look out for their interests," McNealy said.

"A lot of people argue that software patents are a misapplied art, but what the heck -- there can be lots of folks out there that don't have another way of making money. Kodak, like we all know, are hardly the model of profitability and strategic positioning right now".

While Gosling is a believer in intellectual property and patents, he believes "the way they are being used today is ridiculous," underlying a growing outcry among the development community worldwide of the threat to innovation presented by software patents.

Full story.

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Syngenta to Appeal Patent Verdict

By JIM SUHR
The Associated Press
Wednesday, December 15, 2004; 12:20 PM

ST. LOUIS - Syngenta AG is promising to appeal a federal jury ruling favoring agribusiness rivals Monsanto Co. and a Dow Chemical Co. biotechnology subsidiary in a patent-infringement flap over insect-resistant corn.

U.S. District Court jurors in Delaware determined Tuesday that Monsanto and Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences did not infringe on a Syngenta patent, essentially finding the patent invalid because Switzerland-based Syngenta did not actually invent the technology.

Full story.

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Failure sets back missile defense plan

Interceptor never launches in first test in two years

Reuters
Updated: 4:49 p.m. ET Dec. 15, 2004


WASHINGTON - President Bush’s drive to deploy a multibillion-dollar shield against ballistic missiles was set back Wednesday by what critics called a stunning failure of its first full flight test in two years.

The abortive $85 million exercise raised new questions about the reliability of the first elements of the plan, an heir to President Ronald Reagan’s vision of a space-based missile defense that critics dubbed “Star Wars.”

The interceptor missile never left its silo at Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific, shutting itself down automatically because of an “anomaly” of unknown origin, the Missile Defense Agency said.

About 16 minutes earlier, a target missile had been fired from Kodiak, Alaska, in what was to have been a fly-by test designed chiefly to gather data on new hardware, software and engagement angles, said Richard Lehner, a spokesman.

Full story.

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Satellite ‘safe zone’ isn’t that safe after all

Solar storms can squish a region that was thought to provide orbital shelter

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior science writer
Space.com
Updated: 5:12 p.m. ET Dec. 15, 2004


SAN FRANCISCO - A pocket of near-Earth space tucked between radiation belts gets flooded with charged particles during massive solar storms, shattering the illusion it was a safe place for satellites.

The safe zone was thought to be virtually radiation-free, a good region in which to deploy satellites so they'd be protected from the potentially debilitating effects of magnetic storms that can slam into Earth at millions of miles per hour.

But a new study of a string of severe storms last year debunks the notion. Scientists discussed the work here Wednesday at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

The once-suspected safe zone is called the Van Allen Radiation Belt Slot. The Van Allen belts are like two doughnuts of electrons around Earth, all trapped by the planet's magnetic field. The safe zone is a thick circular ribbon of space between the two doughnuts, from about 4,350 miles (7,000 kilometers) above the planet to 8,110 miles (13,000 kilometers) up.

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, parent of the National Weather Service, have recently pondered putting satellites into this region to avoid the radiation that affects satellites at higher and lower altitudes. (In most cases, however, satellite location is determined by imaging or communication needs.)

Full story.

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White House wants plans for GPS shutdown

Global Positioning System would be disabled during crisis to keep enemies from using it

By Ted Bridis
Technology Writer
The Associated Press
Updated: 8:54 p.m. ET Dec. 15, 2004


WASHINGTON - President Bush has ordered plans for temporarily disabling the U.S. network of global positioning satellites during a national crisis to prevent terrorists from using the navigational technology, the White House said Wednesday.

Any shutdown of the network inside the United States would come under only the most remarkable circumstances, said a Bush administration official who spoke to a small group of reporters at the White House on condition of anonymity.

The GPS system is vital to commercial aviation and marine shipping.

The president also instructed the Defense Department to develop plans to disable, in certain areas, an enemy’s access to the U.S. navigational satellites and to similar systems operated by others. The European Union is developing a $4.8 billion satellite navigation program called Galileo.

Full story.

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Google hit with trademark suit over 'Scholar'

Published: December 14, 2004, 8:39 AM PST
By Matt Hines
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

The American Chemical Society has filed suit against Google, alleging that the search giant violated a trademark held by the group when it launched the Google Scholar search tool.

The suit, filed Dec. 9 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claims that Google's use of the word "scholar" violates a May 2003 trademark held by ACS for the name of its Web-based academic search tool, SciFinder Scholar. In the suit, ACS, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group, demands that Google cease and desist from using the word "scholar" in the name of its tool in order to prevent confusion among users.

Full story.

