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Patent Alternatives

Synthetic biologists are evaluating the merits of alternatives to patent protection for their products, exploring such options as copyrights and open-source patent registries, Nature News reports this week.

Members of the community are trying to eliminate the legal barriers that limit the use of biological parts particularly by small startups for which "the intellectual-property situation … is just a nightmare," Claes Gustafsson, DNA2.0's chief commercial officer tells Nature.

His firm recently deposited gene sequences that encode three of its synthetic fluorescent proteins into an open-access biological parts database. Although the company holds several patents on the proteins, it has said that it will not "pursue its patent rights against anyone using the sequences," according to the article.

"Copyrights are cheaper, easier alternatives to patents," Drew Endy, a synthetic biologist at Stanford University, tells Nature. Copyrights, the article says, "cost $35 to register, as opposed to the $100,000 in legal fees and administrative costs," which synthetic bio firm DNA2.0 says it pays per patent application filed. However, the long shelf-life of copy¬right protections is a potential problem, according to Endy. They can last up to 120 years while patents end after 20.

These topics will be discussed further at the Sixth International Meeting on Synthetic Biology hosted by the BioBricks Foundation that will be held next week in London, the article adds.

The Scan

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Australian Survey Points to Public Support for Genetic Risk Disclosure in Relatives of At-Risk Individuals

A survey in the European Journal of Human Genetics suggests most adult Australians are in favor of finding out if a relative tests positive for a medically actionable genetic variant.

Study Links Evolution of Stony Coral Skeleton to Bicarbonate Transporter Gene

A PNAS paper focuses on a skeleton-related bicarbonate transporter gene introduced to stony coral ancestors by tandem duplication.

Hormone-Based Gene Therapy to Sterilize Domestic Cat

A new paper in Nature Communication suggests that gene therapy could be a safer alternative to spaying domestic cats.