Scientists Simplifying Science

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Syam Anand

Syam Anand has 12 articles published.

You had the Right to Remain Silent

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Editor’s Note: Silence is Golden, isn’t it? After reading #ClubSciWri’s Sunday Blog from Syam Anand, you will realize how the complications in the patent war on CRIPSR-Cas9 have resulted from the statements made by parties whose vested interests are at stake. So next time when you have a plan to cash your intellectual crop, look before you speak! –Abhinav Dey 

The patent system adopted by the constitution of the United States of America, is a pursuit to protect the rights and liberties of the individual vis-à-vis the interests of the state and the community it serves. It puts down common sense rules and laws to bestow privileges called patents to rightful inventors for a limited amount of time. Is it perfect? No. Is it good? Yes. Can it be improved? Certainly! Are the concerned people working to improve it? Yes.

Before the patent system, one should understand that we mostly had monopolies bestowed upon individuals based on the whims and fancies of the royals or whoever ruled. That was hardly democratic. The idea of the patent system (Venice had one of the oldest) was to put in place a democratic setup with weights and balances. Further, it meant to incentivize inventions and spur economic activity by stating rights and liabilities in commerce. From time to time, weights piling up on one side upset the balance. That is a natural consequence and the system usually adapts. It is a pursuit and not a static state.

One of the ways the changes for the better (at least that is the idea) happen is through amendments to old laws and passing new laws that replace old ones. Most of the wisdom that drives changes is derived from case law. Patent rights are often fought hard in the USPTO after a patent is granted and beyond that in the judicial system. Why? Because the outcomes have huge economic consequences- real jobs, real lives and real advancements in science and technology are at stake. There are aspects of the patent law that the USPTO can rely on to decide rights. For the aspects of the law beyond the USPTO’s gambit, the judicial system helps to decide rights and liabilities.

The title is a quote taken from Miranda rights, legally required to be read to any person in the United States of America by law enforcement personnel before they are interrogated to preserve the admissibility of their statements against them in criminal proceedings. The full version is

“You have the right to remain silent.

Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law.

You have the right to an attorney during interrogation;

if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you”.

Much like criminal law, things that you say and do before and after filing a patent can affect your case. This could be anything- interviews, opinions, articles, conference talks, abstracts, emails…anything of which there is a record that can be accessed. Having a record can be as good or as bad as having no record. To top it all, you do not have a right to an attorney, when it comes to patent law. You will have to afford one yourself. Many of these aspects are technology-neutral. That is the key here- the technology and the finer details matter, but not in the way one would normally think.

In that sense, the CRISPR patent war that is going on currently in the USPTO (United States Patents and Trademark Office) is not unique. There are many cases prior to this that asked whether inventive step(s) were involved in taking something from one system and making it work in another?

The tests are simple:

  • Can an ordinary person skilled in the art (in this case a molecular biologist) have taken the system that Doudna disclosed in her patent application be practiced in the system that Zhang ALSO disclosed in his application without further experimentation?
  • Are there admissions that Doudna made (anywhere in any form of which there is a record) that incriminates herself in the sense that the invention was just an idea and the enablement (guarantee that it will work as described) was not present at the time of application?
  • Did Zhang enable the invention before Doudna did although she described the idea first?

If Doudna incriminated herself, making statements that it is not easy to move the system from prokrayotes to eukaryotes, but still has proof that she none the less did this successfully in eukaryotes, before Zhang did, she wins.

Does this mean that everyone has to license from the winner in this case? Not really. They have to license only in the countries were Broad Institute or UC Berkeley has pursued patents and obtained rights. Elsewhere, everyone can have fun with CRISPR-Cas9 and make money or go broke. Probably, even more so in countries where patent protection is lax.

About the author:

Syam

Authored by Dr Syam Anand, PhD (Indian Institute of Science, IISc; Post-Doctoral research, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Faculty, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Founder and US Patent Agent, Mainline Intellectual Property LLC, Ardmore, Philadelphia USA). Syam has over 20 years experience in diverse areas of Science with domain knowledge in Life Sciences and Intellectual Property. Dr. Anand is also an inventor and budding entrepreneur. A rationalist, Dr. Anand enjoys science at all levels and advocates the use of scientific methods for answering all questions and solving all problems and make common people curious and interested in understanding their worlds.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/syamprasadanand

About the illustrator:

Ipsa Jain is a Ph.D. student at IISc. She wants to gather and spread interestingness. She prefers painting and drawing over writing.

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This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

The devil is in the variables: correlation, causation and experimental controls

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On Jan 31, 2017, the New York Times reported the solving of a mysterious illness in India- the yearly seasonal deaths of children around areas of Muzaffarpur that abounded in litchi orchards. The report reads like a great epidemiological investigation piece. The supporting study was published in Lancet Global Health on Jan30, 2017 titled “Association of acute toxic encephalopathy with litchi consumption in an outbreak in Muzaffarpur, India, 2014: a case-control study”. In authors words, the key findings that led them to this conclusion were the results of their case-controlled studies where they identified metabolites of hypoglycin A or methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG) in patient samples BUT NOT CONTROLS. They did similar and SIMULTANEOUS INVESTIGATIONS to rule out viruses, heavy metals, and pesticides.

 

The study makes it the first complete investigation to identify the toxin as one of the factors required to setting off the illness. As pointed out by the authors, while discussing the results in their publication, they caution, “Although litchi fruits are ubiquitous in the orchards surrounding the villages in rural Muzaffarpur, typically only one child in an entire village develops this acute illness. The synergistic combination of litchi consumption, a missed evening meal, and other potential factors such as poor nutritional status, eating a greater number of litchis, and as yet unidentified genetic differences might be needed to produce this illness”. Clearly, there is more to learn about the mysterious illness although the main culprit has been identified. It is important to see that the authors are not rushing to judgment and concluding that the mystery is solved and the case rests.

 

As the saying goes, “the devil is the details”. In epidemiology, the devil is in the variables. Remember the old saying, “correlation is not causation”. This is a case in point. One variable has been associated with experimental evidence to an illness. But the results indicate that there are many other variables likely in play and more studies need to done to identify those. It is dangerous to assume that the mystery is solved and that is precisely what the authors are cautioning the readers.

 

Once a mystery is “solved”, the solution appears simple and even visible to plain sight. Such hindsight has to be applied with caution. That is a lesson many scientists would have learned from personal experience. Until one gets there, the road is paved with mines.

 

The solution to the mystery illness soon escalated into controversy. On Feb 3, 2017, The Hindu, a daily from India, reported complaints from Dr. T. Jacob John, a virologist who was earlier attached to the Christian Medical College, (CMC) Vellore. Dr. John’s contention was that the Lancet publication “quote our study but don’t honestly say what we have found. If they did that then they can’t claim originality. They have done a large case-control study but borrowed all important information connected with the illness from us,”. The questions are, did the Lancet publication borrow from Dr. John’s earlier work and whether adequate credit was given. It is a difficult question, as many times it may seem to depend on personal opinion. But careful analysis can help to dissect some of these contentions. If one looks at Dr. John’s publications, one can see several reasons why he is upset. He was very close to sealing the deal. We do not know the struggles he might have undergone to get even where he got. However, he failed to net the winning goal. My analysis is below.

 

Dr. John had published a lucid hypothesis on the illness in Current Science in 2014 that connected litchi and malnutrition with the illness. He was the first one to do so. His reasons were the correlation of phenotypes of litchi-associated illness with a similar ackee-associated illness, reported way back in the 1950’s from Jamaica. Well, he was lucky as his hunch turned out to be true. It could have turned out to be false also as he did not have the key evidence needed for his hypothesis when he published it- the presence of the toxin in the fruit. Further, as shown in Lancet, one would see that all malnourished children do not develop the disease. In that sense, Dr. John’s hypothesis is still a stretch and dangerous one too as it was ruling out other hidden variables that are still in play without adequate support. In essence, the hunch that was published as a hypothesis is an incomplete one in light of the experimental evidence from case-controlled studies published in Lancet.

 

Although Dr. John ruled out infection with Japanese Encephalitis virus  (JEV), based on other groups’ findings, he did not rule out many other infectious agents. The Lancet study tested for JEV, West Nile virus (WNV), Herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2, human herpes viruses 6 and 7, cytomegalovirus, varicella zoster virus, Epstein-Barr virus, parechovirus, adenovirus, 68 enteroviruses, and parvovirus B19. It ruled all of them out. They also tested for pesticides and heavy metals and ruled them out. More importantly, these and other studies they did were all simultaneous. Simultaneous is very important in epidemiology. Therefore, it is unfair to say that they borrowed all the important information. In fact, and as I said earlier, it looks like that more important information is yet to come that could explain why all the malnourished children in and around Muzaffarpur do not get affected by MPCG or Hypoglycin from litchi consumption.

 

In another publication entitled “Outbreaks of Hypoglycemic Encephalopathy in Muzaffarpur, India: Are These Caused by Toxins in Litchi Fruit?”, Dr. John contends that “Since the part of the fruit consumed by humans contains MCPG, and experimentally it has been shown to cause hypoglycemia in starved animals, the biological plausibility of causality by MCPG is thus confirmed.” However, it is important to note that the publication is a letter-type opinion article and a criticism of IAP members, who continued to call the illness a mystery illness. It does not present any additional data that the Lancet publication should have cited or considered. Just because a fruit contains MCPG, it need not cause illness. The Lancet publication discusses this.