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Google wins in trademark lawsuit

Judge rejects Geico's claim search engine infringed on trademarkThe Associated Press
Updated: 12:12 p.m. ET Dec. 15, 2004

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Google Inc. won a major legal victory Wednesday when a federal judge said the search engine could continue to sell ads triggered by searches using trademarked company names.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema rejected a claim by auto insurance giant Geico Corp., which argued that Google should not be allowed to sell ads to rival insurance companies that appear whenever Geico’s name is typed into the Google search box.

Google derives a major portion of its revenues from selling ad space to businesses that bid on search terms used by people looking for information about products and services online.

Geico claimed that Google’s AdWords program, which displays the rival ads under a “Sponsored Links” heading next to a user’s search results, causes confusion for consumers and illegally exploits Geico’s investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in its brand.

Full story.

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How Stem Cells Repair a Heart

Researchers Describe How Human Blood Stem Cells Transform Themselves to Repair Injured Animal Hearts
M. D. Anderson News Release 12/15/04

Regeneration of damaged hearts using blood stem cells now appears to be clinically promising, say Texas researchers who show that in mice, human stem cells use different methods to morph into two kinds of cells needed to restore heart function ¯ cardiac muscle cells that contract the heart as well as the endothelial cells that line blood vessels found throughout the organ.

Using a sophisticated way of examining the “humanness” of mouse heart cells, researchers report in the December 21 issue of the journal Circulation (which was published online December 13) that two months after mice with ailing hearts were treated with human stem cells, about two percent of cells in their heart showed evidence of a human genetic marker.

Furthermore, researchers described, for the first time, how these human master cells use different ways to become two distinct kinds of cells needed in the heart. Human stem cells primarily “fuse” onto mouse cardiac cells to produce new muscle (myocyte) cells that have both human and mouse DNA. But to form new blood vessel cells, they “differentiate” or mature by themselves, presumably to patch damaged mouse blood vessels with human cells.

Full story.


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Syngenta to Appeal Patent Verdict

Syngenta to Appeal Patent Verdict
Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2004 - 12:20 PM

By JIM SUHR
AP Business Writer

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Syngenta AG is promising to appeal a federal jury ruling favoring agribusiness rivals Monsanto Co. and a Dow Chemical Co. biotechnology subsidiary in a patent-infringement flap over insect-resistant corn.

U.S. District Court jurors in Delaware determined Tuesday that Monsanto and Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences did not infringe on a Syngenta patent, essentially finding the patent invalid because Switzerland-based Syngenta did not actually invent the technology.

Full story.

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Milwaukee biotech company secures venture capital

ZyStor Therapeutics Inc., a Milwaukee biotechnology company has secured $8.5 million in venture financing and plans to move into new offices in the Milwaukee County Research Park. The company's new laboratory and offices are under construction at the Technology Innovation Center in the park and are expected to be ready for occupancy in January. ZyStor develops innovative enzyme replacement therapies for the treatment of lysosomal storage diseases.

Full story.

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Remove me!
Do those unsubscribe links actually work, or are they just another spammer scam? A reporter goes undercover in the world of fake Rolexes to find the answer.

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By Brian McWilliams

Dec. 14, 2004 | Casper Jones is the head of BlackMarketMoney.com, a spam operation that's been pelting the Internet with junk e-mail for fake Rolex watches. I'm almost positive his name is a pseudonym. But does he know that Chris Smith is not my real name?

That's how I introduced myself last month, when I sent Casper an e-mail asking to join his spamming crew. I fibbed to him that I was a full-time bulk e-mailer looking for a new sponsor. I said that one of my business associates had recommended his program. (For authenticity, I lightly sprinkled typos and grammatical errors throughout the message.)

I wanted to be one of Casper's sales affiliates. In today's world of spam, a sales affiliate sends out junk mail on behalf of a spam-site operator or "sponsor," who assigns the affiliate a special tracking code to include in his e-mail ads. For every sale the affiliate's spams generate, he is paid a commission by the site operator. Sponsors also provide "remove" lists, spamming software, and other support to help their affiliates successfully market the site.

Since September, Casper and his associates had been clogging my various e-mail accounts with ads for a watch shop called Royal-Replicas.com (formerly onlinereplicastore.com). I filed several complaints with the Chinese Internet service provider hosting the site, to no avail.

I suppose I could have just clicked the "unsubscribe" links in the dozen or so spams they sent me every day. But I didn't trust these people one bit. I was sure that if I could get inside Casper's operation, I would find hard evidence confirming what savvy Internet users instinctively know: Trying to unsubscribe from spam is a fool's game.

Just look at the place. Royal-Replicas.com provides no physical mailing address in its junk e-mails or at the site. The domain's registration record lists someone in Spain as the owner. The site is hosted on a server in China, but the order page cites prices in Indian rupees as well as U.S. dollars. The headers of the spams reveal that many have been sent via "zombied" home computers. Even the headers of Casper's private e-mails are a fraud. (He routed all his messages to me through proxy computers in South Korea.)

