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March 5, 2012
Department of Lots of Nerve (Patent Applications Desk)
When you file a patent application, there are plenty of things that the PTO wants you to include. One of the big ones is prior art: you're supposed to disclose all the relevant inventions close to yours that you're aware of, in order to show how your discovery is different. Prior art is naturally to be found in other previous patent filings, and it's also to be found in journal articles and other such public disclosures. If you don't submit relevant prior art that is known to you, your patent application gets into a lot of trouble eventually (and the more worthwhile your invention, the greater the chance becomes of that catching up with you).
So in light of this, you might find it interesting that some of the large scientific publishers are suing over all this. Why? Well, these lawsuits (filed by Wiley and by the American Institute of Physics) allege that the accused law firms violated copyright by submitting unauthorized copies of journal articles with their patent applications.
As that post at PatentlyO goes on to show, the plaintiffs seem to also be very interested in the internal copies of articles that the law firms are making. But I don't really see how they're going to make either of these stick. I mean, I tend to think that a lot of things are "fair use", but aren't these? This really looks like an act of desperation - the traditional scientific publishing model must be in even worse shape than I thought.
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