There is power in technology. The world embraces it. Although we haven’t advanced as quickly as the creators of “The Jetsons” had hoped and there are no flying saucers hovering above ground it is evident that we as a society are making strides towards a more technologically advanced existence. Computers are getting smaller and smaller everyday and wires fewer and fewer. Indeed, the more we know the less we need.
With such progression it may seem rather prehistoric, discussing microorganisms that have been here for billions of years. Virtually every American has used some form of technology on a day to day basis but how many have streaked agar plates for isolation of a bacterial species? How many have amplified microbial DNA using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)? Not many. Microbiology unlike technology does not provide a basis for commonality for the average modern man. Why is a basis for commonality important? It allows for profit.
For example, which album would sale the most records today, one entitled “Bach’s Greatest Hits” or one entitled “Beyoncé’s Greatest Hits?” One does not have to be an economist to realize that Beyoncé would out sale Bach. Yes, Bach is brilliant, yes Bach is legendary but Beyoncé is the queen of pop culture. She comes with shiny ribbons and irresistible hooks. Bach is for connoisseurs and Beyoncé is for the common man or woman.
Analogously technological inventions trump microbiological inventions in the eyes of the public. The average person is only concerned with a virus or a bacterium if it can get him or her sick. That is why most companies have focused their energies on antimicrobials. Yes, antimicrobials are important but they are even more important because most individuals think they are important.
Yet, it is true that one of the most impressive and lucrative microbiological patents involved Psuedomonas putida, the genetically modified “oil-eating” bacteria invented by Ananda Chakrabarty who acquired fame in the scientific world in the 1980’s. On the other hand, Chakrabarty is less known than Bill Gates, the world’s wealthiest man. It is no coincidence that Gates’ invention was Microsoft, a computer company.
In the end patenting microorganisms involves more than just the criteria that the U.S. Supreme Court set out in Diamond v. Chakrabarty . The inventions must appeal to the public as well for economical reasons. After all who would profit the most from the “Advertisement of invention” provision of 35 USCS § 101, Chakrabarty or Gates?
Before patent grant, inventor has right to sell product of invention, and to advertise it, but not right to misrepresent it; after patent grant, patentee has right to sell article and to advertise it, but not right to misrepresent it; patent does not cover advertising