The "About Us" page at Royal-Replicas.com doesn't help much, either. It contains little more than a bizarre rationale for buying its $300 knockoffs rather than the real thing: "Many people purchase watches that cost thousands of dollars and render the wearer liable to get their hand chopped off while walking home from a posh cocktail party."

Bulk e-mailers are required to honor list-removal requests under the U.S. CAN-SPAM law. But still it's common knowledge that clicking an unsubscribe link or handing over your e-mail address on a junk e-mailer's remove page is insane. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) warns that unsubscribe links are "often just a method for collecting valid addresses that are then sent other spam." The FTC has sent warning letters to at least 77 marketers for their failure to honor unsubscribe requests.

Sure, a few spammers might take your name off to avoid trouble. But to most, you're merely confirming that they've found a live one. Next thing you know, they'll have sold your e-mail address to other spammers as "validated" -- or, in other words, ready for spamming.


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Caterpillar Patents Invalidated

December 15, 2004 Wednesday Home Edition
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

JEFF NESMITH

Washington --- A U.S. Patent Office examiner has declared that key patents for a new Caterpillar Inc. diesel engine infringe on ideas previously patented by an Alpharetta inventor and are therefore invalid.
The action, which Caterpillar has two months to appeal, awards Clyde Bryant of Alpharetta the first round in his battle with the giant heavy equipment manufacturer.

If the declaration, known as an "office action," is not overturned, Caterpillar will lose the patents.

Bryant, a 77-year-old retired Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chemist, challenged the two patents in a petition filed with the Patent Office in October.

He argued that the patents, one of which won a national Inventor of the Year award this year for two Caterpillar engineers, were based on ideas he patented in 2001.

Full story.
Caterpillar based the development of its ACERT diesel engine largely on the challenged inventions.

Company officials have said Caterpillar, headquartered in Peoria, Ill., spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the ACERT engine, which achieves unprecedented fuel efficiency and reduces emissions of air pollutants.

Bryant's patent and the two awarded to Caterpillar describe systems for controlling the flow of fuel and air into internal combustion engines in ways that make them run more efficiently.

After reviewing the Caterpillar patents and Bryant's petition, examiner Thomas Moulis rejected almost all of Caterpillar's claims. He said agency records show Bryant's patent was not considered when applications for the two Caterpillar patents were being reviewed.

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RIM Can Still Win

Arik Hesseldahl, 12.14.04, 7:50 PM ET

NEW YORK - At first glance it may look like the U.S. Federal Appeals Court handed wireless handheld maker Research In Motion a resounding defeat in its long-fought patent litigation with NTP, the company set up to protect the patents of inventor Thomas Campana, who died in June at age 57.

Investors knocked nearly 2% off the stock of Toronto-based RIM (nasdaq: RIMM - news - people ) in late trading Tuesday after the appeals court found that a lower court had "correctly found infringement" in the case, and upheld 11 of NTP's patent infringement claims against RIM.

But the markets may be rushing to judgment. The appeals court also ruled that five claims were too broad. They will have to be reargued again in court. Until that happens the injunction banning BlackBerry sales in the United States, that the lower court issued but then stayed last year pending the outcome of the appeal, will remain stayed.

Full story.

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Wisconsin scrutinizes energy demands

By Richard Ryman
Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers

Wisconsin needs more sources of electricity. It needs more and better high-voltage transmission lines to move electricity where it needs to go. It needs to have everyone working on the same page.

Two recently released reports — Wisconsin’s Strategic Energy Assessment/Energy 2010 and the Governor’s Task Force on Energy Efficiency & Renewables — seek to address the multitude of issues related to actual and potential electrical system shortcomings.

The Strategic Energy Assessment is the Public Service Commission’s current planning process, replacing in 2000 a more centralized, less flexible system called Advance Plan.

Full story.

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Red Blood Cell "Motors"

Red blood cells are go!
14 December 2004

Physicists in India have shown that red blood cells can transfer the angular momentum in a circularly polarized laser beam into rotational motion. The "motor" developed by Deepak Mathur and colleagues at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai could find use in a variety of applications, including biosensors and cellular micromachines (J A Dharmadhikari et al. 2004 Appl. Phys. Lett. 85 6048).

Several groups have already shown that optical forces can be used to make micron-sized objects rotate, but these objects all had to be made with complicated microfabrication techniques. The advantage of the Tata approach is that it exploits naturally occurring materials.

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BlackBerry Maker's Patent Suit Upheld

By Jeffrey Hodgson and Peter Kaplan
Reuters
Tuesday, December 14, 2004; 3:27 PM

A U.S. appeals court upheld a patent infringement finding against BlackBerry e-mail device maker Research In Motion Ltd. on Tuesday, but struck down part of the ruling and sent it back to a lower court for further proceedings.