 

In a Current Science publication entitled “Litchi fruit contains methylene cyclopropyl-glycine”, Dr. John’s group identifies MCPG for the first time in litchi fruits. But, it fails to associate it with the mystery illness. The experiments were all directed to the identification of MCPG in the fruit. The Lancet paper cites Dr. John’s publication where they mention, “Of specific interest was the potential role of methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG), a homologue of hypoglycin A, and a substance naturally found in the litchi seed and fruit known to cause hypoglycaemia in animal studies by inhibiting β-oxidation of fatty acids and gluconeogenesis”. They also cite other publications that studied hypoglycemia and toxicity of MCPG in animals.

 

In my opinion, the Lancet study can and should be considered original as it directly associates a key variable, namely the metabolites of the toxins from the fruits, with the mysterious condition, with proper controls and the simultaneous ruling out of several other variables that could have been associated with causing the illness. This goes beyond mere correlation. No doubt Dr. John on a hunch had hypothesized the cause based on a correlation. But correlation does not seal causation especially in the absence of proper controls as Dr. John himself admits in his publication “All case-children were given 10% dextrose infusion in addition to per-protocol anticonvulsants and supportive nursing care. The response to dextrose was encouraging. We are unable to compare it with any control children”. He further states, “We need to study if under-nutrition is a determinant (risk factor) or just background noise”.

 

What happened in the following days after the outcry in The Hindu national amounts to ethical misconduct. First, Current Science publishes another letter from Dr. John entitled, “Publishing on hypoglycemic encephalopathy, borrowing information without giving credit: is Current Science invisible?”, that complains about the Lancet group not giving him credit for his hypothesis. Second, without any due diligence, the Hindu national picks on the letter and rushes to judgment that “‘Litchi disease’ report: Lancet makes amends after failing to give ‘credit’.

 

First, Lancet is not making any amends after failing to give credit as they have only contacted the respective authors to find out what is going on and get to the facts. It is irresponsible on the part of the editor of a national to rush and publish such misleading articles that unnecessarily tries to mix nationalism with science, and emotions such as large funding, “large group” (Dr. John’s words) etc. Second, the step taken by the journal is routine in cases where there are complaints about not giving credit. They do not depend on newspaper items in national dailies for initiating such steps. I have personal experience myself and I am sure, the editor of the national would have found out if he discussed with a sufficient number of scientists before submitting his misleading piece for publication. It sets a dangerous trend and we should hope that the editors from the daily takes note of this and carefully reviews the material it publishes.

 

Worse, in the Current Science complaint, Dr. John misstates that an MMWR publication by the Lancet group in 2015 entitled Outbreaks of Unexplained Neurologic Illness — Muzaffarpur, India, 2013–2014, concluded that the illness is caused by Litchi consumption. His Dr. John’s own words, “the stating that the disease is acute hypoglycemic encephalopathy with putative association

with litchi as if they were the first to arrive at such a conclusion” is unethical and misleads the public. The MMWR publication does not make that conclusion. Their conclusion as stated in the publication is “Until an etiology for this illness is identified, current public health and clinical recommendations are focused on reducing mortality by ensuring families with affected children rapidly access medical attention, and health care providers promptly assess for and correct hypoglycemia”. What were the Current Science editors thinking? What were the editors of The Hindu reviewing? If there is ethical misconduct, this is one- misleading the public in a one-sided manner.

 

The Hindu article also puts words like “at a time when the Lancet authors were looking for a viral cause”. It is false. It is also unethical. If one reads the MMWR publication, one can clearly see that the authors are equivocal about the causes when they conclude their article. I have added the excerpt from their conclusion above.
Finally, it is funny that one of the authors of the Current Science article Dr. Das, says, “It is very decent of Lancet to have got in touch with us and seek our clarification on this issue. That shows Lancet is careful of its credibility, careful that any such issue is immediately sorted out. I admire Lancet . This is what we want from every journal publisher, every investigator and every paper. Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion,”. Yes. How about Current Science and The Hindu? Have they sought clarifications from the Lancet group before rushing and publishing complaints? Have they even bothered to read the controversial publications and asked for a third or a fourth opinion? The statement that “Dr. John and Dr. Das had exposed the “scientific misconduct” by the authors in a correspondence published in Current Science” in a national daily is dangerous and one-sided. It has to be condemned. It fails the ethical standards of journalism.

 

In spite of all this, I feel that the Lancet paper could have been more gracious to Dr. John’s publications. For example, the Lancet article says, “No studies implicated a direct epidemiological association between litchi consumption in affected individuals and encephalopathy”. The authors could have given Dr. John the credit for implying an epidemiological association between litchi consumption in affected individuals and encephalopathy and even removed the word “direct” from the above statement. Looks like “direct” epidemiological association” as opposed to correlation will haunt this mystery illness forever. That said, a hypothesis based on a hunch is just that and it cannot substitute for experimental evidence obtained from carefully executed research. Publishing piecemeal correlations and research without waiting to complete an investigation comes with its disadvantages. Lack and funding and support also have its disadvantages. But one cannot use that to inject moral superiority into research done by teams that operate under resource-limiting conditions. These are separate issues and should be discussed separately.

 

About the author:

Syam

Authored by Dr Syam Anand, PhD (Indian Institute of Science, IISc; Post-Doctoral research, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Faculty, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Founder and US Patent Agent, Mainline Intellectual Property LLC, Ardmore, Philadelphia USA). Syam has over 20 years experience in diverse areas of Science with domain knowledge in Life Sciences and Intellectual Property. Dr. Anand is also an inventor and budding entrepreneur. A rationalist, Dr. Anand enjoys science at all levels and advocates the use of scientific methods for answering all questions and solving all problems and make common people curious and interested in understanding their worlds.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/syamprasadanand

Featured image: Pixabay

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This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

A Compendium on Patenting

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Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/motorcycle-bike-harley-davidson-1515873/

Editor’s Note: If you are interested in taking up Intellectual Property and Patenting as a career in USA, you need to clear the USPTO Patent Bar exam. Syam Anand’s book titled “Index Cards for USPTO Patent Bar Exam and Quick References on US Patent Process” is available on Amazon (https://goo.gl/dMKSvq) which is a set of more than 2000 index cards that he used to ace the USPTO Patent Bar Examination. He has been a regular author on ClubSciWri and has guided several PhD Career Support Group members on issues of patenting.  His regular discussions led him to compile a brief overview and a simplified set of FAQs to help novices understand the patenting process in US and the role of a USPTO agent in helping the inventors understand the legal language of ownership, i.e. Patenting.  

Brief Overview of the Patenting Process in USA

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers different application routes to meet varied goals of inventors and owners of inventions. These are:

  • Provisional Applications
  • Utility Applications (Non-provisional Application)
  • Continuing Applications
    • Divisional Application
    • Continuation Application
    • Continuation-In-Part Application
  • Design Applications (only for ornamental design of a functional item)
  • Plant Applications (only for plants)
  • PCT International Applications

Inventor or owner or assignee of invention can apply. Selecting the right application route is critical for securing the right kind of patent protection for your intellectual property. The following is a brief description of the various routes available and their approximate costs.

Provisional Application

  • Lower cost to file.
  • USPTO filing fee of $260 for a large entity and $130 for a small entity.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees range from $1,500-$2,000 depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Gives an early effective filing date. Establishing an early effective filing date is critical since this determines what references and other disclosures qualify as prior art.
  • Claims covering the invention are not required.
  • Not examined or published.

Utility (Non-provisional) Application

  • The “actual” patent application filed by the applicant that gets examined.
  • USPTO filing fee of $1600 for a large entity and $730 for a small entity.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees range from $3,000-$5000 depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Claims priority to the provisional application. Must be filed within one year of the provisional application filing date.
  • Requires the presence of claims covering the invention.
  • Gets published after 18 months from the priority date.

 

Divisional Application

  • Pursues unelected claims of a parent application as a result of USPTO Restriction Requirement.
  • USPTO filing fee of $1600 for a large entity and $730 for a small entity.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees from $1000-2000 depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Claims priority to the parent application. Must be filed before the parent application abandons or issues.

Continuation Application

  • A continuation application pursuing unclaimed subject matter of the parent application.
  • USPTO filing fee of $1600 for a large entity and $730 for a small entity.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees from $1000-2000 depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Claims priority to the parent application. Must be filed before the parent application abandons or issues.

Continuation-in-part Application

  • A continuation application filed by the applicant to pursue new matter that is not disclosed in the parent application. The new matter must be closely related to the subject matter disclosed in the parent application.
  • USPTO filing fee of $1600 for a large entity and $730 for a small entity.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees from $1000-3000 depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Must be filed before the parent application abandons or issues.
  • Preserves priority for the old matter that was shared in the parent application.
  • The new matter gets the priority of the filing date of the continuation-in-part application.

PCT Application (also called “international application”)

  • International Application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
  • USPTO filing fee of $240 for a large entity and $120 for a small entity.
  • USPTO search fee of $2,080 for a large entity and $1,040 for a small entity.
  • USPTO examination fee of $760 for large entity and $380 for small entity.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees from $3,000-$5,000 depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Standard one format, one language application that can be used as a basis for filing patents in more than 140 member countries of the PCT.
  • USPTO accepts PCT applications in English by a U.S. national or resident.
  • Applicant has 30 months from the effective filing date of the PCT application to enter individual countries and file national stage applications.

Patent prosecution is said to begin once a patent application is filed. The application is eventually taken up for examination. Effective communication with the patent office and with the examiner, with an understanding of the nuances of patent law and the patent language, assists in making prosecution a smooth process resulting in savings of time and money. Some of the prosecution steps that applications invariably go through are briefly described below:

Restriction Requirement

  • Examiner states there are multiple inventions in the patent application being examined.
  • Applicant must elect one of the inventions designated by the examiner. Non-elected inventions can be pursued in a divisional application.
  • No USPTO fees if filed within time period for reply, extensions of time available.
  • Patent attorney/agent fee range from $500-1000.

