The Dirty Dozen
An invention must be novel and nonobvious to a person skilled in the art
to which the invention pertains. An erroneously issued patent could be invalidated
when the patentee attempts to enforce it. In general, the patent enjoys a
presumption of validity. However, if one found prior art references
that were not considered by the Examiner, the validity could be questioned.
Approximately one-fifth of patents tested in court in the U.S. and Europe
are invalidated, because they were issued in error. Having a patent
invalidated often means that all the investment in developing the invention
and obtaining and enforcing the patent brings no benefit to the patentee.
Seeking patent protection of an invention is an expensive and time-consuming
process. Obtaining a patent typically costs anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000
and takes 1 to 3 years for an average invention. These costs can rise much
higher if the invention is in a highly technical and specialized field, for
example, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. The drafting and filing of a patent
application typically costs between $3,000 for a simple mechanical invention
prepared by a solo practitioner trying to build up his or her practice to
$15,000 or even up to $50,000 for a pioneering patent application for a complex
electrical or chemical invention prepared by a large firm. As this
is a large investment, it would be advantageous to determine whether or not
the invention is patentable before investing the money and time involved in
pursuing a patent. One way to do this is to conduct a prior art search. You'd
be astonished how many so-called "new" ideas already have been patented, even
if you've never seen anything remotely resembling them on store shelves or
in catalogues. Accordingly, it is important to conduct thorough searches of
the prior art early in development of invention and the patenting process.
Consequently, many inventors do a preliminary search before they apply for
a patent because a search may yield information that could affect the patenting
potential of their invention. A search may not only help inventors decide
whether to pursue a patent but also whether to modify their efforts to improve
the probability of getting a patent. However, no one is required by law to
conduct a patent search.
Conducting the patent searches is challenging because the process involves
multiple steps using resources with which many searchers are not familiar.
Patent examiners at the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO)
spend about twelve hours investigating each patent application to determine
whether the invention it describes is patentable. During that time, the examiner
consults an average of thirty-eight databases containing patent and non-patent
literature to determine whether the invention has ever before been described.
The FDA in March contended Crestor's risks were no greater than its competitors,
and it rejected consumer efforts to remove the drug, made by AstraZeneca PLC,
from store shelves. Instead, the FDA ordered a warning on the label, saying
Crestor could cause serious muscle problems and kidney damage, especially
among Asians and Indians. A new study, based on side effects reported to the
FDA, said kidney problems and muscle weakness were two to eight times more
frequent among Crestor users than those taking other cholesterol-lowering
medications like Lipitor, Zocor and Pravachol. The American Heart Association's
journal Circulation said the cholesterol drugs, called statins
and taken by millions of Americans, showed that most are very safe and that
the risk of serious problems, even with Crestor, are very low. Another cholesterol
drug, Baycol, was pulled from the market in 2001.
A Study found rampant software piracy in Asia and Latin America. Vietnam,
the Ukraine and China have the highest software piracy rates in the world,
according to the new study released May 18, 2005, by the Business Software
The Dirty Dozen
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are among the most dangerous of all
man-made products or wastes, causing deaths, diseases and birth defects among
humans and animals. The Stockholm Convention aims to ban or strictly
control production, import, export, disposal and use of POPs. U.N. experts
met in Punta del Este, Uruguay, from May 2 to 6 for a review. The 12
ALDRIN - A pesticide used to kill termites, grasshoppers and other insect
pests. It can also kill birds, fish and humans. In one incident, aldrin-treated
rice is thought to have killed hundreds of shorebirds along Texas's Gulf Coast.
CHLORDANE - Used to control termites and as a broad insecticide on a range
of crops. Tests show it can kill birds and fish, may affect the human immune
system and could be a carcinogen.
DDT - Perhaps the best known of the group, DDT was widely used during World
War II to protect soldiers and civilians from malaria, typhus and other diseases
spread by insects. About 20 nations have an opt-out to continue to use it
to combat malaria. Long-term exposure has been associated with chronic ailments
in humans. It also thins the shells of birds' eggs.
DIELDRIN - Used mainly to control termites and textile pests, it is highly
toxic to fish and other aquatic creatures, especially frogs. In a U.S. survey,
dieldrin was the second most common pesticide found in pasteurised milk.
DIOXINS - These chemicals are produced due to incomplete combustion, as
well as from the manufacture of pesticides and other chlorinated substances.
They are emitted mostly from the burning of hospital waste, municipal waste
and hazardous waste and have been linked to a number of adverse effects in
humans, including immune and enzyme disorders.
