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Apple Patented by Microsoft 336

Posted by pudge
from the i-am-switching-to-pears dept.
An anonymous reader writes "C|net is reporting that Microsoft received a patent on Tuesday for a new variety of apple tree. U.S. Plant Patent 14,757, granted to Robert Burchinal of East Wenatchee, Wash., and assigned to Microsoft, covers a new type of tree discovered in the early 1990s in the Wenatchee area, a major commercial apple-growing region. Dubbed the 'Burchinal Red Delicious,' the tree is notable for producing fruit that achieves a deep red color significantly earlier than other varieties. It is sold commercially as the 'Adams Apple.'" Apparently, the assignation of the patent to Microsoft was an error. Or so they would have us believe ...
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Apple Patented by Microsoft

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  • by phoenix.bam! (642635) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @10:47PM (#9070110)
    ...this is a joke, right? Seriously, if the patent office is given out patents for naturally growing TREES, something is wrong.
  • by coupland (160334) * <.dchase. .at. .hotmail.com.> on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @10:48PM (#9070125) Journal
    While the patent application itself has no information to link it to Microsoft I can't help but imagine this was the brainchild of a Microsoft employee who is a Mac enthusiast and who has a decent sense of humour. Obviously this is not a Microsoft patent but I suspect we have a MS huckster with a penchant for the kind of humour that's popular on /.

    Good for him/her, if you spend all your time scowling at Microsoft your face will freeze that way. Ya gotta smile from time to time. :)

  • by dj245 (732906) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @11:10PM (#9070238) Homepage
    Controversially though, the US and European patent offices now grants patents on plant varieties, GM crops, genes and gene sequences from plants and crops.

    Well, if I seeded the hardiest of the tough corn with itself 500 times to create a new breed of tough, hardy, drought-proof corn, I would want to be able to patent it too. If I walked into the rainforest, picked a flower, and decided to patent it, that would be just wrong though.

    Everything in moderation.

  • How the hell? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nihilogos (87025) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @11:17PM (#9070278)
    Do you get a patent on flora by finding it growing in a field?
  • by Rura Penthe (154319) on Wednesday May 05, 2004 @11:52PM (#9070446)
    I'd like to see a reputable source regarding the claim that RiceTec marketed a genetically modified version of basmati rice as regular rice legally. And hopefully when you say "genetically modified" you meant done in laboratory since cross-pollination is also genetic modification. The US has extremely strict rules on the sale of (laboratory) genetically modified food. However, it CAN make it to market, unlike some other countries.
  • by Temsi (452609) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @01:07AM (#9070781) Journal
    OK... RTFA.
    It says the tree was discovered. It's not a man made hybrid of any kind. He reproduced a genetic mutation. He didn't modify anything, and as such should not be issued a patent for the tree, as it is a discovery, and not an invention.

    Genetic modifications can be patented, not genetics themselves, and certainly not something which existed in nature with no input from man.

    You just can't patent something natural you just discovered... what's next? Patenting oxygen or water? What about the Do-Do bird? Maybe some crazy scientist manages to bring it back to life through cloning, should he receive a patent on the Do-Do bird? He didn't create it, he copied it.

    The say the mistake was issuing the patent to Microsoft, not that it was issued in the first place.
  • by vandan (151516) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:00AM (#9070998) Homepage
    Life forms should NEVER be patented.
    This includes whole species, DNA strands, theoretical life forms, THE LOT.

    Companies have NO RIGHT to be patenting life itself, which should be held sacred above all else, for philosophical, ecological and societal reasons.

    THAT MEANS YOU, MONSANTO! [corporatewatch.org.uk]
  • by peacefinder (469349) * <alan...dewitt@@@gmail...com> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:01AM (#9071003) Journal
    I read Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire a while back. In it, he points out that apples don't breed true. That is, if you plant the five seeds from, say, a Braeburn apple you get in the store, you'll end up with five very different trees producing five very different fruits, and in all likelihood none of them strongly resemble the Braeburn. Consistency in a variety is achieved exclusively through grafting.

    Apple varieties are often discovered, and occasionally developed. Red Delicious was found on some guy's farm in Iowa back around 1870... he made a mint selling cuttings. Braeburn was a chance find in New Zealand.

    Congress obtains the power to establish patents via Artilce 1 Section 8: "[...] promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries [...]"

    I think it's not clear. No one ever invented or authored any variety of apple, but it is a discovery with substantial economic value. The potential for a patent on apple varieties probably does promote the growing of test orchards to find new varieties, so that probably counts as promoting useful arts.

    I don't much like the idea of patentable life, but I suppose it's within the power we grant to Congress.

    I'm glad it's a patent and not a copyright, though. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:19AM (#9071280)
    The question is, do any of us really want to find it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:09AM (#9071450)
    Then it should be questioned whether any patents should be granted. Since all a human has ever "invented" is simply a variation of already existing techniques or things making (new) use of physical/electrical/whatever scientfic laws.

    After all RESEARCH means SEARCH, and you can only search for and successfully find things that are already there, defined by natures laws. So basically all inventions are only discoveries...

  • prior art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PsiPsiStar (95676) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @08:42AM (#9072266)
    In the past, the existance of a thing prior to the patent seeker's discovery invalidates the patent. You can't patent somthing if there is prior art, i.e. "if it's been done before". If you find somthing occuring naturally in nature, it's been 'done before.' The purpose of a patent is to move information related to such things as fabrications or industrial processes into the public domain. As someone else mentioned 'there are no transistors in nature', and scientific laws cannot be patented just because they're discovered. You have to apply them for a particular application in a new way.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @10:56AM (#9073413)
    RTFA.

    This plant was DISCOVERED not bred, nor was it genetically engineered. It's like someone patenting an element that they discovered.

    Not everything that costs money to create/discover should have patent protection. It costs money to discover new stars and planets, can these people then patent the planets they find? If that sounds stupid, think about your argument.

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