Non-final Office Action

  • This is the first communication from the Examiner regarding the claims. Examiner raises objections or rejections to claims in view of the prior art.
  • Applicant is required to provide detailed responses to overcome the objections/rejections raised by the examiner. This advances the prosecution towards allowance.
  • No USPTO fees if filed within time period for reply, extensions of time available.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees range from $750-$1500 depending upon complexity of response required to overcome objections and/or rejections stated by the examiner.

Final Office Action

  • Examiner may again raise objections or rejections to claims informing why the response to the non-final action does not place the application in condition for allowance.
  • Applicant is required to provide additional detailed responses to each and every objection and rejection raised by the examiner and advance the prosecution towards allowance.
  • No USPTO fees if filed within time period for reply, extensions of time available.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees range from $750-$1500 depending upon complexity of response required to overcome objections and/or rejections stated by the Examiner.
  • Response either places the application in condition for allowance or Applicant files a request for continued examination (RCE).

Notice of Allowance

  • Informs the applicant that the patent is ready for issue.
  • USPTO issue fee is $960 for large entity, $480 for small entity
  • Patent attorney/agent fees $500.
  • After the application grants, you get 20 years of patent term from the filing date.

Maintenance Fees

  • Fees associated with maintaining the patent in force after issuance, late payment due if payment within 6 months after fee is due
  • 1st fee (due at 3.5 year): $1600 for large entity, $800 for small entity
  • 2nd fee (due at 7.5 year): $3600 for large entity, $1800 for small entity
  • 3rd fee (due at 11.5 year): $7400 for large entity, $3700 for small entity

Glossary of important terms

Abandon                                  Applications are usually abandoned when responses that are due are not submitted in a timely fashion to the USPTO. Abandoned applications cannot mature into patents. Prosecution stops.

Allowance                                A notice of allowance from USPTO informs that the application meets all the requirements for a patent to be granted.

 

Applicant                                 Can be the inventor(s), owner of the invention or assignee of the rights of the invention.

 

Assignee                                  The person(s) who hold rights to the invention, for example, the employer of the inventor(s).

 

Election                                   Choosing one of the inventions in an application for prosecution as a result of restriction requirement by an examiner.

 

Effective filing date                  The earliest filing date that can be claimed for an application. The effective filing date may be (i) actual filing date of the application; (ii) the date of the earlier-filed application to which priority is claimed.

 

Extension                                 Formal requests for extensions of time for filing responses can be obtained for a fee. Cannot exceed more than 6 months.

 

Filing date                               The date when the application is submitted to USPTO.

 

Grant                                      Grant of the patent. This gives rights to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted. A bond paper copy of the patent grant is ribboned, sealed, and mailed by USPTO.

 

New matter                              Subject matter not initially disclosed in the application. USPTO does not allow new matter to be added at any time during prosecution.

 

Objection/Rejection                 The examiner issues an office action objecting/rejecting the claims during prosecution, based on prior art. When the office action is issued, the objections/rejections have to be overcome in order to advance the prosecution. A critical and significant portion of patent prosecution.

 

Patent Agent                            A person who has passed the Patent Bar examination administered by USPTO for registration at the USPTO.

 

Prior Art                                 The universe of printed publications, disclosures, talks, and other information that are publically available.

 

Publication                              USPTO publishes all applications around 18 months. The contents of the application are publicly available after this. In certain cases, a request can be made to withhold from publication.

 

Response                                 Formal filing of communications with the USPTO within the required time periods. They have to fully meet the requirements of form and content. A critical and significant portion of patent prosecution.

 

Restriction requirement           Placed on an application when the examiner believes that there is more than one claimed invention in an application. The applicant has to elect one invention for the prosecution to progress.

 

Subject matter                         The subject to which the application and the invention is directed.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a patent?

A patent is an exclusive right for a limited time for an invention.

What are the exclusive rights for?

The rights are excluding others from making, using, selling, offering for selling and importing the invention.

For how long is a patent valid?

Twenty years from the application filing date.

What is an invention?

An invention is a novel and non-obvious useful tangible solution to a problem. Notable exceptions are design patents that cover external appearance of objects.

What is novel?

In simple terms anything that is new, man-made, and does not exist previously and has not been disclosed before.

What is non-obvious?

In simple terms anything that is not an incremental improvement (i.e. obvious improvement) over previously known product or process.

Can I patent anything and everything that meet the criteria of utility, novelty and non-obviousness?

No, you cannot. There are country-specific rules on what is and what is not patentable.

Can I patent, if I publish?

In the US, you may, within one year of publishing and obtain rights in the US. In all other countries you loose your rights if you publish before submit a patent application.

Can I patent, if I disclose?

In the US, you may, within one year of disclosing your invention. In all other countries you loose your rights, if you disclose your invention before submitting a patent application.

What kinds of disclosures affect the prospects of patenting?

In general, any public disclosure as opposed to disclosure within a confidential meeting (for example lab meeting) or disclosures protected by non-disclosure agreements.

Do I have to file a patent to practice my invention?

No. You are not required to file a patent to practice your invention. But without patent protection, you risk your invention being copied by others.

Can a person or entity that has already obtained a patent on the same invention, stop me from practicing the invention?

Yes. A patent gives the owner of the patent, exclusive constitutionally bestowed rights to stop others from practicing the invention described in the patent. This falls under patent infringement.

I have an idea that could be patentable, what should I do first?

The first question to ask is, who owns the idea. An easy way to answer this question is to ask yourself, what are your obligations to your employer.

I work in a lab and my idea is related to the project I work on for my employer. Do I own the rights to the idea?

In general, no. Your employer owns the right to the idea. Contact your technology transfer office/center. They will guide you.

I work in a lab and my idea is independent of the project I work on for my employer. But I used materials and equipment in the lab for testing and perfecting my idea. Do I own the rights to the idea?

I work in a lab and my idea is independent of the project I work on for my employer. Also, I did not use materials or equipment from my employer and instead used my own funds for testing and perfecting my idea. Do I own the rights to the idea?

Yes.

My employer decided not to pursue my invention. Is this a dead end for my invention?

No. They could give you the ownership rights for the invention for free or a cost. They could also license for free or a cost. Where federal funding is involved, even the federal government can give you the rights for free or a fee.

What are the things to remember when deciding whether to patent an invention or not on my own?

Two things to contemplate are money and time. Obtaining a patent costs money in terms of filing fees, maintenance fees, and attorney fees. It is up to the inventor to evaluate the cost benefit of filing and maintaining a patent.

I am good at generating ideas but not good at perfecting them. Can I file a patent application for an imperfect idea?

In fact yes, if the idea is not completely abstract and can be described adequately to convincingly prove that it can work as described.

I am good at generating and testing ideas and even perfecting them. But I do not have the experience or inclination to manufacture or market my invention. Is this worthwhile to pursue a patent application?

Yes. Patents can be sold or licensed to others who are interested buyers. They are a form of intellectual property.

Can I patent an idea that is just an idea?
No. Ideas that do not describe an identifiable embodiment or do not have any functionality are not patentable.

Who can file a patent application?
Inventors, owners and individuals or organizations with sufficient proprietary interest in the invention can file a patent application for an invention.

When should I file a patent?
Usually when your invention is enabled and before you disclose your invention to public, for example through seminars or trade shows, or even before signing a potential license agreement with a third party.

How do I know that my invention is enabled?
In simple terms, your invention is enabled if it functions as described by you and extensive experimentation is not required to practice it.

Do I have to submit a working prototype of the invention when I am filing a patent application?
No.

I do not know how my invention works, but it works. In other words, I do not know the scientific principle that makes my invention work. Can I file a patent application for the said invention?
Yes.

Why should I file a patent application?
Once a patent is granted, its gives the owner of the patent, rights to exclude others from using/copying, selling, offering for sale and importing the invention from another country.

Why should I file a patent application if my employer owns the rights to my invention?
You may benefit from financial and professional incentives that many employers give for generating intellectual property that adds value to the employer.

My employer owns the invention I wish to patent. How should I go about filing a patent application for my invention?
Please contact your employers. They will guide you. In general, industries have patent liaisons or counsels and academic organizations have technology transfer experts who will guide you.

My employer does not own the invention I wish to patent. How should I go about filing a patent application for my invention?
You can file a patent application all by yourself (called pro se) or with the help of a professional who has knowledge about patent laws.

What kind of professional help should I seek for when I am filing a patent application myself?
Almost all countries have patent agents who are qualified to represent inventors and registered with the country-specific patent office. You may discuss your invention with patent agents or patent attorneys (who are also lawyers) after signing non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements with them.

Am I required to go through a patent agent to file a patent application?
No. In fact, you can file patent applications pro se, that is, by yourself. However, most patent offices recommend that prospective applicants retain the services of a registered patent attorney or patent agent to prepare and prosecute their applications.

Can I take the help of a patent agent in India for representing me at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)?
No. Only candidates who pass the USPTO registration examination (also known as the patent bar exam) and registered at USPTO can represent inventors in the US. However, inventors may utilize the expertise of other individuals including patent professionals in other countries to prepare and submit applications. In this scenario, the inventor will be representing himself/herself at the USPTO. Similarly, only candidates who have passed the Indian Patent Agent examination and registered at the Indian patent office to practice Indian patent law can represent you at the Indian Patent Office.

How does the services of a patent agent help in the preparation and prosecution of applications at the USPTO?
When filing an application at a patent office, there are technical and legal requirements to be met. A patent is only as good as what is claimed and how it is described in a patent application. A strong patent protection requires good patent application drafting skills. A good patent helps to prevent others from designing around your invention and prevent others from entering the same market space. An experienced patent attorney or agent brings such skills in drafting patent applications.

