Judge Robert W. Sweet did the unexpected this week, striking down patents on two human genes. (Believe it or not, the NY Times says that 20% of our genes have been patented, in a decades-long fit of truly human idiocy.) Judge Sweet was expected to affirm the patents, but no fool he! The patenter claimed that the work of isolating the DNA from the body transforms it and makes it patentable. But Sweet accepted the reasonable counter-argument that genes, as products of nature, fall outside of the realm of things that can be patented.
This case has thrown the med biz world into a tizzy, because: what about all those other DNA patents?
But that’s the tip of the iceberg. Bluefoot Holdings, a well-known patent troll organization, announced that they have acquired Christopher Columbus’s patent on North America, and they intend to enforce it. (During the age of discovery, patents for discovering land masses were granted on very favorable terms, in order to offset the great cost of making such discoveries, including the inevitable loss of life. The North America patent will expire in 2158, so Bluefoot has plenty of time to exploit it.)
A press release by Bluefoot Holdings reads, in part, as follows: It has come to our attention that a large population is living on our continent without having licensed the right to do so. We will set the cost of such licenses reasonably low – pennies – and we expect everyone to pay. The release singled out urban areas with concentrated populations, such as Manhattan, for special scorn. These areas execute great wear and tear on the continent, and such use will be licensed at higher rates.
In addition, a Bluefoot troll warned mining companies that Bluefoot Holdings is coming after them: first, for removing valuable properties from their continent without payment, and second, for leaving parts of the continent in such bad shape that Bluefoot can no longer expect to exact money from those regions. “We are going to finish the work that Christoper Columbus began,” the troll warned. “We know it’s good for capitalism, so look out!”