University of Texas System "Disclaims "Remaining Term" of
Patent on Sickened Dogs
WASHINGTON ‹ In a major victory for patented beagle dogs,
the Board of Regents of the University of Texas System (UT) in Austin,
Texas, disclaimed "The entire remaining term of all the claims" of patent
#6,444,872, which covers live beagle dogs intended for use in experiments.
In February 2004, the nonprofit organizations the American
Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) and the PatentWatch Project of the Center
for Technology Assessment (CTA) filed a legal challenge urging the U.S.
Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to cancel the beagle patent. Last
week, the Patent Office agreed to reexamine the patent.
"This is a tremendous victory not just for the beagle dogs
but for the 499 other animals who have been patented in the U.S.," said
AAVS President Sue Leary, "The University took the only morally defensible
action it could in the face of our challenge. It got the message that
animals are not machines, articles of manufacture, or inventor's
compositions of matter."
The patent's claims covered, among other things, "a canine
model [of fungal lung infection]," and the various methods used to induce
a fatal lung infection in the beagle dogs. The patent also indicated
applying the methods to pigs, sheep, monkeys, or chimpanzees and, like
many other patents on animals, appeared to be exclusively licensed to a
"This decision, hopefully, is a first step to rescinding
all patents on animals," says Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of CTA.
"It is long past time for our government to recognize that animals are not
The AAVS/PatentWatch challenge represented the first time
public interest organizations had requested the reexamination of a patent
on an animal. New rules under which this reexamination was granted will
permit AAVS and PatentWatch to appeal other similar cases all the way to
the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. Since the Patent and Trademark Office
first issued a patent on an animal in 1987, it has issued nearly 500
patent applications on animals.
A nationwide poll of U.S. adults commissioned by AAVS
earlier this year found that two out of three people consider it unethical
to issue patents on animals as if they were human inventions. Eighty-five
percent of those surveyed were not even aware that governments and
corporations are getting patents on animals.
"The swift decision of the University to drop all patent
claims on sickened beagles demonstrates the patent's weakness, both
scientifically and morally," said Tina Nelson, AAVS Executive Director.
"This will be the first of many patents on animals that will crumble under
public scrutiny when the truth is told."
The American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) is a
non-profit animal advocacy and educational organization dedicated to
ending experiments on animals in research, testing, and education. Founded
in Philadelphia in 1883, AAVS is the oldest organization in the United
States dedicated to eliminating experiments on animals. AAVS pursues its
objectives through legal and effective advocacy, education, and support of
the development of non-animal alternative methods.
The Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) is a public
interest and advocacy
organization that works to address the impacts of technology on human
health, animal welfare, and the environment. The PatentWatch Project of
the International Center for Technology Assessment works to expose and
challenge the inappropriate use of the U.S. patent system.
For more information, including document downloads, visit:
Crystal Miller-Spiegel, AAVS
Craig Culp, PatentWatch/Center for Technology Assessment
(202)547-9359, (301)509-0925 (cell)
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