Michael Crichton has a scary op-ed about patents in the NYT today. Bizarre as it sounds, a company called Metabolite actually owns a patent on the coorelation between a medical symptom and a possible cause of that symptom. Not just a means of testing for it, but on the concept itself. They’re prepared to argue before the Supreme Court that no one else is even allowed to suggest, discuss, or even think about that particular cause-effect relationship, or you’ve violated their patent.
I’ve heard of many stupid patents over the years, but this has to be one of the absolutely stupidest. Unfortunately he has other examples that are at least as bad.
The Supreme Court has been remarkable rational and tough-minded lately under Chief Justice Roberts. We can only hope that in this case, at least, they manage to strike a blow for sanity. And for the continued usefulness of the patent system.
Oh, also see Dean’s post on patent trolling. While not directly related it’s a symptom of the same problem.