What can we patent?

According to Michael Crichton, writing in the New York Times the observation that doctor should test for the existence of a particular amino acid to determine if a patient needs a vitamin supplement has been patented:

  • The Earth revolves around the Sun.
  • The speed of light is a constant.
  • Apples fall to earth because of gravity.
  • Elevated blood sugar is linked to diabetes.
  • Elevated uric acid is linked to gout.
  • Elevated homocysteine is linked to heart disease.
  • Elevated homocysteine is linked to B-12 deficiency, so doctors should test homocysteine levels to see whether the patient needs vitamins.

ACTUALLY, I can’t make that last statement. A corporation has patented that fact, and demands a royalty for its use. Anyone who makes the fact public and encourages doctors to test for the condition and treat it can be sued for royalty fees. Any doctor who reads a patient’s test results and even thinks of vitamin deficiency infringes the patent. A federal circuit court held that mere thinking violates the patent.

Now I think that Michael Crichton made a fool of himself with State of Fear, which claims that the threat of climate change is merely alarmism. But if he is right on this, then it is indeed something that should concern us.

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