Shares of Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM soared more than 10 percent on news that a decision had been reached, but erased those gains after the court released details of the decision. Trading was then halted.

Analysts offered widely divided opinions on whether the decision was mainly positive or negative for RIM.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said a lower court had "correctly found infringement" in the case that pitted RIM against patent holding company NTP Inc.

But the appeals court concluded the lower court had misconstrued the term "originating processor," which was used in several of the claims at issue, and sent it back to the lower court to determine if the verdict should be modified.

Full story.

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Maryland judge overturns anti-spam law

Says statute sought to regulate commerce outside state's bordersThe Associated Press
Updated: 1:07 p.m. ET Dec. 14, 2004
ROCKVILLE, Md. - A Maryland judge has ruled the state's anti-spam law is unconstitutional.

The judge tossed out a suit against a New York e-mail marketer, saying the state law seeks to regulate commerce outside Maryland's borders.

Congress and more than three-dozen state legislatures have passed laws to limit junk e-mail advertising. Appeals courts in California and Washington state have upheld the spam laws and reversed lower court decisions similar to this latest judgment.

Full story.

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Suit claims software shouldn't be copyrighted

Expert believes products should be protected by patents
Updated: 8:23 a.m. ET Dec. 14, 2004WASHINGTON - Computer software should not be protected by copyright laws designed for music, literature and other creative works, according to a lawsuit filed in a U.S. court in San Francisco.

Intellectual-property consultant Greg Aharonian hopes to convince the court that software makers can protect their products adequately through patents, which provide more comprehensive protection, but are difficult to obtain and expire in a shorter period of time.

The case seeks to clarify which laws the $100 billion U.S. software industry uses to protect its products. Currently, software makers like Microsoft Corp. use both copyright and patent laws to protect their creations, as well as "clickwrap" agreements that stipulate terms of use.

Full story.

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Stem Cells Gone Awry

Cancer Killer
Robert Langreth, 12.27.04

Radical researchers are onto a controversial idea for stopping cancer:go after stem cells
Peter Dirks uses a talented pair of hands to cut cancer out of the brains of sick children. But no matter how brilliantly he performs, he rarely is able to stop cancer's return; sometimes the tumors come roaring back just months after he excises all visible signs of disease.

This inevitability--of children dying in the face of his best attempts to heal them--got to him. "It broke my heart that we couldn't do more for them," says Dirks, a surgeon-scientist at the University of Toronto-affiliated Hospital for Sick Children. So in desperation he set out six years ago to pursue a radical new theory of what truly fuels cancer's growth, one that might unlock new therapies and explain why today's treatments often provide only fleeting help.

His concept was so fringy that government agencies repeatedly rejected his grant proposals. Parents of several of his patients kept the research going by donating $100,000 to his efforts; one of the couples even took up a collection at their child's funeral. But this fall Dirks reported a breakthrough that could dramatically alter our understanding of how cancer grows. His revelation, which could take a decade or more to take hold, is the latest in a string of findings that may one day uncloak the key triggers of many different kinds of cancer.

Scientists have long assumed that all of the dozens of kinds of cells inside a tumor are created equal--and are equally deadly, capable of spreading elsewhere in the body to create a totally new tumor. So they focus on chemotherapy that kills as many cancer cells as possible.

Dirks and a handful of other mavericks argue that this indiscriminate approach is wrongheaded. They believe a single type of cell may be cancer's main growth engine:mutant stem cells that, though barely present, spawn other cells that then spark growth. "This has profound implications," says researcher Thomas Look of Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "The major cells you see under a microscope may not be the ones you need to kill in order to cure the disease." He adds that the theory "is definitely still very controversial" in some quarters.

Full story.

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Google -- 21st Century Dewey Decimal System

By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 14, 2004; 9:49 AM

The search engine wars get more interesting by the week, and once again it's Google making a big splash with news that it is partnering with some of the world's most prestigious universities to make it easier for Web users to scan the schools' vast library holdings.

The Google announcement, as several newspapers noted this morning, amounts to a major challenge to Amazon.com, which already makes the text of millions of books available to users through its own search engine. And while the Google move could help millions of Internet users gain access to information once buried deep in library stacks, it also raises big questions about whether a for-profit company should become a gatekeeper to such vast storehouses of knowledge.

Full story.

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Embryo Screening Stirs Ethics Debate

A Boy for You, a Girl for Me: Technology Allows Choice

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 14, 2004; Page A01

Kristen and John Magill adore all three of their daughters -- 11-year-old twins and a 5-year-old baby sister. But when they began to plan for their next -- and last -- child, the Magills really wanted a boy.

"My husband is a 'Junior' and has a family business that he wants to continue in the family name," said Kristen, 37, of Grafton, Mass.

