A new article in the major Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, just came out suggest major intellectual property (IP) and patent issues related to stem cells including the new stress induced STAP stem cells.
The piece is entitled provocatively enough “Global patent war looms with epoch-making discovery of STAP cells“.
That’s strong language.
The article begins with an equally intense statement:
Japanese researcher Haruko Obokata’s recent breakthrough in the creation of pluripotent stem cells in mice is set to trigger an all-out global patent war.
Puzzlingly, the newspaper article doesn’t quite detail exactly what this war will be about. While it implies there could be patent war between Riken Institute of Japan and Harvard, at the same time it says the institutes collaborated on the same patent applications.
So who exactly will be at war with whom as a result of STAP stem cells?
And why a war?
Some IP-related issues have been on my mind since STAP stem cells were first reported last week.
First of all, assuming for the moment that STAP stem cells are real and reproducible and can be made from adult human cells, it seems to me they could have tremendous negative impact on the IP arena related to iPS cells. So are STAP stem cells good or bad for Japan? Frankly, I’m not so sure.
Second, are STAP stem cells and/or the method to make them even patentable? I believe it is highly questionable that there is any IP in STAP stem cells because the method is too simple. How can you patent treating ordinary cells with a mild simple acid solution or in fact almost any simple stress?
It is also notable that the article implies that there was or still is a patent war related to iPS cells, something I’ve been writing about on this blog for some time.
I have a feeling that as the STAP story unfolds more clearly in the next few months that some levels of sadness will be revealed.