I enjoyed the Opinion article on the Disregard Syndrome,1 and I can offer one additional reason why some researchers may disregard earlier literature. In the US and European patent systems, if one is aware of literature documenting research findings similar to those on which a patent application is based, the applicant seeking patent protection for a discovery is obliged to inform the patent office of the literature and its relevance. There is, however, no duty to search the literature. Thus, an inventor's ignorance may lead to broader patent claims. While these claims may be later proven invalid, this is much more difficult and expensive to do once the patent issues.
1. I. Ginsburg, "The Disregard Syndrome: A menace to honest science?" The Scientist, 15:51, Dec. 10, 2001...
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