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The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced today that the agency has released a white paper on the use of patent pools as one way to address the issue of access to vital patented biotechnology products and processes.
"Biotechnology, an increasingly important industry to the American economy, is heavily dependent on patent protection to maintain viability. While most biotechnology companies are responsible corporate citizens, offering reasonable access to their patented inventions, one concern about broad patenting in biotechnology, especially regarding genomic inventions, is the ease and cost of licensing multiple patents," noted Q. Todd Dickinson, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. "Patent pools can allow reasonable access to patented genomic inventions, thereby promoting research and development while also promoting competition through patenting."
A patent pool is an agreement between two or more patent owners to license one or more of their patents to one another or third parties. A patent pool allows interested parties to gather all the necessary tools to practice a certain technology in one place, e.g., "one-stop shopping," rather than obtaining licenses from each patent owner individually.
The USPTO white paper defines a patent pool, summarizes their history in the United States, addresses the legal implications of patent pools, and analyzes their potential benefits. The white paper is available here.
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