In light of several high-profile court cases on patenting of DNA sequences, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in June issued interim guidelines for helping patent examiners determine if the so-called "written description" requirement for patent applications has been met. John J. Doll, director of biotechnology examination at USPTO, says the interim guidelines have become necessary to determine just how court decisions such as University of California Regents v. Eli Lilly and Co. will affect the patent application process.

Under U. S. patent law, inventors and scientists are required to submit a written description of the invention or discoveries so that examiners can establish that the applicant has indeed invented or discovered the subject matter claimed in the application. The written description must make it apparent to those skilled in the affected art or science that the inventor was in possession of the claimed invention when the patent...

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