In addition, the attorney/agent also helps in prosecuting the application before the patent office. Once an application is examined, the patent office sends out office actions- official communications to the inventor, and may reject or allow based on the merits of the patent application. The attorney/agent, on behalf of the inventor, can present arguments to meet the legal and technical thresholds set by the patent office and help in obtaining a patent. This requires an understanding of the patent law and claim language.

What are the contents of a patent application?
The main contents of a patent application are a written description of your invention called specification, drawings that help to describe the invention and specific claims that you seek exclusive protection for based on the specification. Among other things, it also contains information about the inventor, owner and representative of the invention.

How long does it take to file a patent application?
It takes anywhere from one week to more than a month to file a patent application. The main factor that determines the time taken is drafting a patent application, which usually depends on the nature of the invention. Complex inventions, such as inventions in biotechnology and life sciences take around 2-3 weeks to draft good patent application.

How long does it take to obtain a patent after filing an application?
In the US it may take from 1-3 years depending upon the area and the procedure for examination used. There are accelerated procedures available for an increased fee. In India it takes up to 8 years to obtain a patent.

Where do I file my patent?
You need to file patents in countries in which you wish for patent protection. Many inventors choose to file in United States because United States is one of the largest economies in the world. Other regions that people consider are Europe, Japan, China, Brazil, and India.

I am not a US citizen, but my invention was made in the US. Should I file for patent in the US or the country of my citizenship?
Any person can file for a patent in US. However, if the invention was made in US and the inventor wants to first file a patent outside US, the inventor has to apply for a foreign filing license.

I do not want to obtain a foreign filing license for my invention. What are the consequences?
Not getting a license and still filing outside will cost US patent.

What are the typical initial costs involved in filing a patent application in the US?

Preparing a US patent application can cost anywhere from 1500-10000 US$ depending on nature, complexity of patent application, type of patent application and involvement and nature of patent agent (individual, small firm, big firm) or doing it pro se.

What are the typical initial costs involved in filing a patent application in India?

Preparing an Indian patent application can cost anywhere from 50,000 to 1,00,000 INR depending on nature, complexity of patent application, type of patent application and involvement and nature of patent agent (individual, small firm, big firm) or doing it pro se.

How does one choose a patent agent/firm?

The best way is to get referred to by someone who has used the agent/firm before. If not, look for registered patent attorneys and agents listed in the patent office one wishes to file. Other factors to consider are firm’s expertise with respect to the nature of invention (biology, chemistry, material science, computer software etc), experience, and affordability. Patent firms usually employ patent agents or technical specialists who assist patent agents and they cover most subject areas.

What are the typical steps involved in filing a patent application with the help of a patent agent or patent firm?

Submit an invention disclosure to the agent/firm that describes the invention. This is typically followed by an interview with the agent/firm. The agent/firm may request additional information during the drafting process. Professional drawings also may be required. The completed application is filed by the agent/firm on the behalf of inventor/owner of the invention to the patent office.

Can I obtain an international patent for my invention?

No. There is no such thing as an international patent. Individual countries grant patents.

How can I get patent protection in many countries?
There are two options.
1. One can file separate patent applications in the selected countries.
2. One can file an application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The PCT application acts a common patent application, and can be used as a basis to file country specific patent applications. These country-specific applications are called national stage applications.

What are the advantages of filing of a PCT application or patent applications in several different countries myself versus using a patent agent?

Experienced patent agents/firms will be familiar working with associates/firms in different countries. Without professional assistance, missed deadlines and incomplete responses to office actions originating from many countries at regular intervals may be become overwhelming and more expensive. Keep in mind that in addition to the technical and legal requirements there are language requirements in the different countries.

Can I use a patent agent/firm in US (or in India) for handling the filing of PCT applications?

Yes. PCT applications can be filed in any country that is signatory to the Patent Cooperation Treaty. Once the application enters the national stage in different countries, the primary agent/firm will coordinate with the foreign agents/firms who are registered to practice in the respective countries.

Are the contents of an application held in confidence by a patent agent?

Yes. It is a patent office requirement and there are penalties for not following this.

Can my patent agent disclose the contents of my application to a third party without my permission even if I do not sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement?

No

My patent agent/firm is asking for a power of attorney for filing my application with the patent office. Should I give one?

Yes. The agent/firm requires a recorded power of attorney to communicate with the patent office on your behalf.

Are the contents of an application held in confidence by patent offices?

Yes, until the application gets published by the patent office after a certain period of time after filing of the application. This is 18 months in the USPTO.

Can I prevent publication? How long does it protect against disclosure?

Yes. You may submit a non-publication request in the USPTO. It protects against disclosure until the patent is granted.

What is patent infringement?

Making, using, selling, offering for selling and importing the invention to which one does not hold patent rights is considered infringement.

I have a US patent for an invention. I see that the product covered under the granted patent is sold commercially in India. Do I have the rights to stop this commercial activity?

No. Patents rights are only for the region/country that granted the patent.

I have a US patent for an invention. I see that the product covered under the granted patent is sold commercially in the US. Do I have the rights to stop this commercial activity?

Yes.

I have filed a US patent application for an invention. I see that the product described in the patent application is sold commercially in the US. Do I have the rights to stop this commercial activity?

No. A patent application is just a patent application. You have no rights until it is granted.

I have filed a PCT application for an invention made in the US. I see that the product described in the patent application is sold commercially in India and USA. Do I have the rights to stop this commercial activity?

No. A patent application is just a patent application. You have no rights until it is granted.

 

 

 

Syam

Authored by Dr Syam Anand, PhD (Indian Institute of Science, IISc; Post-Doctoral research, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Faculty, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Founder and US Patent Agent, Mainline Intellectual Property LLC, Ardmore, Philadelphia USA). Syam has over 20 years experience in diverse areas of Science with domain knowledge in Life Sciences and Intellectual Property. Dr. Anand is also an inventor and budding entrepreneur. A rationalist, Dr. Anand enjoys science at all levels and advocates the use of scientific methods for answering all questions and solving all problems and make common people curious and interested in understanding their worlds.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/syamprasadanand

 

For more info, get Syam’s book from Amazon https://goo.gl/dMKSvq

Syam Book

Creative Commons License
This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE US PATENT PROCESS*

in Sci-IP by

Syam

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers different application routes to meet varied goals of inventors and owners of inventions. These are:

  • Provisional Applications
  • Utility Applications (Non-provisional Application)
  • Continuing Applications
    • Divisional Application
    • Continuation Application
    • Continuation-In-Part Application
  • Design Applications (only for ornamental design of a functional item)
  • Plant Applications (only for plants)
  • PCT International Applications

 

Inventor or owner or assignee of invention can apply. Selecting the right application route is critical for securing the right kind of patent protection for your intellectual property. The following is a brief description of the various routes available and their approximate costs.

 

Provisional Application

  • Lower cost to file.
  • USPTO filing fee of $260 for a large entity and $130 for a small entity.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees range from $1,500-$2,000 depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Gives an early effective filing date. Establishing an early effective filing date is critical since this determines what references and other disclosures qualify as prior art.
  • Claims covering the invention are not required.
  • Not examined or published.

 

Utility (Non-provisional) Application

  • The “actual” patent application filed by the applicant that gets examined.
  • USPTO filing fee of $1600 for a large entity and $730 for a small entity.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees range from $3,000-$5000 depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Claims priority to the provisional application. Must be filed within one year of the provisional application filing date.
  • Requires the presence of claims covering the invention.
  • Gets published after 18 months from the priority date.

 

Divisional Application

  • Pursues unelected claims of a parent application as a result of USPTO Restriction Requirement.
  • USPTO filing fee of $1600 for a large entity and $730 for a small entity.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees from $1000-2000 depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Claims priority to the parent application. Must be filed before the parent application abandons or issues.

 

Continuation Application

  • A continuation application pursuing unclaimed subject matter of the parent application.
  • USPTO filing fee of $1600 for a large entity and $730 for a small entity.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees from $1000-2000 depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Claims priority to the parent application. Must be filed before the parent application abandons or issues.

 

Continuation-in-part Application

  • A continuation application filed by the applicant to pursue new matter that is not disclosed in the parent application. The new matter must be closely related to the subject matter disclosed in the parent application.
  • USPTO filing fee of $1600 for a large entity and $730 for a small entity.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees from $1000-3000 depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Must be filed before the parent application abandons or issues.
  • Preserves priority for the old matter that was shared in the parent application.
  • The new matter gets the priority of the filing date of the continuation-in-part application.

 

PCT Application (also called “international application”)

  • International Application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).
  • USPTO filing fee of $240 for a large entity and $120 for a small entity.
  • USPTO search fee of $2,080 for a large entity and $1,040 for a small entity.
  • USPTO examination fee of $760 for large entity and $380 for small entity.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees from $3,000-$5,000 depending on the complexity of the invention.
  • Standard one format, one language application that can be used as a basis for filing patents in more than 140 member countries of the PCT.
  • USPTO accepts PCT applications in English by a U.S. national or resident.
  • Applicant has 30 months from the effective filing date of the PCT application to enter individual countries and file national stage applications.

 

Patent prosecution is said to begin once a patent application is filed. The application is eventually taken up for examination. Effective communication with the patent office and with the examiner, with an understanding of the nuances of patent law and the patent language, assists in making prosecution a smooth process resulting in savings of time and money. Some of the prosecution steps that applications invariably go through are briefly described below:

Restriction Requirement

  • Examiner states there are multiple inventions in the patent application being examined.
  • Applicant must elect one of the inventions designated by the examiner. Non-elected inventions can be pursued in a divisional application.
  • No USPTO fees if filed within time period for reply, extensions of time available.
  • Patent attorney/agent fee range from $500-1000.

