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Mar 05, 2001
 |  BioCentury  |  Regulation

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In a little-noticed proposal issued at the close of the Clinton administration, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recommended that biotechnology patent holders consider forming "patent pools," or bundles of related innovations, to enable one-stop access to multiple inventions.

The proposal is outlined in a PTO white paper titled "Patent Pools: A Solution to the Problem of Access in Biotechnology Patents?" The paper was commissioned by then-PTO Director Q. Todd Dickinson in response to complaints from NIH, academic researchers and members of Congress that patent policies were blocking access to basic research tools.

One PTO response was the promulgation of new rules on utility designed to ensure that patents will not be issued on raw sequence data and to limit the scope of claims (see BioCentury, Feb. 20). But Dickinson also concluded that much of the concern was misdirected: the focus should not be on the types of patents issued, but rather on facilitating access to the patented technologies.

He thus asked for a white paper outlining a potential solution, which was released in January. The document suggests that patent holders that contribute to biotech bundles could have free access to all the patents in the pool, while others would have access to the inventions for a fee (see Online Links, A11).

Dickinson, who has not yet announced his private sector plans, predicted that the biotech industry will find itself mired in an...

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