Patently Ridiculous

Michael Crichton is breaking the law. He says: • The Earth revolves around the Sun.
Written by Phil Windley, Contributor on

Michael Crichton is breaking the law. He says:

• The Earth revolves around the Sun.
• The speed of light is a constant.
• Apples fall to earth because of gravity.
• Elevated blood sugar is linked to diabetes.
• Elevated uric acid is linked to gout.
• Elevated homocysteine is linked to heart disease.
• Elevated homocysteine is linked to B-12 deficiency, so doctors should test homocysteine levels to see whether the patient needs vitamins.
ACTUALLY, I can't make that last statement. A corporation has patented that fact, and demands a royalty for its use. Anyone who makes the fact public and encourages doctors to test for the condition and treat it can be sued for royalty fees. Any doctor who reads a patient's test results and even thinks of vitamin deficiency infringes the patent. A federal circuit court held that mere thinking violates the patent.

He pokes some serious fun at the bizarre state of affairs that the Patent Office and the courts have gotten themselves into. Seems like we each need a private patent attorney following us around, patenting every novel thing we do. Sip from the drinking fountain in a new way? Patent it!  You could get rich.

One of the main characters in Charles Stross' Accelerando is an almost-cyborg named Manfred who does exactly this: thinks up a dozen new business processes a day and patents them. Stross doesn't deal with the problems this might create in the book, but the rest of us are likely going to have to do so in real life.

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