So the Magills combined a family trip to Disneyland in August with a stop at a Los Angeles fertility clinic that enables couples to pick the sex of their babies. Kristen is now expecting twin boys.

Full story.

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Autobytel Sues For Patent Infringement

Irvine-based Autobytel announced this morning that it has filed a patent infringement suite against Dealix Corporation. The company claims that the competitor is infringing upon a patent it received in 2001 for matching customers and sellers in purchasing goods and services over the Internet and other computer networks.

Full story.

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Judge Hears Geico, Google Trademark Case

By SAM HANANEL
Associated Press Writer

A federal judge heard arguments Monday in a trademark dispute that could threaten millions in advertising revenue for search engine Google Inc.

Attorneys for auto insurance giant Geico told U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema that Google should not be allowed to sell ads to rival insurance companies that are triggered whenever Geico's name is typed into the Google search box.

Geico claims that Google's AdWords program, which displays the rival ads under a "Sponsored Links" heading next to a user's search results, causes confusion for consumers and illegally exploits Geico's investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in its brand.

"When a consumers enters 'Geico' ... and goes to the sponsored link believing there's a connection, that is where the confusion arises," said Geico attorney Charles Ossola.

But Google attorney Michael Page said the ad policy is no different than a supermarket giving out coupons for one product in the checkout line when a customer buys the same product from a different company.

"There is nothing wrong with that under the trademark laws," Page said.

Full story.

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Carbon Nanotubes Yield a New Class of Biological Sensors

Glucose sensor provides real-time readouts without the need to draw blood samples.

Arlington, Va.--Nanotechnology researchers at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a tiny, implantable detector that could one day allow diabetics to monitor their glucose levels continuously—without ever having to draw a blood sample.

The work, which is the first application of a whole new class of biological sensors, was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and announced December 12 in the online edition of the journal Nature Materials.

Full story.

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The Troubling Prospect of Genetic Manipulation

Monday, December 13, 2004; Page A20

David Brown's Dec. 4 front-page article, "2 Stem Cell Options Presented," should be an eye-opener to those who believe in the separation of church and state.

The President's Council on Bioethics has greeted with enthusiasm a technique to generate stem cells that it claims could solve one of the most contentious bioethical dilemmas of the past decade. The concept involves the use of cloning to intentionally sabotage the development of human embryos. The council said the resulting "bundle of cells" would not be an embryo and so could be used ethically to generate stem cells.

Full story.

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State start-ups need help sooner

By JOHN TORINUS
Special to the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Dec. 11, 2004
It isn’t a shortage of venture capital that’s holding back Wisconsin business start-ups, it’s a flow of deals that comes in drips, not gushers.

In the hot deal areas of the country, venture capitalists have a steady flow of companies to screen in search of winners. But even in places such as Silicon Valley, Boston and San Diego, picking winners is still a risky business.

Put another way, the funnel through which deals flow is backward in Wisconsin, says Lane Brostrom, managing director of TechStar, an organization created to accelerate start-ups in the Milwaukee area. By putting too much emphasis on venture capital and not enough on the early stages of business creation, he believes, the state puts itself at a disadvantage.

The prototype in the venture world, he said, is 100 deals coming in the front end of the process, and two or three coming out the end that qualify for venture capital. Brostrom and TechStar (I serve on the board) have a bias for more activity on the front end and have been lobbying to create a seed and early-stage fund.

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Stealth Satellite

New Spy Satellite Debated On Hill
Some Question Price and Need

By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 11, 2004; Page A01

The United States is building a new generation of spy satellites designed to orbit undetected, in a highly classified program that has provoked opposition in closed congressional sessions where lawmakers have questioned its necessity and rapidly escalating price, according to U.S. officials.

The previously undisclosed effort has almost doubled in projected cost -- from $5 billion to nearly $9.5 billion, officials said. The National Reconnaissance Office, which manages spy satellite programs, has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the program, officials said.

The stealth satellite, which would probably become the largest single-item expenditure in the $40 billion intelligence budget, is to be launched in the next five years and is meant to replace an existing stealth satellite, according to officials. Non-stealth satellites can be tracked and their orbits can be predicted, allowing countries to attempt to hide weapons or troop movements on the ground when they are overhead.

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The Acceptable Knockoff

The Acceptable Knockoff
By ROB WALKER

Published: December 12, 2004
The It Bag

Last year, Louis Vuitton released a new handbag line that became a tremendous hit in the marketplace. It was the kind of success -- more than 70,000 bags and accessories were sold in the first year -- that earns a media-friendly nickname like the It bag. Also last year, Dooney & Bourke released a handbag line that looked quite a bit like Louis Vuitton's trendy model, albeit at a far lower price. Dooney & Bourke named its new product the It Bag. The company has sold about 500,000 of these. The most popular version seems to be the one that looks the most like the Vuitton. Not surprisingly, the matter ended up in the courts. This past summer a federal judge in the Southern District of New York issued a ruling saying that while Dooney & Bourke had ''copied'' Louis Vuitton, it had not violated the French fashion giant's intellectual property rights, and could go about its business. The It Bag might be a knockoff -- but it's an acceptable knockoff.

