In honor of St. Patrick's Day, today we present a bit of Irish-related IP news.
Craig Venter, a scientist renowned for his research in synthetic life, made headlines by creating self-replicating synthetic bacteria containing a custom-made genome designed entirely from scratch. To make sure the bacteria created were the result of the custom genome and not an assembly of naturally occuring bacterial DNA, Venter and his team encoded particular segments of text into the DNA sequence to act as watermarks. Included in one of these watermarks was a quote from James Joyce's novel A Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man.
Last week, Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. (ACT) was granted a patent (U.S. Patent No. 7,893,315) for its “single-blastomere” technology that provides a non-destructive method for deriving human embryonic stem cells (hESC). In ACT’s technique, a single cell is biopsied from an embryo and cultured to produce a hESC line. The process does not destroy the embryo or impair the embryo’s subsequent development, hence the technique has been touted as “embryo-safe.” This technique is similar to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) that has been used in in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for many years.
This past week, the Senate conducted hearings on the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act which, if passed, would provide the Attorney General with broad authority to shut down U.S. and foreign internet sites “dedicated to infringing activities.” The Act was introduced in September 2010 and unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee late last year; nevertheless, it has yet to receive a full vote on the Senate floor. If passed, the Act would require the U.S. Attorney General to independently investigate potentially infringing websites and submit these findings to a judicial board. The board would then determine whether the site is “dedicated to infringing activities"; if so, the government would (1) suspend operation and lock the domain name; (2) ban credit card companies and financial institutions from processing any domestic transactions related to the site; and (3) prohibit online advertisers from working with or sending traffic to the site. And, in what is perhaps the best news for copyright owners: the government would do all of this free-of-charge. Not surprisingly, then, the Act’s most ardent proponents include the RIAA, MPAA, and the Screen Actors Guild.
Late last year, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that certain biotechnology method claims as applied to humans are patentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. §101. In Prometheus Labs. Inc. v. Mayo Collab. Serv., Docket 2008-1403 (Fed. Cir., December 17, 2010), on remand from the United States Supreme Court with instructions to revisit their previous ruling in view of the determination in Bilski, the Federal Circuit affirmed their initial decision that the patent claims at issue are valid and patentable.