Correlation Patents

Patent Office in Violation of Patent – That’s the headline I want read some day.

Michael Crichton (yea – that one) has written a New York Times Op-Ed piece on a the use of correlation patents in the biomedical industry. Anyone who thinks the patent office and associated industries isn’t ripe for an oversight body needs to read this editorial. I’ve lost track of the number of stories like this. It’s criminal but there is apparently no way to get off the bus.

From the editorial:

All this may sound absurd, but it is the heart of a case that will be argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday. In 1986 researchers filed a patent application for a method of testing the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, in the blood. They went one step further and asked for a patent on the basic biological relationship between homocysteine and vitamin deficiency. A patent was granted that covered both the test and the scientific fact. Eventually, a company called Metabolite took over the license for the patent.

Although Metabolite does not have a monopoly on test methods — other companies make homocysteine tests, too — they assert licensing rights on the correlation of elevated homocysteine with vitamin deficiency. A company called LabCorp used a different test but published an article mentioning the patented fact. Metabolite sued on a number of grounds, and has won in court so far.

The seven concentric circles of hell are populated by an ever increasing number of lawyers. Patent lawyers comprise the inner circle.