Anger at patent 'gold rush' claims

April 18, 2003

The UK Patent Office has reacted angrily to Royal Society claims that pressure from cash-hungry universities is leading to inappropriate patents being granted, writes Anna Fazackerley.

A report on intellectual property, published this week, concludes that patenting in the UK is being driven by a "gold-rush mentality" that could seriously damage science.

The Royal Society report calls on the government to make clear to patent offices that their mission is not to grant as many patents as possible. It also raises concerns that patents are too broad in scope and block other researchers from carrying out related work.

John Enderby, vice-president of the Royal Society, said: "If, say, a use is found for a gene sequence, the original speculative patentee gets the benefit and not those who have discovered its application."

The UK Patent Office greeted the report with "dismay" and was angry that it had not been consulted by the authors. A spokesperson said: "These are problems that we simply don't have in the UK."

The report will be sent to all university vice-chancellors.

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