Tag Archives: innovation

Myriad Genetics Finally Gives Up Its Gene Patent Fight… Just As The Patent Office Opens The Doors Up To More Gene Patents | Techdirt


[…] the story of Myriad Genetics, the biotech company that has a test for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (often an indicator of a higher risk for breast cancer). The company argued that because of its patent on those genes, no one else could test for those genes. Back in 2013, the Supreme Court did the right thing and finally rejected the concept of gene patents, despite years of the USPTO granting such patents. As the court noted, allowing gene patents created a perverse situation in which a single company could have the exclusive right to isolate a person’s own genes — and that’s just not right.

But Myriad Genetics did not give up easily. Just a month after the Supreme Court ruling it sued a bunch of competitors over a different set of gene patents, insisting that the Supreme Court had really only struck down the two in question. Those lawsuits did not go well, as Myriad lost again and again. At this point, it’s only choice was to go back to the Supreme Court, where it was obviously going to get a pretty big smackdown — so Myriad has now admitted that it will not pursue an appeal effectively ending this latest round of cases (after costing those other testing centers tons of money to defend themselves).

Good for Myriad, finally seeing sense (though at great expense to many).

Meanwhile, however, the USPTO (US Patent & Trademark Office) continues its long running bad strategy of simply tweaking its guidelines to allow more application. This despite a) court rulings disqualifying such non-innovations and b) overwhelming proof that the strategy does not aid innovation.

I find it astonishing that an organisation can go so wrong in that its primary activity now appears to be directly opposed to the goal it was created to promote.

Placebo Innovation | Benjamin Bratton

Worth reading (or viewing the video). Most things presented as “innovation” today are just not. Whether it’s by an individual in a TED talk, or by a company talking about their latest product.


Problems are not “puzzles” to be solved. That metaphor assumes that all the necessary pieces are already on the table, they just need to be re-arranged and re-programmed. It’s not true.

“Innovation” defined as moving the pieces around and adding more processing power is not some Big Idea that will disrupt a broken status quo: that precisely is the broken status quo.

One TED speaker said recently, “If you remove this boundary, …the only boundary left is our imagination.” Wrong.

If we really want transformation, we have to slog through the hard stuff (history, economics, philosophy, art, ambiguities, contradictions).  Bracketing it off to the side to focus just on technology, or just on innovation, actually prevents transformation.

Instead of dumbing-down the future, we need to raise the level of general understanding to the level of complexity of the systems in which we are embedded and which are embedded in us. This is not about “personal stories of inspiration,” it’s about the difficult and uncertain work of de-mystification and re-conceptualization: the hard stuff that really changes how we think. More Copernicus, less Tony Robbins

Enabling Innovations: human-machine interfacing

Recently, a few really interesting products have seen the light of day and they appear to indicate a pattern in a particular space, in this case medical sensor/measuring/visualisation equipment in the medical space. But the market disruption caused by these products is much broader than that.

Late 2010 David Albert introduced a cheap ECG system using simple sensors built in to a shell around an iPhone. He originally presented the system via a video which got an awful lot of attention really fast. One article I spotted about it was Your Heartbeat on an iPhone but as it wasn’t an actually available product yet (for either development or general use) I thought I’d better wait and see whether this stuff actually got to market. A year and a half later the system is not yet available for use with humans (no FDA approval so far), but there is a $199 model for use in veterinary environments (AliveCor Vet). I presume that apart from the FDA approval it’s actually identical 😉

This morning, I received a Neurosky MineWave (EEG sensor) headset in the post. See the Brain Interfacing – Finally post on my personal blog for some initial fun with it. For $150 you now get the basis capabilities of EEG at home. And not only that, you can build new applications and uses using the input stream, including controlling devices and games.

Both of these products are examples of enabling innovations. We all know that the price of things comes down over time, but what we often don’t realise is that at certain points, because of key components also becoming much cheaper, smaller, lighter, etc, things that were previously restricted to hospitals, laboratories and other expensive and specialised environments suddenly become available to “the masses”. I’m not saying that everybody will be using these things, nor that specialised expertise in the area is now obsolete – but for many simple tasks these tools are absolutely sufficient and thus a real enabler. It fundamentally changes the market (that previously only contained expensive equipment for a very limited audience). If companies in this realm don’t realise this (or reckon that because it used to be medical and sophisticated specialised equipment their market won’t change at all), they’re going to be sadly sorry really quickly.

In addition to people with simple needs no longer needing a referral to a facility with the expensive gear (low end disruption: in this case, the issue can be handled directly by a doctor without referral), new things become possible (new market disruption: in this case, at home with self-monitoring – and completely new uses of the technology). As always, I see the latter as a much more interesting space as that’s where the true innovation tends to happen. Low-end disruption is still relevant, however, as it directly affects the existing players in the market and it’s just interesting to watch whether and how companies handle this. Generally they don’t handle it, or much too late and then very badly, but I’m always willing to be surprised!

If you have more information on the adoption of these particular products, or other enabling innovations you’ve spotted, please do write in.

Libraries: Where It All Went Wrong – Nat Torkington