Saturday, March 5, 2022

Burke's Bees

 The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture is a hidden gem in Seattle.  Nestled in the northwesternmost corner of the University of Washington campus, right next to the School of Law, its collections and research efforts are both excellent.  As Visiting Professor at the School of Law back in 2011, I would often cross the 100m to the Burke to explore its latest exhibits.  The Burke has now assured its excellence by appointing the brilliant and inspiring bee expert Dr. Gabriela Chavarria as Executive Director.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Omicron May Be O-Mega

 Excellent as usual, Dr. Roby Bhattacharyya, of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard released his "Broad COVID update:  Omicron edition" on December 17, 2021Here it is:

The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 may not be "micron" at all, but, rather, Omega.  Let's hope a viral tidal wave is not on its way.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Patent Fish

Congratulations to Kathi Vidal for her nomination by President Joseph Biden to become Under Secretary for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") at the Department of Commerce("USPTO").  I would describe my former Fish & Richardson P.C. colleague as an obvious choice, I anticipate a smooth confirmation process, and I wish the Director-nominee best luck in determining the best mode to enable the USPTO to promote the progress of useful arts.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Uncommonly Vital Innovation Commons

My brilliant colleagues, Jason Potts (RMIT University), Dietmar Harhoff (Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit√§t M√ľnchen, and the Centre for Economic Policy Research ("CEPR"), and Eric von Hippel (Massachusetts Institute of Technology ("MIT") - Sloan School of Management), and I have written an article entitled "Social welfare gains from innovation commons: Theory, evidence, and policy implications" on what we refer to as the "innovation commons".  An early draft of our article is available for free download here.  Here is its abstract:

Innovation commons – which we define as repositories of freely-accessible, “open source” innovation-related information and data - are a very significant resource for innovating and innovation-adopting firms and individuals: Availability of free data and information reduces the innovation-specific private or open investment required to make the next innovative advance. Despite the clear social welfare value of innovation commons under many conditions, academic innovation research and innovation policymaking have to date focused almost entirely on enhancing private incentives to innovate by enabling innovators to keep some types of innovation-related information at least temporarily apart from the commons, via intellectual property rights.

In this paper, our focus is squarely on innovation commons theory, evidence, and policy implications. We first discuss the varying nature of and contents of innovation commons extant today. We summarize what is known about their functioning, their scale, the value they provide to innovators and to general social welfare, and the mechanisms by which this is accomplished. Perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, and with the important exception of major digital platform firms, we find that many who develop innovation-related information at private cost have private economic incentives to contribute their information to innovation commons for free access by free riders. We conclude with a discussion of the value of more general support for innovation commons, and how this could be provided by increased private and public investment in innovation commons “engineering”, and by specific forms of innovation policymaking to increase social welfare via enhancement of innovation commons.

Our general argument is that "if and as private incentives to generate valuable innovation-related information can be sustained – which we will argue is often the case – social welfare will be enhanced when innovation-related data and information are transferred from private ownership to an innovation commons."

As Stewart Brand phrased it (and might have been the first to phrase it this way), "information wants to be free".  This principle holds true for information in the form of data.

Friday, September 3, 2021

O tempora! O mores! (N)O TV!

When I was a grad student, my week was studded with network television shows I allowed myself to watch as treats to reward myself for long hours in the lab.  These included Seinfeld, Frasier, The X-Files, and various British dramas on PBS.  There were no alternatives to network TV back then.

In thinking about what I might watch this Labour Day weekend, I was struck by the fact that none of the options that came to mind - except PBS - involved network TV.  In fact, I drew a blank when I tried to think of a single current network TV series.  Every show I could think of was offered by streaming services.  Although it has snuck up on me, I realize I am almost entirely alienated from network TV.  I know I'm not alone.

O tempora!  O mores!  (N)O TV!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

David Liu On Genome Editing

The Sheeky Science Show featured a detailed interview on March 28, 2021, with Professor David Liu about advances in genome editing, particularly the base and prime editing methods developed in his laboratory at the Broad Institute.  Here is the interview:

For full disclosure, I was head of intellectual property at the Broad Institute from 2019 until 2021, which coincided with some of these inventions.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Silly Wonky

Canadian Governor General Mary Simon today allowed the governing Liberal Party to call a snap election for September 20, 2021.  No one knows why an election is necessary in the midst of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, especially since the previous election was less than two years ago.  Nevertheless, this election campaign already features the most bizarre attack ad in Canadian political history.

Let's hope this quixotic video is sui generis.   

Saturday, July 24, 2021

A North American Tail: Fievel Comes East

The Northern Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys leucogaster) occurs widely throughout west-central North America.  Among its distinctive features are three that are quite unmurine:  it is fiercely carnivorous;  as a "werewolf mouse", it howls at the moon;  and, its tail is surprisingly, well, curtailed.  Here is the Northern Grasshopper Mouse that visited our backyard this past Spring:

Our peripatetic visitor has a surprise that extends well beyond its abbreviated tail;  the eastern extent of its geographic range ends several hundred kilometers west of where I took its portrait.  Welcome to the neighbourhood, pioneering murid.