Non-final Office Action

  • This is the first communication from the Examiner regarding the claims. Examiner raises objections or rejections to claims in view of the prior art.
  • Applicant is required to provide detailed responses to overcome the objections/rejections raised by the examiner. This advances the prosecution towards allowance.
  • No USPTO fees if filed within time period for reply, extensions of time available.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees range from $750-$1500 depending upon complexity of response required to overcome objections and/or rejections stated by the examiner.

Final Office Action

  • Examiner may again raise objections or rejections to claims informing why the response to the non-final action does not place the application in condition for allowance.
  • Applicant is required to provide additional detailed responses to each and every objection and rejection raised by the examiner and advance the prosecution towards allowance.
  • No USPTO fees if filed within time period for reply, extensions of time available.
  • Patent attorney/agent fees range from $750-$1500 depending upon complexity of response required to overcome objections and/or rejections stated by the Examiner.
  • Response either places the application in condition for allowance or Applicant files a request for continued examination (RCE).

Notice of Allowance

  • Informs the applicant that the patent is ready for issue.
  • USPTO issue fee is $960 for large entity, $480 for small entity
  • Patent attorney/agent fees $500.
  • After the application grants, you get 20 years of patent term from the filing date.

Maintenance Fees

  • Fees associated with maintaining the patent in force after issuance, late payment due if payment within 6 months after fee is due
  • 1st fee (due at 3.5 year): $1600 for large entity, $800 for small entity
  • 2nd fee (due at 7.5 year): $3600 for large entity, $1800 for small entity
  • 3rd fee (due at 11.5 year): $7400 for large entity, $3700 for small entity

 

Glossary of important terms

 

Abandon                                  Applications are usually abandoned when responses that are due are not submitted in a timely fashion to the USPTO. Abandoned applications cannot mature into patents. Prosecution stops.

Allowance                                A notice of allowance from USPTO informs that the application meets all the requirements for a patent to be granted.

 

Applicant                                 Can be the inventor(s), owner of the invention or assignee of the rights of the invention.

 

Assignee                                  The person(s) who hold rights to the invention, for example, the employer of the inventor(s).

 

Election                                   Choosing one of the inventions in an application for prosecution as a result of restriction requirement by an examiner.

 

Effective filing date                  The earliest filing date that can be claimed for an application. The effective filing date may be (i) actual filing date of the application; (ii) the date of the earlier-filed application to which priority is claimed.

 

Extension                                 Formal requests for extensions of time for filing responses can be obtained for a fee. Cannot exceed more than 6 months.

 

Filing date                               The date when the application is submitted to USPTO.

 

Grant                                      Grant of the patent. This gives rights to an inventor “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States” for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted. A bond paper copy of the patent grant is ribboned, sealed, and mailed by USPTO.

 

New matter                              Subject matter not initially disclosed in the application. USPTO does not allow new matter to be added at any time during prosecution.

 

Objection/Rejection                 The examiner issues an office action objecting/rejecting the claims during prosecution, based on prior art. When the office action is issued, the objections/rejections have to be overcome in order to advance the prosecution. A critical and significant portion of patent prosecution.

 

Patent Agent                            A person who has passed the Patent Bar examination administered by USPTO for registration at the USPTO.

 

Prior Art                                 The universe of printed publications, disclosures, talks, and other information that are publically available.

 

Publication                              USPTO publishes all applications around 18 months. The contents of the application are publicly available after this. In certain cases, a request can be made to withhold from publication.

 

Response                                 Formal filing of communications with the USPTO within the required time periods. They have to fully meet the requirements of form and content. A critical and significant portion of patent prosecution.

 

Restriction requirement           Placed on an application when the examiner believes that there is more than one claimed invention in an application. The applicant has to elect one invention for the prosecution to progress.

 

Subject matter                         The subject to which the application and the invention is directed.

 

*Disclaimer: The above information in only meant to serve as a guideline to understand the complexity of the patent process. It is in no way complete.

 

Syam Prasad Anand, PhD
Founder, Mainline Intellectual Property
Ardmore, Philadelphia, USA.

Frequently asked questions about patenting (part 2)

in Sci-IP by

Syam

• Can I patent an idea that is just an idea?
No. Ideas that do not describe an identifiable embodiment or do not have any functionality are not patentable.

• Who can file a patent application?
Inventors, owners and individuals or organizations with sufficient proprietary interest in the invention can file a patent application for an invention.

• When should I file a patent?
Usually when your invention is enabled and before you disclose your invention to public, for example through seminars or trade shows, or even before signing a potential license agreement with a third party.

• How do I know that my invention is enabled?
In simple terms, your invention is enabled if it functions as described by you and extensive experimentation is not required to practice it.

• Do I have to submit a working prototype of the invention when I am filing a patent application?
No.

• I do not know how my invention works, but it works. In other words, I do not know the scientific principle that makes my invention work. Can I file a patent application for the said invention?
Yes.

• Why should I file a patent application?
Once a patent is granted, its gives the owner of the patent, rights to exclude others from using/copying, selling, offering for sale and importing the invention from another country.

• Why should I file a patent application if my employer owns the rights to my invention?
You may benefit from financial and professional incentives that many employers give for generating intellectual property that adds value to the employer.

• My employer owns the invention I wish to patent. How should I go about filing a patent application for my invention?
Please contact your employers. They will guide you. In general, industries have patent liaisons or counsels and academic organizations have technology transfer experts who will guide you.

• My employer does not own the invention I wish to patent. How should I go about filing a patent application for my invention?
You can file a patent application all by yourself (called pro se) or with the help of a professional who has knowledge about patent laws.

• What kind of professional help should I seek for when I am filing a patent application myself?
Almost all countries have patent agents who are qualified to represent inventors and registered with the country-specific patent office. You may discuss your invention with patent agents or patent attorneys (who are also lawyers) after signing non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements with them.

• Am I required to go through a patent agent to file a patent application?
No. In fact, you can file patent applications pro se, that is, by yourself. However, most patent offices recommend that prospective applicants retain the services of a registered patent attorney or patent agent to prepare and prosecute their applications.

• Can I take the help of a patent agent in India for representing me at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)?
No. Only candidates who pass the USPTO registration examination (also known as the patent bar exam) and registered at USPTO can represent inventors in the US. However, inventors may utilize the expertise of other individuals including patent professionals in other countries to prepare and submit applications. In this scenario, the inventor will be representing himself/herself at the USPTO. Similarly, only candidates who have passed the Indian Patent Agent examination and registered at the Indian patent office to practice Indian patent law can represent you at the Indian Patent Office.

• How does the services of a patent agent help in the preparation and prosecution of applications at the USPTO?
When filing an application at a patent office, there are technical and legal requirements to be met. A patent is only as good as what is claimed and how it is described in a patent application. A strong patent protection requires good patent application drafting skills. A good patent helps to prevent others from designing around your invention and prevent others from entering the same market space. An experienced patent attorney or agent brings such skills in drafting patent applications.

In addition, the attorney/agent also helps in prosecuting the application before the patent office. Once an application is examined, the patent office sends out office actions- official communications to the inventor, and may reject or allow based on the merits of the patent application. The attorney/agent, on behalf of the inventor, can present arguments to meet the legal and technical thresholds set by the patent office and help in obtaining a patent. This requires an understanding of the patent law and claim language.

• What are the contents of a patent application?
The main contents of a patent application are a written description of your invention called specification, drawings that help to describe the invention and specific claims that you seek exclusive protection for based on the specification. Among other things, it also contains information about the inventor, owner and representative of the invention.

• How long does it take to file a patent application?
It takes anywhere from one week to more than a month to file a patent application. The main factor that determines the time taken is drafting a patent application, which usually depends on the nature of the invention. Complex inventions, such as inventions in biotechnology and life sciences take around 2-3 weeks to draft good patent application.

• How long does it take to obtain a patent after filing an application?
In the US it may take from 1-3 years depending upon the area and the procedure for examination used. There are accelerated procedures available for an increased fee. In India it takes up to 8 years to obtain a patent.

• Where do I file my patent?
You need to file patents in countries in which you wish for patent protection. Many inventors choose to file in United States because United States is one of the largest economies in the world. Other regions that people consider are Europe, Japan, China, Brazil, and India.

• I am not a US citizen, but my invention was made in the US. Should I file for patent in the US or the country of my citizenship?
Any person can file for a patent in US. However, if the invention was made in US and the inventor wants to first file a patent outside US, the inventor has to apply for a foreign filing license.

• I do not want to obtain a foreign filing license for my invention. What are the consequences?
Not getting a license and still filing outside will cost US patent.

Read the first part here

Syam Prasad Anand, PhD
Founder, Mainline Intellectual Property
Ardmore, Philadelphia, USA.

Homeopathy Part V: The candy man can!*

in Poli-Scie/That Makes Sense by

Who can take a sunrise

Sprinkle it with dew

Cover it in chocolate

And a miracle or two

The candy man

The candy man can

The candy man can cause he

Mixes it with love and

Makes the world taste good…

Before the establishment of modern pharmacology, superstition drove the selection and use of remedies for maladies that afflicted us. The Greek word Pharmakon, from which the word pharmacology is derived, meant magic charm for treating disease. In those times, the goal of a pharmakon was to get rid of the evil spirits that was thought to be behind diseases and illnesses. We knew very little about the etiology of diseases. With the passage of time, experience, largely based on trial and error, enabled people to differentiate remedies that were useful and actually worked from those that did not work to alleviate symptoms. This lead to certain remedies getting selected and used over others. That was the advent of herbal medicines using plant extracts, to which modern medicine owes a lot.

