Is obtaining a patent consistent with open science?

+5 votes
asked Aug 17, 2015 in Open Science by Thomas (915 points)

While it might seem antithetical to open science to obtain a patent, I am wondering whether it might ever be better to patent a discovery or invention to prevent others from subsequently trying to patent it. Is there any way for obtaining a patent to be consistent with open science?

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2 Answers

+2 votes
answered Aug 17, 2015 by Franck Dernoncourt (540 points)

You could opt for a defensive publication instead. From Wikipedia:

A defensive publication is the act of publishing a detailed description of a new invention without patenting it, so as to establish prior art and public identification as the creator/originator of an invention, although a defensive publication can also be anonymous. A defensive publication prevents others from later being able to patent the invention.

No matter how defensive a patent is, people might still fear it could fall into the wrong hands.

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0 votes
answered Oct 2, 2015 by Pawel_Szczesny (30 points)

It all depends on the field. I would argue that protecting IP in some areas is more important than releasing the invention into the wild. Have a look at an example from International SAE Consortium:

The Consortium undertakes to proactively make intellectual property filings to reduce the likelihood that use of it’s public data will be encumbered by “follow-on patents” filed by other parties (commercial or otherwise).  The Consortium has determined the most effective way to ensure that its public data is securely placed in the public domain (with the earliest available priority date) is to file provisional patent applications covering all novel discoveries made prior to the filing, and to include claims directed toward these data (including genetic markers and genotype/haplotype-phenotype associations). 

Have also look at BiOS and their patent licensing policy.

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