Monday, November 12, 2007

Apply Now for the Plant Breeding Academy – Space is Limited!

The Plant Breeding Academy (PBA), sponsored by the UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Center, is accepting applications for Class II, which will begin in September 2008. Already accepted to the new class are a number of outstanding professionals from the US, Europe and Africa. These individuals work with a variety of crops including grains, vegetables, and legumes.

The PBA is a two year program designed to meet the needs of working professionals, giving them the critical tools they will need to manage a breeding program. Meeting for six one-week sessions over two years, the academy’s schedule allows participants to maintain their current working positions. The course includes lectures, field trips, discussions, homework, and a comprehensive final project where students design a breeding program.

Taught by internationally recognized plant breeders, the PBA is limited in size to give students personal attention. Visit the Plant Breeding Academy website for more information and to apply for the 2008-2010 Academy. For questions, contact Cathy Glaeser, Program Representative, at, or 530-752-4414.

Friday, September 7, 2007

New USPTO Continuation rules and the implications for Ag Biotech research

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released new rules regarding continuations this past August 21, 2007. The new rules, in general, limit an applicant’s opportunities to gain patent protection for any given invention. The number of patent applications that can be filed on one invention are restricted to one parent application followed by two continuations or continuations-in-part (CIP). Also, only one request for continued examination (RCE) in a patent family is allowed, and the number of claims in any patent application is restricted to 25.

There is still some debate, as to how many patents a year will be affected by the new rules. Biotechnology industry representatives are protesting, feeling that a more liberal view of continuations is required for the biotechnology industry. In general, continuations are most popular in the chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology fields. Continuations accounted for 70-80% of patents awarded to the top biotechnology companies, in the period from 1995 - 1999. With these new rules restricting applicant’s to filing two continuations, it may be that the biotechnology industry will be severely impacted.

Some industries have a large expenditure of both time and money when obtaining experimental data, especially when human or animal experiments are involved. Continuations help applicants in these situations by allowing an applicant to file one original application, and then subsequent applications for any further claims supported by new experiments. Without an opportunity for the applicant to file a continuation, the ability of an applicant to satisfy all statutory requirements to obtain a patent may be severely restricted.

Some feel the new restriction on continuations will particularly affect small biotechnology companies. Dr. Tom Herlache from the Office of Intellectual Property at Michigan State University (a PIPRA member), believes that the new rules will essentially force applicants to bundle inventions together “so that they do not become prior art against each other”. He feels that the new rules regarding RCE’s “would likely greatly extend patent pendancy and patenting costs”, which would in turn “decrease licensing opportunities somewhat”.

For further information, please see the following links:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Farmer petitions Supreme Court to review Roundup Ready patent case

Photo from Flickr user Clearly Ambiguous Monsanto owns at least two patents on “Roundup Ready” crops that are resistant to glyphosate herbicides. When farmers purchase seeds for Roundup Ready crops they sign a “Technology Agreement”, which requires among other things, that the farmers do not retain any seeds for replanting and that they pay a licensing fee. In 1998, McFarling, a farmer from Northern Mississippi, signed the agreement, paid the license fees, and ultimately purchased Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybean seeds. In 1999 and 2000, he replanted seeds saved from 1998 without paying license fees. After learning of this, Monsanto sued McFarling for breach of both of their patents (U.S. Patent No. 5,633,435 and U.S. Patent No. 5,352,605).
Following the Federal Circuit’s decision in the second appeal, Monsanto withdrew all claims other than breach of the ‘605 patent for which the company sought damages. McFarling proceeded to argue new grounds for his defense, as Monsanto had withdrawn some claims, which was denied by both the district court and the Federal Circuit.

McFarling claimed that Monsanto's established licensing fee should limit the size of damages awarded. However, a Missouri jury found McFarling liable and awarded damages of $40 per seed bag, even though Monsanto only charges a $6.50 license fee per bag of seed. An injunction was also issued, requiring McFarling to cease usage of seeds saved from 1998. The Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit (CAFC) found that Monsanto's default licensing fee did not limit the possible damages. Furthermore, the court noted that infringement damages could properly include (a) any harm felt by Monsanto as a result of the infringement, as well as (b) any additional benefits gained by McFarling. This included: reputational harm as a result of rogue planters, potential lapses in Monsanto’s database of planting techniques, McFarling’s increase in yield of $31-61 per acre, as well as bargaining power. This decision by the CAFC changes the way patent infringement damages can be calculated and potentially makes allowable damages signifigantly larger.