Further developments in modern pharmacology had to wait for advances in chemistry and physiology. The most important among these were the isolation of pure compounds and discoveries on the etiology of diseases and illnesses. With this, the role of magic and miracle started to fade away from the realm of treating diseases and illnesses.

The first pure drug to be isolated was Morphine, based on the analgesic and euphoric properties of Opium poppy pods that was known for thousands of years. Following this, several other opiates, including Codeine were isolated from the Poppy plant. The identification of the structures of these and other compounds paved the way to convert naturally abundant compounds into rare ones in the laboratory. The availability of pure compounds revolutionized modern medicine and allowed us to ask specific questions about specificity, mode of action and dosage. With this, the role of magic and miracle was nearly eliminated from the realm of treating diseases.

As modern pharmacology became a true multidisciplinary enterprise, it derived utility from advances in other disciplines. But, more importantly, it also contributed to the generation of useful reagents as well as frameworks to interrogate life processes with specificity. Molecules that fall into the broad classes of agonists and antagonists are illuminating examples of this. Thus, modern pharmacology also paved the way to get rid of misconceptions about life such as vital forces and mysterious energies.

In the present day, modern pharmacology is the scientific discipline that deals with the interaction of chemicals with cells, tissues, organs and organisms. With its birth, outcomes of chemical interactions could be rationally correlated to physiological changes that they brought about through their interactions with their molecular targets.  In the present day, advances in synthetic chemistry allow us to make compounds that we desire. In the present day, advances in physiology and modern investigative tools allow us to rationally ask questions and obtain answers on pharmacological effects chemicals have on our body devoid of the noise originating from the impurities in the source material. A shining example is the discovery of Artemisinin, an antimalarial drug that was obtained after screening around 2000 Chinese herbal remedies. The discovery won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine. We are continuously discovering and poised to discover many more drugs from natural sources including ancient herbal remedies and synthesize them in the laboratory.

The time is ripe to ask chemists, biochemists, microbiologists, geneticists, physicists or any other person who has a reasonable background and training in science, or just plain common sense, a simple yet critical scientific question- can you imagine diluting an extract containing Artemisinin in water or alcohol and then magically come up with a sugar pill that will cure Malaria with the same efficacy as a more concentrated dose of a purified preparation of Artemisinin would? I doubt anyone could. But the homeopathic doctor- the Candy man- can! Because apparently, he also mixes a miracle or two and also love and makes it tastes good too.

If a conspiracy exists in the medical field that needs to be discussed and condemned by the scientific community, it is not the one purportedly run by Allopathy and modern pharmacology against Homeopathy, but rather the one waged by Homeopathy against herbal medicines right from the inception of Homeopathy- as I have alluded to in the Part IV of this series. As it stands now, almost 80% of homeopathic remedies are herbal remedies mixed with miracles and made to taste good. Where they are not, they are no different from herbal medicines or Allopathic medicines. Yet, by naming a remedy “Homeopathic”, it allows practitioners of this branch of medicine to sidestep regulatory guidelines that require labeling of actual compositions and active ingredients that even practitioners of herbal medicine and supplements are required to follow.

*Here is a link to the kid’s song “The candy man can” and the lyrics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIPGyKGuWeA

Authored by Dr Syam Anand, PhD (Indian Institute of Science, IISc; Post-Doctoral research, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Faculty, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Founder and US Patent Agent, Mainline Intellectual Property LLC, Ardmore, Philadelphia USA). Syam has over 20 years experience in diverse areas of Science with domain knowledge in Life Sciences and Intellectual Property. Dr. Anand is also an inventor and budding entrepreneur. A rationalist, Dr. Anand enjoys science at all levels and advocates the use of scientific methods for answering all questions and solving all problems and make common people curious and interested in understanding their worlds.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/syamprasadanand

Creative Commons License
This work by ClubSciWri is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT PATENTING

in Sci-IP/That Makes Sense by


(These are not definitions, but helpful pointers)

    •  What is a patent?

    A patent is an exclusive right for a limited time for an invention.

    • What are the exclusive rights for?

    The rights are excluding others from making, using, selling, offering for selling and importing the invention.

    • For how long is a patent valid?

    20 years from the application filing date.

    • What is an invention?

    An invention is a novel and non-obvious useful tangible solution to a problem. Notable exceptions are design patents that cover external appearance of objects.

    • What is novel?

    In simple terms anything that is new, man-made, and does not exist previously and has not been disclosed before.

    • What is non-obvious?

    In simple terms anything that is not an incremental improvement (i.e. obvious improvement) over previously known product or process.

    • Can I patent anything and everything that meet the criteria of utility, novelty and non-obviousness?

    No, you cannot. There are country-specific rules on what is and what is not patentable.

    • Can I patent, if I publish?

    In the US, you may, within one year of publishing and obtain rights in the US. In all other countries you loose your rights if you publish before submit a patent application.

    • Can I patent, if I disclose?

    In the US, you may, within one year of disclosing your invention. In all other countries you loose your rights, if you disclose your invention before submitting a patent application.

    • What kinds of disclosures affect the prospects of patenting?

    In general, any public disclosure as opposed to disclosure within a confidential meeting (for example lab meeting) or disclosures protected by non-disclosure agreements.

    • Do I have to file a patent to practice my invention?

    No. You are not required to file a patent to practice your invention. But without patent protection, you risk your invention being copied by others.

    • Can a person or entity that has already obtained a patent on the same invention, stop me from practicing the invention?

    Yes. A patent gives the owner of the patent, exclusive constitutionally bestowed rights to stop others from practicing the invention described in the patent. This falls under patent infringement.

    • I have an idea that could be patentable, what should I do first?

    The first question to ask is, who owns the idea. An easy way to answer this question is to ask yourself, what are your obligations to your employer.

    • I work in a lab and my idea is related to the project I work on for my employer. Do I own the rights to the idea?

    In general, no. Your employer owns the right to the idea. Contact your technology transfer office/center. They will guide you.

    • I work in a lab and my idea is independent of the project I work on for my employer. But I used materials and equipment in the lab for testing and perfecting my idea. Do I own the rights to the idea?
    • I work in a lab and my idea is independent of the project I work on for my employer. Also, I did not use materials or equipment from my employer and instead used my own funds for testing and perfecting my idea. Do I own the rights to the idea?

    Yes.

    • My employer decided not to pursue my invention. Is this a dead end for my invention?

    No. They could give you the ownership rights for the invention for free or a cost. They could also license for free or a cost. Where federal funding is involved, even the federal government can give you the rights for free or a fee.

    • What are the things to remember when deciding whether to patent an invention or not on my own?

    Two things to contemplate are money and time. Obtaining a patent costs money in terms of filing fees, maintenance fees, and attorney fees. It is up to the inventor to evaluate the cost benefit of filing and maintaining a patent.

    • I am good at generating ideas but not good at perfecting them. Can I file a patent application for an imperfect idea?

    In fact yes, if the idea is not completely abstract and can be described adequately to convincingly prove that it can work as described.

    • I am good at generating and testing ideas and even perfecting them. But I do not have the experience or inclination to manufacture or market my invention. Is this worthwhile to pursue a patent application?

    Yes. Patents can be sold or licensed to others who are interested buyers. They are a form of intellectual property.

Authored by Dr Syam Anand, PhD (Indian Institute of Science, IISc; Post-Doctoral research, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Faculty, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Founder and US Patent Agent, Mainline Intellectual Property LLC, Ardmore, Philadelphia USA). Syam has over 20 years experience in diverse areas of Science with domain knowledge in Life Sciences and Intellectual Property. Dr. Anand is also an inventor and budding entrepreneur. A rationalist, Dr. Anand enjoys science at all levels and advocates the use of scientific methods for answering all questions and solving all problems and make common people curious and interested in understanding their worlds.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/syamprasadanand

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Face to Face with Binto George

in Face à Face by

binto

I just finished reading “Artificial Intelligence Simplified” (ISBN 978-1944708016; Published by CSTrends LLP; available at Amazon as print and Kindle editions and also as low-cost student edition) written by Binto George (BG) and Gail Carmichael. Binto did his PhD in IISc. He is now a professor in School of Computer Sciences at Western Illinois University, Macomb, IL, USA. I met Binto in IISc and a friendship was born out of the joys of interdisciplinary crosstalk. We used to spend numerous hours under many trees and over many coffees and teas, discussing both computer science and biology without the jargon of either world hindering our conversations. This was evident even during his thesis defense in Super Computer Education and Research Center. The same is reflected in the simple language he has used in this book.

The book is very well written and simple that you can finish reading it in a couple of hours, even if you do not know anything about computer science. Of course, that is if you manage to spare yourself from thinking too frequently about the parallels and possibilities with concepts from biology. To biologists out there, this is a book that you should read to see how biology concepts have influenced AI. To every aspiring writer, this book is an example of how you can bring a complex subject to almost everyone who is curious and interested in understanding it. Moreover, as Binto brings out towards the end of the book, the field of AI is itself waiting for advances in our understanding of how our brains work in order to mimic it inorganically.

Below are responses from Binto on some of the thoughts that came up after I read the book. I hope you will read the book and ponder more over the responses below. I want to thank Binto for taking his time to respond to these thoughts. Hope this discussion can stimulate interdisciplinary crosstalk and creativity.- Syam Anand (SA)

SA: What was your motivation for writing this book?