. . .

The bags are not identical: aside from the different letters in the logos, the D&B version renders its repeated mark in a smaller size and also features multicolor zippers. ''The colors used on the Dooney & Bourke bags,'' the judge added in a brief aesthetic flight, ''are noticeably toned down, and consequently fail to evoke the characteristic 'friction' sparked by Murakami's bright, clashing colors.''

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Moomin Domain Transferred

WIPO strips Tokyo man of Moomin domain rights

GENEVA -- A Tokyo man who controlled the domain "moomin.com" has been stripped of his rights in favor of the Finnish company that owned the merchandising rights to the famous troll characters.

The World Intellectual Property Organization's Arbitration and Meditation Center ordered the Setagaya-ku man hand over the domain to Oy Moomin Characters Ltd.

The Finnish firm claimed the man had only registered the domain name with the intent to make a profit out of renting it.

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Public Wireless Network for Madison Coming

Public wireless Net coming soon
City, state seek vendors' bids
By Judith Davidoff
December 10, 2004

Wireless Internet could be available in downtown Madison and at the Dane County Regional Airport by this spring, said mayoral spokesman George Twigg.

The state Department of Administration is putting out a request for proposals today seeking vendors interested in building the network, said Twigg and Scott McDonell of the state Department of Administration.

While the initial proposal will be for downtown Madison (about a 1.5-mile radius around the Capitol Square) and the airport, it's expected that the network would eventually be expanded to include other sites in Madison, such as the Alliant Energy Center, and to other communities throughout the state, Twigg said.

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Pentagon Scrubs Missile-Defense Flight Test

Dec 10, 4:30 AM (ET)

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The first flight test in nearly two years of a planned U.S. missile-defense shield has been scrapped two days in a row this week because of bad weather, the Pentagon said on Friday.

Strong rain squalls over the Kwajalein atoll launch site in the central Pacific caused the latest postponement, Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, said shortly after the decision to scrap the test. A new attempt might be made later in the day, he said.

The Pentagon had not previously publicized the test.

An exercise deemed successful may set the stage for President Bush to declare the system on alert to shoot down a warhead that could be fired by a potential foe like North Korea.

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U.S. Supreme Court to Look at File Sharing

By Hope Yen
The Associated Press
Friday, December 10, 2004; 1:18 PM

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to consider whether two Internet file-sharing services may be held responsible for their customers' online swapping of copyrighted songs and movies.

Justices will review a lower ruling in favor of Grokster Ltd. and StreamCast Networks Inc., which came as a blow to recording companies and movie studios seeking to stop the illegal distribution of their works.

The file-sharing is "inflicting catastrophic, multibillion dollar harm on petitioners that cannot be redressed through lawsuits against the millions of direct infringers using those services," the appeal by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and other entertainment companies says.

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Stem Cell Initiative Lacks Oversight

Michael Hiltzik:
Golden State

The Now-They-Tell-Us Department, best known for the nonexistent WMDs in Iraq, has a surprise for California voters who approved the $3-billion embryonic stem cell research bond in the last election:

Don't expect state officials to have much oversight of how the money gets spent.

This realization emerges from a spat that has erupted between two supporters of the program. One is Robert Klein II, the Palo Alto real estate developer who spearheaded the $27-million ballot campaign for Proposition 71 and may become the program's first chairman. The other is state Sen. Deborah Ortiz, who first proposed a stem cell bond issue back in 2002 (for a measly $1 billion), only to find herself stampeded by Klein and other promoters of the final sky's-the-limit version.

Ortiz on Monday introduced a bill to correct the shortcomings she found in Klein's initiative. Her goal is to ensure that Californians get cut-rate access to any cures they have funded through their $6 billion in principal and interest, and that explicit guidelines are established to guarantee the state lands a share of any patent or licensing revenue.

She also wants stringent conflict-of-interest and financial disclosure rules to apply to the 29 appointed members of the board that will run the stem cell program and to all the members of the scientific committees that will review grant applications.

Ortiz's proposals struck a sour note at a conference on research grant-making that Klein's committee convened Monday in Irvine. From the podium a rattled Klein alluded to provisions in the initiative that bar any legislative amendments for at least 36 months, and thereafter allow them only by a 70% vote in both houses. "There are very clear prohibitions against legislative intervention," he said.

