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J Struct Funct Genomics. 2003;4(2-3):211-5.

Patenting nonassociated polymeric structures (NAPS): implications for structural genomic data release.

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  • 1University of Maryland School of Law, 500 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


The intellectual property laws that govern patent rights should provide a reasonable balance between the competing concerns of open access and exclusivity. Open access can facilitate knowledge dissemination and collaboration in furthering science. On the other hand, exclusivity can ensure interest and financial investment in scientific research and development. In recent days, the appropriate balance between open access and exclusivity has been a focus of public debate, particularly with regard to genomic inventions and their applications. In seeking to reconcile the timing of structural genomic data release with certain efforts to secure intellectual property rights, the International Structural Genomics Organisation joins others confronting this controversy. This paper seeks to inform the discussion with an overview of the U.S. standards for patenting nonassociated polymeric structures (NAPS), which include polynucleotides or polypeptides of unknown biological significance, and their corresponding structural data. In the United States, the present ability to obtain patent rights to these discoveries appears problematic given the requirement of specific, substantial and credible utility, among other things. Without demonstrable utility, NAPS and NAPS-related data likely will not be entitled to patent protection, whether the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office rejects NAPS claims as unpatentable in the first instance, or the U.S. federal courts invalidate NAPS claims in later patent litigation. As such, the improbability of obtaining enforceable patent rights to NAPS might undermine the rationale for delaying structural genomic data release to allow for the filing of patent applications in this regard.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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