ENDRIN - An insecticide sprayed on the leaves of crops such as cotton and
grains, it is also used to control mice and other rodents. It can persist
in the soil for up to 12 years and find its way to water, where it is highly
toxic to fish.
FURANS - Compounds created unintentionally from many of the same processes
that produce dioxins, furans have been found in emissions from waste incinerators
and automobiles. They are similar to dioxins and produce many of the same
HEPTACHLOR - Mostly used to kill soil insects and termites, it is believed
to be responsible for the decline of many wild bird populations, including
Canada geese and American kestrels in the Columbia River basin of the United
States. High doses are also fatal to mink, rats and rabbits. It is classified
as a possible human carcinogen.
HEXACHLOROBENZENE (HCB) - Introduced in 1945 to treat weeds, it kills fungi
that affect food crops. When people in eastern Turkey ate HCB-treated seed
grain between 1954 and 1959, they developed a variety of symptoms including
colic. Several thousand developed a metabolic disorder called porphyria turcica
and 14 percent died. HCB is found in food of all types.
MIREX - An insecticide mainly used to combat fire ants that has also been
used as a fire retardant in plastics, rubber and electrical goods. Direct
exposure does not seem to cause injury to humans but it has been classified
as a possible human carcinogen.
POLYCHLORINATED BIPHENYLS (PCBs) - These compounds are used in industry
as heat exchange fluids, in electric transformers and as additives in paint
and plastics. They are toxic to fish and have been linked to reproductive
failure and immune system suppression in a number of wild animals including
seals and mink. Large numbers of people have been exposed to PCBs through
food contamination. Consumption of PCB-contaminated rice oil in Japan in 1968
and Taiwan in 1979 caused pigmentation of nails and fatigue, nausea and vomiting.
Children born up to seven years after the Taiwan incident in infected mothers
showed developmental delays and behavioural problems.
TOXAPHENE - An insecticide used on cotton, cereal grains, fruits, nuts and
vegetables. It is highly toxic to fish and listed as a possible cause for
cancer among humans.
Another chemical that is polluting the world today is diclofenac.
Dozens of research projects throughout Europe and the USA have demonstrated
the presence of a wide range of pharmaceutical compounds in the aquatic and
terrestrial environments, and diclofenac is one of the most commonly found
drugs in environmental samples. For many drug compounds, a large portion
of the administered dose is not completely metabolised by the body, and the
active compound is excreted either whole or only partially metabolised, entering
sewage systems, or in the case of livestock, reaching soil and surface waters
via manure deposited on the ground.
In the Indian Continent, the availability of diclofenac has increased greatly
in recent years due to numerous market factors. The vultures in India are
dying due to overuse of diclofenac now found widely polluting the environment.
Although the drug, diclofenac, has been used in human medicine for decades
globally, it was introduced to the veterinary market on the Indian continent
during the early 1990s. The drug is cheap (less than US$1 for a course) and
widely used in the treatment of inflammation, pain and fever in livestock.
In Pakistan 92 percent of 84 veterinary stockists surveyed sold the drug on
a daily basis.
Vultures appear to have been exposed to the drug while scavenging livestock
In India, there is widespread abuse of the prescription laws which should
restrict drug sales, with poor dose controls for humans and livestock, and
this has arguably become more widespread in the past 5 years. Consequently
diclofenac use is high, with high environmental concentrations, both in livestock
and in natural waters, with devastating consequences for vultures. The situation
is similar in parts of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Nepal and Pakistan. Research
published in the scientific journal Nature in January 2004 has confirmed that
veterinary use of diclofenac is responsible for the recent devastating declines
in Indian vulture populations. These findings are the result of a three-year
study by The Peregrine Fund and Ornithological Society of Pakistan (BirdLife
in Pakistan) investigating vulture mortalities in the Pakistan Punjab. The
study found that 85 percent of 259 vultures examined had died of visceral
gout, a condition caused by renal failure due to diclofenac.
In India, vultures have traditionally disposed of carcasses in cities, villages
and the countryside, reducing the risk of disease and helping with sanitation.
With the vultures gone, carcasses are likely to take much longer to be stripped,
increasing the risk to health.
Vulture populations are already at critically low levels. Although the Indian
Government has announced its support for a ban on the veterinary use of diclofenac
(March 2005), this obviously needs to be implemented and properly enforced
before vulture numbers can even start to recover. The ban also needs to be
extended to neighbouring countries.