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Microsoft Helps in Bogus Degrees Case

By David Koenig
The Associated Press
Friday, December 10, 2004; 5:27 AM

FRISCO, Texas - Some sleuthing by software giant Microsoft Corp. helped track down two brothers who authorities say sold bogus college degrees over the Internet, including an MBA that was issued to a housecat.

Officials in Pennsylvania cracked the case, tracking down the source of thousands of unsolicited e-mails. This week, they filed a lawsuit to shut down Trinity Southern University, run by Crain Barton Poe, 35, of Frisco, and Alton Scott Poe, 40, of St. Cloud, Fla.

Trinity Southern sent 18,000 e-mails that appeared to come from legitimate outfits such as cable operator Comcast Corp., Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania Senate, said Barbara Petito, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania attorney general's office.

Heeding complaints from the institutions about the hijacking of their Web sites, Microsoft helped track the e-mails to the Poes, Petito said.

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MCW Discovery: Neural crest stem cells in skin could provide alternative to embryonic stem cell use

Cell replacement therapy offers a novel and powerful medical technology. A type of embryonic stem cell, called a neural crest stem cell, that persists into adulthood in hair follicles was recently discovered by Maya Sieber-Blum, Ph.D., of the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milos Grim, MD Ph.D., of Charles University Prague, and their collaborators.

The discovery – reported recently in Developmental Dynamics, a journal of the American Association of Anatomists published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. – may in many instances provide a non-controversial substitute for embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are unique, because they can differentiate into any cell type of the body. Their use, however, raises ethical concerns because embryos are being destroyed in the process. In contrast, neural crest stem cells from adults have several advantages: similar to embryonic stem cells, they have the innate ability to differentiate into many diverse cell types; they are easily accessible in the skin of adults; and the patient's own neural crest stem cells could be used for cell therapy. The latter avoids both rejection of the implant and graft-versus-host disease.

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Patent Prescription

A radical cure for the ailing U.S. patent system

By Adam B. Jaffe & Josh Lerner

ALBIE'S FOODS INC., a small grocery and catering company in Gaylord, Mich., received an unusual letter in 2001 from the law firm representing jelly giant J.M. Smucker Co. The letter accused Albie's—which sells pastries and sandwiches in northern Michigan—of violating Smucker's intellectual property by selling crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

In particular, Smucker's claimed that Albie's had infringed Smucker's recently granted U.S. Patent No. 6004596, which gives the Orrville, Ohio, company broad protection on its "sealed crustless sandwich." In a move that undoubtedly surprised the jam magnates, Albie's decided to defend itself in federal court. Albie's law firm noted in its filings that the "pasty"—a meat pie with crimped edges—has been popular fare in northern Michigan since the immigration of copper and iron miners from Cornwall, England, in the 19th century.

A battle in federal court over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches may seem merely funny and a little pathetic. But it is symptomatic of the larger and more profound problems with the U.S. patent system. We have reached the point where serious lawyers are being paid serious fees by a big company to shut down the PB&J operation of a grocery store.

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Religion and science: Studies of faith

Embryonic stem-cell research is putting fresh strain on the already fractious relationship between science and religion.
TonyReichhardt explores how faith is shaping the ever-changing landscape of bioethics.

When Pope John Paul II addressed the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1992, he tackled yet again Galileo's famous battles with the Church four centuries ago. In his talk, entitled "Faith can never conflict with reason", the Pope was doing his best to mend fences. Although science and religion form "two realms of knowledge", he said, "the two realms are not altogether foreign to each other, they have points of contact".

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Budget-strapped Forward Wisconsin

WisBusiness.com: Budget-strapped Forward Wisconsin Trying to Meet Gov.'s Funding Challenge and Sell the State
12/9/2004

By Brian E. Clark
WisBusiness.com

At a time when most state agencies are facing cuts of 10 percent, Forward Wisconsin could see its budget tripled.

Or not.

It all depends on how much money members of the business community will pony up to fund the quasi-public agency that markets the Badger State. If they pitch in $2 million, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle has promised he will add another $1 million.

If less is raised, the state's portion will be diminished. Then, of course, the Legislature will have its say.

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New antibiotic target could mean the end of pneumonia

Contact: Michael Bernstein
202-872-6042
m_bernstein@acs.org

Scientists have found a “molecular Achilles heel” in the organism that causes pneumonia, providing a target for the development of a new class of antibiotics that could eventually eradicate the disease.

. . .

The virulence of S. pneumoniae requires a properly functioning channel called the isoprenoid biosynthetic pathway. Leyh and his colleagues have discovered that an intermediate in the pathway — diphosphomevalonate, or DPM — can inhibit the first enzyme, effectively shutting down the whole process.

“If you switch this pathway off, the organism is in big trouble,” Leyh says. Without this channel, the normally pathogenic S. pneumoniae is unable to survive in mouse lungs and its virulence is severely attenuated.