BG: When I was teaching AI, I saw many students struggling with basic AI concepts. A few students got it the first time and a few never did. When I was a masters student, my AI instructor was very knowledgeable, but I realized that many students didn’t like him.   Also, many students were complaining about their textbook.

If AI is hard for CS students, what about the rest of the world?  My feeling is that it is not that AI is inherently hard, it is more about the way it is presented.

The current prediction by World Economic Forum (WEF) is that five million jobs will be outsourced to AI/robots by 2020. Years back, we had the same fear about losing jobs to computers. Now we know that computers didn’t replace us but it merely transformed the way we worked.  So, in my opinion,  knowing AI in the future is likely to be like having an understanding of computers today.  And this book is to help anyone learn AI.

Personally, for me, it is a coming back to AI after several years of hiatus.

SA: How was the idea for the book formed and how did you get your co-authors?

BG: Gail  (the co-author) was very active in “Go Code Girl” initiative in Carton University, initially as a Ph.D. student and then as an instructor. I was looking for someone who can work with me to make computer science more approachable and less intimidating to everyone including girls.  So we eventually planned a book on computer science, which later evolved into a two-part book – the first part of the book would include data structures and algorithms and the second part would have more in-depth chapters in areas, such as AI, Networks, etc.

Meanwhile, Gail moved on to pursue an industry career. Because of her busy schedule related to the new work assignment,  we thought we will go ahead and publish AI chapter as a book without waiting for other parts to complete.  Our hope is that we still be able to complete other parts in the future.

SA: How much time did you take to write the book? I understand that simpler and shorter books take longer to write. Correct me if I am wrong.

BG: A lot of time.  Gail wrote (and is currently writing) the first part on data structures and algorithms. I worked on more advanced areas including AI. Gail would always push for making things simpler. So no wonder she made me rewrite several times. Last few summers I spent an enormous amount of time writing the AI book, adding references, designing sketches etc.   Gail’s contribution in the AI book was particularly with respect to presenting the technical contents in a simple format for the general audience. We got many good suggestions because of the international review process (thanks to Susan). Andrew has been instrumental in holding us up to a higher standard, overall.

Obviously, some of our reviewers demanded more “depth”. As a result, we created the Appendix to cover more advanced topics at the same time keeping the readers’ interest by preserving the original text as simple as possible.

SA: I noticed that your publisher is CSTrends LLP. Could you help other IIScians in publishing similar books?

BG: Absolutely. A successful publication has to be “organically” great.   CSTrends LLP doesn’t count too much on publicity or marketing stunts. The belief is that a great book will find a way to thrive. If you want to explore a publication, you can send a detailed proposal to help@cstrends.com.

SA: What is Artificial in AI?

BG: Good question.  Nothing, or, at least, that is the hope.

We can create intelligence by natural reproduction and training. I’m talking about raising kids and educating them, etc.  Our fundamental limitation is that “an apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree”.  Of course, there can be outliers due to mutation, but the selection process in the modern world at least with respect to human beings is far more permissive than the primitive era. Plus, intelligence is not the only criteria for natural selection.

We can also try to create intelligence using computers and again try to train to perform at “human level”.  Turing test is based on indistinguishably of the former form of intelligence from the latter – this is explained in second last chapter of the book.  Or we can have machines do something in a specific, narrow domain better than people. A chess playing program is a good example.

The advantage of going machine route is that machines can work tirelessly – they are simple enough to repair and rebuild.  Machines have not yet started complaining about their unpaid labor.

As a community, we have spent less than hundred years developing AI. The former form of intelligence has evolved over billions of years.  Natural intelligence will still evolve, but not at a pace that we are patient enough or would help us survive a major surprise adverse event that might happen sooner.  Plus, people love challenges inherent in creating intelligence. All these make a strong case for pursuing AI.

SA: Does the word “intelligence’ automatically conjure up an organic image in the minds of CS researchers?

BG: I can’t talk for others – but to me, intelligence still reminds me of the brain. Since we like computers, some of us try to be precise like machines, but in my opinion, that is not the point of it.  Do what we are good at and let machines do what they are good at.

SA: You mentioned the original objectives of AI proposed by Winston and said that the objective was later split up to achieve focused objectives. Is it because Winston did not comprehend the complexity of intelligence in terms of the different computational operations required for different objectives? Is this going to linger in the AI community?

BG: In general, what is achievable practically in the near term to keep the interest and funds flowing has a strong impact on our research focus.  I believe only government/non-profit initiatives can support strong research in fundamental areas (that are extremely challenging and of high risk/low short-term reward nature) that can have a real long-term impact. It is concerning that funding sources for basic science are slowly drying out.

SA: Fuzzy is not really fuzzy, is it?

BG: Not a bit – fuzzy is a way of modeling fuzzy thinking. There is nothing imprecise about it.  Being imprecise is not a great quality.  However, that can capture many human reasoning since we are naturally not that precise.

SA: Has AI depended more on mathematics and logic more than on Biology for developing as a discipline?

BG: I think so.  We have not understood biology enough to really depend on that for creating intelligence.  Also, when we try to create something like using biology, there are ethical questions.  Even when we manage to create a super intelligence (either biologically or otherwise), there is a probability of getting out of hand like we explained in our last chapter.

SA: In human intelligence, there is noise. Is AI devoid of noise?

BG: If by noise you meant entropy, there is. Again, the nature of non-productive activities in AI would be something different. from human intelligence:  e.g., a person gets tired, a computer gets overheated.

SA: Degrees of truth is a concept that I think is most valuable in terms of similarity to organic intelligence, next to maybe genetic algorithms. Your take?

BG: Interesting. In science, researchers like to have a hypothesis to be either proved or disproved.  The probability theory can help us capture some of the uncertainties and incompleteness of our knowledge and have a hypothesis that is likely to be true with a certain probability.

Many real-life situations need us to react to it without having all knowledge or not finding out the perfect (optimum) solution.  So in my opinion, it is no surprise that organic intelligence developed this way to solve problems under uncertainty or by adopting a trial and error strategy.  I really encourage reader comments on this one.

SA: Looks like chatbots have advanced (for example Siri) with respect to the simple example you gave in the book (Alice; which I tried and was fun. When I asked Alice “what is beyond noise?”, it answered “God perhaps?”). Does advancements in natural language processing, natural language parsing etc. have a role in the future of AI?

BG: Yes and no.   First, the reason for the “No” answer: Although, a machine could not win the Turing test without NLP, it could still be as intelligent as we are, at the same time unable to speak any natural language on earth.  (eg., Someone who  speaks little English may appear to be unintelligent to an American, but she could be really smart.)  Now, the reason for the “Yes” answer:  NLP helps the applications of AI that can attract commercial interest, which can turbo-charge the development of AI. Besides, a machine with good NLP can seamlessly interact and learn from people.

SA: Is there a real demand for adult intelligence? In other words, will the current AI efforts to solve focused problems in a faster, cheaper better way keep investments in the development of adult intelligence away from it?

BG: Yes, the industry is focused on investments that would result in near-term return. So that could hurt GI prospects.  I think that GI would be helpful in developing super intelligence much faster (rather than depending on natural reproductive cycle), which will help us save from a major disaster or surprise event that could extinct all of us.

SA: Is India invested enough in AI or, in other words, is there enough funding in the AI basic research in India that can be translated?

BG: I don’t know much about the scenario there now. Can anyone currently in India help?

SA: Do you think AI is taught in schools and colleges (undergrad level) well?

BG: No, I personally don’t.   Students at IISc or MIT may be able to learn from reading a “standard” AI textbook.  However, simplicity can save everyone’s time and help everyone quickly grasp the area (especially for whole-part learners).   I’ve read about two great people talking about simplicity: Gandhi and Einstein.  To me, both make sense.

SA: Looks like processing speed or memory size are not the blocks in the advancement of AI. Can pure mathematics and statistical methods and modeling come to the rescue of AI and advance it further instead of waiting for breakthroughs in Biology to understand the human brain?

BG: The same problem can have different solutions. I believe that a combination method that combines strengths of all techniques has a better chance of realizing General Intelligence (GI).

SA: Does the AI community think that even, in theory, there could be such a thing as a perfect brain that can do any task assigned to it with perfection? In other words, does the specialization to carry out a particular task with perfection, automatically rule out using the same system for another task or is it all about access control?

BG: Not necessarily. With a high-speed communication infrastructure AI nodes can collaborate at lightning speed to create essentially a super mass intelligence. Assume that an AI node is a specialist in one area because of the problems to be solved by it (or inspired by physical limitations such as memory).  Other AI nodes can tap into and learn from that node (assuming they are given access to that knowledge). AI should be able to disseminate knowledge and expertise in a much more efficient manner (than we publishing papers).

SA: Can AI systems be subject to “natural selection”? How much computing power do we need to mimic natural selection at the simplest level and are lower forms of intelligence being studied and tested to achieve these objectives?

BG: We can write a simple program that does natural selection or a program to solve a problem can be evolved using natural selection.  Yes, lower forms of intelligence are studied and reproduced using genetic algorithms.

SA: Gerald Edelman, Nobel prize winner for his contributions to Immunology had a book “Wider than the sky” that talked about how the development of the brain could use a method similar to clonal selection that is by the immune system to select high- affinity antibodies against immunogens. Any thoughts?  

BG: From what little I know, the book explores consciousness.  Don’t know much about it.  Maybe some of our readers can pitch in.

SA: Last question. Does the AI community also divide intelligence into brain, mind and consciousness?

