Today's publication of the draft mouse genome map puts an end to the "land grab" that once had researchers racing to patent bits and pieces of the information that defines the most common laboratory animal. Even before today, almost daily deposits of new discoveries in the publicly-funded Mouse Genome Sequencing Consortium (MGSC) database have armed lawyers with arguments against future grants of exclusive rights.

"One of the reasons why the data was being made public rapidly was to substantiate a date of first disclosure," said Q. Todd Dickinson, once the US Commissioner for patents and trademarks, now a Washington, DC patent lawyer.

"If a private entity now seeks a patent on a particular genome or fragment, assuming they meet the other tests, the question will be, are they the first to disclose it? The public database will be very important in knocking out applications because they were not the first...

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