McFarling has now petitioned the Supreme Court for a grant of a Writ of Certiorari. For further information, please see the following links:

Friday, August 10, 2007

IDRC funding opportunity in developing country IP

IDRC, The International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, Canada has a Call for Proposals related to intellectual property in developing countries. IDRC is seeking proposals for work in the area of increasing developing countries' access to technologies and information contained in existing patents to support innovative research at the national level. The main subject areas of proposals re: patent pools, compulsory licensing, and research exemptions. More information can be found at:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Purdue Professor Wins the World Food Prize

This year's World Food Prize was awarded to Professor Philip Nelson of Purdue University, a long-standing member of PIPRA. The Prize is given each year by the World Food Prize Foundation to recognize people who have "advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food worldwide." The Prize, which is considered the Nobel of agriculture, was established in 1970 by Norman Borlaug, himself recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. Professor Nelson was awarded this year's World Food Prize for his contributions to food processing and preservation.

You can read more about the prize and Professor Nelson's work on Purdue's web site.

Asked about the prize, Professor Nelson said:

It's quite an honor to be recognized and also very humbling because of the past winners...This award also recognizes the profession of food science and Purdue. Purdue certainly receives a lot of credit because it's where I spent my career of some 47 years.

Monday, June 18, 2007

USPTO community patent review

The USPTO started an experimental program last week: community patent review. Anybody can participate in the process by signing up on the Peer-to-Patent web site at From the project's web site:

Peer-to-Patent opens the patent examination process to public participation for the first time. Become part of this historic pilot program. Help the USPTO find the information relevant to assessing the claims of pending patent applications. Become a community reviewer and improve the quality of patents.

You can read more about the project, including all the press coverage it's received, on the Peer-to-Patent blog. Found via Patent News.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

World Bank study reveals mixed progress on poverty reduction

The World Bank's Private Sector Development Blog has a short commentary about a recent study by the Bank. The study shows that the percentage of people living in poverty decreased over the past 25 years; however, the total number of people living in poverty did not decrease signifigantly, except in the People's Republic of China. The authors also suggest that much of China's poverty reduction is due to agrarian reforms by the Chinese Communist Party since 1970.

From the study's abstract:

We report new estimates of measures of absolute poverty for the developing world over 1981-2004. A clear trend decline in the percentage of people who are absolutely poor is evident, although with uneven progress across regions. We find more mixed success in reducing the total number of poor. Indeed, the developing world outside China has seen little or no sustained progress in reducing the number of poor, with rising poverty counts in some regions, notably Sub-Saharan Africa. There are encouraging signs of progress in reducing the incidence of poverty in all regions after 2000, although it is too early to say if this is a new trend.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

PIPRA and MIHR introduce IP Handbook

"It will be the reference for the next generation" says Ariel Pablos-Mendez, Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation at BIO 2007 in Boston on May 6 at the official launch of the 2000 page Intellectual Property Handbook. This collection of 153 chapters on the art and science of intellectual property management teaches us "to think of using IP in the public interest."

Lita Nelsen, head of technology transfer for MIT and one of the editors of the two volume reference book, describes it as "the How-To manual for using the tool of IP." It is geared, she says, toward two distinct audiences. One is "research institutions and technology transfer operations in developing countries that are building the capabilities of understanding and of actually practicing technology transfer." The other is "
first world institutions, to make sure that they consider the needs of developing countries when they license important IP in medicines, vaccines, and foods, and do it right."

Suresh Jadhav, president of the Developing Country Vaccine Manufacturers Network says "I am quite sure that this book, when it goes to developing country manufacturers, or to the research organizations and the universities in developing countries, will certainly teach them the thought process about how to handle their own technologies and how to handle the technologies which are available from developed countries."

The IP Handbook fulfills the spirit of the old Chinese proverb "
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pipra starts blogging

Welcome to the Pipra blog. We're in the process of gutting and revamping our electronic infrastructure, such as our IP database, and rethinking our communications strategy, including our website and, yes, this blog. We hope this will be a good way for Pipra members and other interested readers to stay abreast of what we're doing at Pipra. So, please, bookmark this page, or subscribe to our RSS feed.