“Remarkably, the human enzyme is not influenced by the inhibitor,” Leyh says. This means that S. pneumoniae in human lungs or blood should be inhibited without any negative effect on human metabolism.

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Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 enacted on December 8, 2004

H.R. 4818, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005 (Consolidated Appropriations Act) was signed by the President and enacted into law on December 8, 2004. The Consolidated Appropriations Act revises certain patent application and maintenance fees; provides separate fees for a basic filing fee, a search fee, and an examination fee; and requires an additional fee for any patent application whose specification and drawings exceed 100 sheets of paper (application size fee). The new patent fees are now effective and will remain in effect during the remainder of fiscal year 2005 and during fiscal year 2006. The patent maintenance fee changes apply to any maintenance fee payment made on or after December 8, 2004, regardless of the filing or issue date of the patent for which the fee is submitted. The revised maintenance fees took effect on December 8, 2004. Thus, any maintenance fee paid at any time on (or after) December 8, 2004 is subject to the revised maintenance fee amounts set forth in the Consolidated Appropriations Act.

Note: If you are paying via the USPTO’s Internet Web site, there will likely be a delay in updating the maintenance-fee information on the USPTO’s Office of Finance On-Line Shopping Web page. Therefore, if paying on-line, please refer to the updated fee schedule to ensure that you include the appropriate updated fee amount. Maintenance fees must be timely paid in the appropriate amount to avoid expiration of a patent.

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Commerce One Patents Auctioned Off

By Renee Boucher Ferguson
December 8, 2004

In a move that sparked some controversy, Commerce One Inc. held a fire sale in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California, auctioning off not only the company, but the company's intellectual assets.

The sale of 39 Web services patents developed by Commerce One went to mysterious high bidder JGR Acquisition Inc. for $15.5 million, at the San Francisco auction held Monday.

Institutional investment firm ComVest Investment Partners acquired Commerce One's remaining assets for $4.1 million. The cash from both sales went to pay off some of the debt Commerce One owed to ComVest and other investors, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

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Chiron's Suspension Extended

Chiron's Suspension Extended
MedImmune Among Firms Rushing to Fill Vaccine Void

By Michael S. Rosenwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2004; Page E01

British regulators have extended their suspension of Chiron Corp.'s license to manufacture flu vaccine, jeopardizing the company's ability to sell millions of flu shots in the United States next flu season.

The extended suspension announced late Tuesday means that Chiron, already blocked from shipping 48 million shots to the United States this year, may not be able to resume operations until at least April, a month after the company has indicated it needs to start production for the season that will begin next fall.

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Supreme Court Limits Trademark Protection

Supreme Court Limits Trademark Protection
By BLOOMBERG NEWS

Published: December 9, 2004

The United States Supreme Court limited the scope of federal trademark protection yesterday, saying that rival companies in some cases can use proprietary terms even when that might cause confusion among customers.

The justices said that companies accused of infringement need not show a lack of customer confusion when they invoke the "fair-use" defense to trademark lawsuits. The fair-use doctrine lets competing companies use trademarked terms for descriptive purposes.

"Some possibility of consumer confusion must be compatible with fair use," Justice David H. Souter wrote for the unanimous court in Washington.

The ruling clarifies an area of trademark law that had divided lower courts. In the case before the justices, the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco had said that defendants invoking the fair-use doctrine needed to show that customers probably would not be confused.

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Microsoft to Appeal Browser Plug-in Ruling

Microsoft to Appeal Browser Plug-in Ruling
By Susan Kuchinskas

Microsoft (Quote, Chart) will face a panel of U.S. Circuit Court judges Thursday and try once again to overturn a ruling that the ActiveX (define) technology used in its Internet Explorer browser infringes on a patent.

The ruling has raised concerns over the prospect that Microsoft might have to alter its dominant IE browser, a move that could cripple a wide variety of common Web applications, such as online ads that depend on Macromedia Flash technology.

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US to test missle defense system

Wed Dec 8, 1:06 PM ET

By JOHN J. LUMPKIN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The military planned to conduct the first full flight test of its national missile defense system in nearly two years, with the test coming possibly as early as Wednesday evening.

Weather conditions at an Alaska launch site would determine when the test will go forward, said Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency.

The $85 million test comes as the military is in final preparations to activate missile defenses designed to protect against an intercontinental ballistic missile attack from North Korea (news - web sites) or elsewhere in eastern Asia.

During the test, a target missile will be launched from Kodiak Island, Alaska, and an interceptor missile will fire from Kwajalein Island in the central Pacific Ocean.

Because the launches will test several new aspects of the missile defense system, Lehner said the interceptor actually shooting down the target is not a primary goal of the mission.

The test is the first in which the interceptor uses the same booster rocket that the operational system uses, Lehner said. It is also the first in which a target missile is launched from Kodiak.

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