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Patent Threats Hurt Scientific Research

February 23, 2005

Patent Threats Hurt Scientific Research

EFF Asks Court to Protect Academic and Competitive Studies

Washington, DC - Three consumer advocacy groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the Supreme Court today to protect scientific researchers from patent-based legal threats. The case, Merck v. Integra, deals specifically with information researchers submitted to the Food and Drug Administration regarding a potential cure for cancer. But it raises broader questions about whether patent owners can stop academic researchers and inventors from studying patented inventions in order to research or improve upon them.

In their friend-of-the-court brief, EFF, Public Knowledge, and the Consumer Project on Technology argued that patent law allows researchers the freedom to make and use patented products for the purpose of furthering academic study. They also argued that experimentation on patented items for the purpose of creating new inventions is also allowed -- as long the patented products aren't sold by the researchers.

"Patent law was created to help spread knowledge and spur innovation," said Jason Schultz, staff attorney at EFF. "Allowing patent owners to shut down important scientific research flies in the face of that purpose."

"The Court has the opportunity here to do tremendous good for society, by making clear that scientists have always been and remain free to perform research -- and competitors to innovate -- without being subject to the threat of patent infringement litigation or the tax of patent licenses," noted Joshua Sarnoff of American University's Glushko–Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic, counsel of record on the brief.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the case this spring, likely in April, and issue a decision by mid-summer.

Contact:

Jason Schultz
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jason@eff.org

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