危 wēi danger
Mapping the human genome has been thought to be the key to unlocking impactful new medicine. Therefore, when this first became technologically and commercially viable there was a race to begin patenting sequences that might become the future building blocks for medical products and processes. Merck knew that it would likely lose out to the multitude of biotech startups in the race for patents and that it might therefore be priced out of developing treatments that depended on the sequences, thereby hamstringing its future growth. How could Merck gain itself an option on using the sequences in the future?
机 jī opportunity
In a novel approach Merck decided to finance a wide range of university-based human genome research, often the source of biotech’s IP initially, and then placed the discoveries in the public domain – freeing it for use by any company but preventing any individual patenting any aspect. The output, the Merck Gene Index and its associated browser is an extensible data integration system for gene finding, gene characterization and data mining were launched in 1994. By 1998, 800,000 gene sequences had been placed in the public domain and the index has continued to grow subsequently. Merck has levelled the playing field and insured it has an opportunity to leverage its own competitive advantages – the development of new pharmaceuticals and treatments.
- Preventing your competition from patenting novel concepts by placing them in the public domain early – enabling you to focus on creating value through your core business unencumbered?
- Looking to academia to develop IP?