The United States patent system, as envisioned by Benjamin Franklin and provided for in the Constitution, has a mandate to stimulate innovation and commerce to benefit society. To accomplish this, inventors obtain patents to protect intellectual-property rights by creating temporary monopolies to market inventions without competition. A major tenet that "Basic research is the source of fundamental knowledge that eventually leads to innovation, technology development, and economic growth" (Rep. George Brown, Report of the Task Force on the Health of Research, Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, July 1992) mirrors the motivation for granting patents.

Patents traditionally have been perceived as the domain of industry and basic science the province of academia. Some separation of basic intellectual and commercial interest is desirable, but when science technologies mature to the point that they yield inventions of commercial interest, desegregation becomes inevitable. Over the past few decades, the boundaries between basic...

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