BG: My guess is that when we create General Intelligence (GI), we would have a brain, mind and consciousness.  That’s assuming we can really define and understand consciousness.  What about feelings?  A feeling, in my opinion, is a real-time feedback mechanism for our own survival.  What about empathy? Does it come from our own vulnerability? And if so, if an AI robot has no specific vulnerability (e.g., it doesn’t need to breathe), will it be empathetic to a human being that’s gasping for air? Will it be able to connect to that its situation of going on low battery? (That’s assuming that its goal is to stay off hibernation) These are some of the interesting questions. It turns out that AI is an exciting field with more questions than answers.

 

The book authored by BG is available here http://www.amazon.com/Dr-Binto-George/e/B01AGE6NA0

Binto’s lab link: http://www.wiu.edu/cbt/computer_science/faculty/george.php

 

 

 

Interview conducted by Dr Syam Anand, PhD (Indian Institute of Science, IISc; Post-Doctoral research, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Faculty, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Founder and US Patent Agent, Mainline Intellectual Property LLC, Ardmore, Philadelphia USA). Syam has over 20 years experience in diverse areas of Science with domain knowledge in Life Sciences and Intellectual Property. Dr. Anand is also an inventor and budding entrepreneur. A rationalist, Dr. Anand enjoys science at all levels and advocates the use of scientific methods for answering all questions and solving all problems and make common people curious and interested in understanding their worlds.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/syamprasadanand

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Homeopathy Part IV: Surely you were not joking, Mr. Hahnemann*

in Poli-Scie by

SCIWRI8

Once upon a time- about 220 years ago to be more precise- people lived “happily ever after”, taking things mostly for granted… even as their happy lives were intermittently challenged and frequently terminated by many diseases of unknown etiology… afflicted people seeking relief through anything and any means possible- chemicals, herbal extracts, prayers, “pagan” practices, just enduring what cannot be cured, you name it… names for diseases and explanations and cures, a dozen for a dime… a rare few with seemingly divine intuitive powers conjuring up cures… the afflicted mostly not caring about explanations and cures, instead how it felt afterwards… instant gratification ruling the roost… the main goal for both the afflicted and those who cured them-instant gratification… many of the afflicted knowing the rare few who had explanations and cures… picking and choosing based on their beliefs and comfort levels… therapies working magically and mysteriously… theories abounding without needing much for proof or principle… success stories stemming from personal experiences… the effective cures for afflictions and the afflicted becoming grand stories of success… success and failures spreading by word of mouth… the risky cures that ended up with worse consequences enough to put someone out of business… strengthened and weakened by beliefs, doubts, personal opinions, explanations and prejudices as the words spread… pharmacology still very very far from becoming a science… waiting for advances in physics, chemistry and biology to find reliable, rational and dependable foundations to build on. Around that time lived a genius who had a vision and conjured up a simple solution that combined the ingredients and beliefs in vogue into a sellable cocktail of remedies. The ingredients were chosen from medicines that often caused unwanted side effects in people who took them, as doses were random and subjective and impurities were rampant. The beliefs were chosen from the magical and miraculous properties of medicines and the divine status accorded to anyone capable of providing a cure for the affliction and the afflicted. The simple solution: mix the ingredients with beliefs, until the ingredients were diluted and the side effects were gone and the beliefs were strengthened and hope of a cure established. The genius used that cocktail for curing many ailments. Word soon spread that unlike the medicines used by others, the medicines made by this genius never killed anyone and cured many. Word also spread that one could cure entire villages and towns of any malady without much of any starting material as the more you diluted something that was rare and hard to obtain, the more potent it became. Surely you were not joking, Mr. Hahnemann!

*(This is last in a “preface” to this series. Look forward to a critical analysis of Homeopathy remedies in principle and in practice in the remainder of this series).

About the author: Dr Syam Anand, PhD (Indian Institute of Science, IISc; Post-Doctoral research, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Faculty, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Founder and US Patent Agent, Mainline Intellectual Property LLC, Ardmore, Philadelphia USA), has over 20 years experience in diverse areas of Science with domain knowledge in Life Sciences and Intellectual Property. Dr. Anand is also an inventor and budding entrepreneur. A rationalist, Dr. Anand enjoys science at all levels and advocates the use of scientific methods for answering all questions and solving all problems and make common people curious and interested in understanding their worlds.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/syamprasadanand

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Homeopathy Part III: You may tinker. You may not violate.

in Poli-Scie by

SCIWRI8

The physical world follows some inviolable laws that were discovered using scientific methods. By physical world, I mean the world that can be sensed and perceived and objective measurements and interpretations made and shared with clarity. Irrespective of affiliations and disciplines and also WITHOUT contradictions, these laws serve as the foundation for any scientific enquiry. These laws are dependable because they have not contradicted applications in one field AGAINST another field. These laws have been repeatedly used to explain and predict with near certainty the interactions that exist in our physical world. It is only with these laws that the outcomes of manipulations of matter or energy can be reliably predicted and understood, and new discoveries about the physical world itself made, subject to the usual expense of time and intellect associated with scientific methods.

Science is not its infancy anymore to allow one discipline that contradicts everything else to bring it down. No discipline can any longer work by some mysterious principle that we do not know yet that will bring down everything else known in science in its entirety and solely in favor of that discipline the moment it is discovered. Common sense should tell us that such a wish or hope is scientific fallacy. This is because the INHERENT PROPERTIES OF MATTER AND ENERGY REMAIN THE SAME WHETHER WE ARE AWARE OF IT OR NOT, MEASURE IT OR NOT OR INCORPORATE IT IN OUR CALCULATIONS OR NOT. Because of this, one will never ever be able to find a mysterious principle that works for solely for one artificially created section of the physical world to the exclusion of every other artificially created discipline- whether it is allopathic medicine, traditional medicine or homeopathy or even prayers.

Clearly, in the case of Homeopathy, the carriers are inert and have been shown to not undergo any changes in their electronic configurations. One theory that water carries memory from the mother tincture was published in a top scientific journal- Nature- and later retracted, as the results could be never replicated. When it was published, it was done with a request from the Editor of the journal to the readers to “suspend judgement” until it could be replicated by others as the editor himself knew that it was contrary to everything else we know. In the author’s own words the observed effect was “like agitating a car key in the river, going miles downstream, extracting a few drops of water, and then starting one’s car with the water”. No kidding! The plain question is whether we should entertain fallacies such as this. As scientists we know the rational standards we apply while reviewing manuscripts and grant proposals. We should ask why many of us are willing to suspend judgment, when we subject a homeopathic remedy to rational analysis or use it to cure an ailment.

It could be argued that the inert carriers mediate their roles purely through an energy currency. For medical use, chemicals can be made to accept, store and release a finite amount of energy at a later time. In order to do this, energy has to be provided from some source that forces the chemicals to acquire a different state. Medical use of chemicals relying of changes in energy states has to exploit those occurring over large time scales due to the practical time demands of manufacture, marketing and consumption. Therefore, the types of energy that can be tapped to achieve this are limited. The types of energy that can have an observable impact on matter are also limited to a certain range of the light spectrum. These are established physical and chemical laws from which there is no escape and as such limitations for exploiting energy as a medium for storing information in drugs while they are manufactured for therapeutic use later on. Even if we were to narrow down to such a form of energy, irrespective of its nature it has to be universally applicable. The common sense question is how could it be that a traditional medicine that shows a dose response shows a reverse dose response as soon as it becomes a homeopathic remedy? Through friction and dilution? Don’t we mix and shake things regularly in other fields? For Homeopathy to enter the realm of science, it cannot have a wholly separate set of rules that contradicts everything else including traditional medicine.

If we were to assume that during potentisation, some form of energy mediated the transfer of the remedial properties of mother tincture to the inert carrier, the question remains how this energy simultaneously eliminated the side effects? If this were to happen with such specificity with thousands of remedies that homeopaths use for different ailments, we will also have to assume that nature selected and conserved a common chemical signature for the desirable effects and another one for the side effects for all these thousands of remedies that is also specifically recognizable and transferable without loosing information through two inert carriers. The probability of this happening in nature could be in the neighborhood of finding a single molecule of the mother tincture in a 200C dilution!

A simple test to verify whether homeopathic remedies get more potent as they get diluted would be to attempt to overdose on a homeopathic remedy that started off with a toxic material. Expectedly, a PubMed search turned up nothing. Therefore, I thought maybe I should experiment it on myself. Thankfully I did not have to spend on homeopathic remedies as this experiment has been already done in different parts of the world with expected results. Hundreds of people who took these challenges called “10:23, Homeopathy, there is nothing in it” survived without any effects of the “drugs” and proved that one cannot overdose on properly made homeopathic medicines. Apparently, here is a class of medicines from which one can never overdose. If one cannot overdose, there is no meaning in a dose or potency or remedy. Thus, homeopathy is contradicting everything fundamental in all other scientific disciplines including traditional medicine.

The Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council recently concluded that “there is no good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy works better than a placebo” after subjecting 1800 peer reviewed manuscripts that studied the efficacy of homeopathic remedies for a variety of medical conditions to their expert committees review (National Health and Medical Research Council. 2015. NHMRC information paper: Evidence on the effectiveness of homeopathy for treating health conditions. http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/ attachments/cam02a_information_paper.pdf). Their remarks were scathing: “People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness. People who are considering whether to use homeopathy should first get advice from a registered health practitioner and in the meanwhile keep taking any prescribed treatments”.

Insane ideas should be welcomed in science and subject to further tests and validation. Fallacies that contradict every established principle should be rubbished as such. Evidence and testable hypotheses are fundamental requirements for entertaining ideas. Homeopathy lacks evidence. Its hypotheses contradict everything else we know. When exploiting science for anything, it is essential to remember that we can tinker, but we cannot violate.

Syam Prasad Anand, PhD

Founder, Mainline Intellectual Property LLC

Ardmore, Philadelphia, USA

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