The US National Academy of Sciences just issued one of its matchless Big Fat Reports, this one on intellectual property rights, patents, and patenting related to genomics and proteomics. Don't nod off; the report came to a couple of intriguing conclusions that are likely to have a big impact on the life sciences.One surprise is this: the conventional wisdom that US patenting has interfered with or somehow prevented academic research, especially in genomics, is wrong. Not so, the report said, basing its declaration on a survey of scientists. The survey found that researchers hardly think about intellectual property rights at all when designing their experiments. That may not be true in the future. Turns out that the reason intellectual property hasn't posed a significant burden to academic researchers is precisely that they hardly think about it. They have been operating under "the erroneous assumption that pre-commercial research is shielded from...

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