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Patent Pending

On Tuesday, the US Senate voted to approve a bill that would change the US patent system into one that more closely resembles the standard used by the rest of the world, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education's Goldie Blumenstyk. "If enacted, the changes could pressure researchers to publish new findings more quickly than they would otherwise, in order to preserve their intellectual-property rights," she adds. The bill, called the Patent Reform Act of 2011, would change the patent standard from "first to invent" to "first to file." Some in academia worry that this could put more pressure on researchers to publish quickly for fear someone else could beat them to it, Blumenstyk says, especially since a publication by a rival researcher would "block the academics' right to obtain the patent because it would be assumed that they had devised their idea from reading the rival's work." Others say, however, that the worry about rushed publishing is unnecessary, and point to other places like Japan and Europe where "first to file" is already the standard. "Because the patent-reform bill does not consider publications by inventors themselves as prior art, as long as the patent application is filed within a year of the publication, the current legislation ensures that faculty rights to publish are not in conflict with faculty interests in seeking patents on their work," Blumenstyk adds. The US House of Representatives has yet to take up the bill.

The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people 65 and older or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.