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Concept: Invention


Invention has been commonly conceptualized as a search over a space of combinatorial possibilities. Despite the existence of a rich literature, spanning a variety of disciplines, elaborating on the recombinant nature of invention, we lack a formal and quantitative characterization of the combinatorial process underpinning inventive activity. Here, we use US patent records dating from 1790 to 2010 to formally characterize invention as a combinatorial process. To do this, we treat patented inventions as carriers of technologies and avail ourselves of the elaborate system of technology codes used by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to classify the technologies responsible for an invention’s novelty. We find that the combinatorial inventive process exhibits an invariant rate of ‘exploitation’ (refinements of existing combinations of technologies) and ‘exploration’ (the development of new technological combinations). This combinatorial dynamic contrasts sharply with the creation of new technological capabilities-the building blocks to be combined-that has significantly slowed down. We also find that, notwithstanding the very reduced rate at which new technologies are introduced, the generation of novel technological combinations engenders a practically infinite space of technological configurations.

Concepts: Novel, Patent, Innovation, Invention, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Novelty, Inventive step and non-obviousness, Patentability


Understanding the factors driving innovation in energy technologies is of critical importance to mitigating climate change and addressing other energy-related global challenges. Low levels of innovation, measured in terms of energy patent filings, were noted in the 1980s and 90s as an issue of concern and were attributed to limited investment in public and private research and development (R&D). Here we build a comprehensive global database of energy patents covering the period 1970-2009, which is unique in its temporal and geographical scope. Analysis of the data reveals a recent, marked departure from historical trends. A sharp increase in rates of patenting has occurred over the last decade, particularly in renewable technologies, despite continued low levels of R&D funding. To solve the puzzle of fast innovation despite modest R&D increases, we develop a model that explains the nonlinear response observed in the empirical data of technological innovation to various types of investment. The model reveals a regular relationship between patents, R&D funding, and growing markets across technologies, and accurately predicts patenting rates at different stages of technological maturity and market development. We show quantitatively how growing markets have formed a vital complement to public R&D in driving innovative activity. These two forms of investment have each leveraged the effect of the other in driving patenting trends over long periods of time.

Concepts: Scientific method, Science, Research, Technology, Patent, Innovation, Invention, Research and development


Frontline managers in health care are the keepers of culture, the gateway to evoking a grass roots intelligence network, and they hold a pivotal role in advancing innovation at the point of care. Their roles are ever expanding and include knowledge and skills in managing the business, leading the people, and advancing their own leadership development. In all 3 areas, the impact of their leadership exponentially increases if they maximize innovative thinking and action. Health care executives need to establish the expectations for an innovative culture and the role of frontline managers. They must model the behaviors they promote and take the time to develop these frontline managers who are the hub for innovative success in the organization. This article offers insights and practical applications while exploring the innovation keystones of the following: creating an organizational culture of innovation, igniting collaboration that fuels diverse thinking and creativity, utilizing meaningful data to drive innovative decisions, and assessing and monitoring the ongoing climate and outcomes of innovation.

Concepts: Health care, Management, Leadership, Organization, Creativity, Innovation, Invention, Organizational studies and human resource management


Introduction: Inhibitors of the phosphodiesterase enzyme PDE10A have been the target for extensive investigations and huge drug discovery research efforts during the recent years. Although PDE10A with its 13 years history is a relatively newly discovered target, it has been paradigmatic for the new generation of ‘high efficiency drug discovery’. Several companies now have clinical programs aiming at validating the clinical potential of PDE10A inhibitors. The majority of companies have been focusing on the treatment of schizophrenia since preclinical evidence suggests that a PDE10A inhibitor could provide antipsychotic, pro-cognitive and negative symptom efficacy. Areas covered: This article highlights and reviews research advances published in the patent literature since mid-2009 until mid-2012. The article is supplemented with selected publications from the scientific literature, emphasizing the possible involvement of PDE10A inhibitors in the treatment of schizophrenia. Expert opinion: Several compounds from various companies are currently undergoing clinical testing, dominated by compounds in clinical Phase I. Focus is mainly on CNS diseases and schizophrenia is the leading target indication.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Academic publishing, Science, Linguistics, Enzyme inhibitor, Pre-clinical development, Publishing, Invention


Cells derived from human embryonic stem cells have great therapeutic potential. Patents are key to allowing companies that develop methods of generating such cells to recuperate their investment. However, in Europe, inventions relating to the use of human embryos for commercial purposes are excluded from patentability on moral grounds. The scope of this morality exclusion was recently tested before Germany’s highest court and before the European Patent Office (EPO), with diverging results. The decision by the EPO’s Opposition Division to revoke EP1040185 relating to neural precursors and methods for their generation has received a mixed reception. The decision has very recently been appealed, and the outcome of this Appeal should provide more definitive guidance on the scope of the morality exclusion.

Concepts: Stem cell, Embryonic stem cell, Patent, Invention, United States Patent and Trademark Office, European Patent Organisation, Patentability, Opposition procedure before the European Patent Office


Extraction, isolation and modifications of andrographolide (Androg) is extensively investigated and patented. The prominent activities were vastly modified for anticancer and antivirals. Many products related to Androg are commercially available, thus the section ‘Interaction of Androg and Andrographis paniculata dried extract with drugs’ is included.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Patent, Invention, Andrographis paniculata, Andrographis


Drug repurposing (i.e., finding novel indications for established substances) has received increasing attention in industry recently. One challenge of repositioned drugs is obtaining effective patent protection, especially if the ‘novel’ indications have already been claimed by competitors within the same drug class. Here, I report the case of patents relating to phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. Patentees of later-filed patents on novel indications (even when they could not observe prior patenting of their direct competitors) filed patents for which patent examiners did not see the prior-filed patents of the competitors as relevant prior art, whereas these follower patent applications often failed because of other reasons.

Concepts: Patent, Patent law, Term of patent, Patent application, Invention, Claim


For years, purified and isolated naturally occurring biological substances of great medical importance-including genes-have been the subject of U.S. patents. Similarly, methods in which the detection of a biological substance (e.g., in a blood sample) dictates subsequent actions, as in disease diagnostics and treatment, have long enjoyed patent protection. However, two recent Supreme Court cases, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. (133 S. Ct. 2107) (2013) and Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc. (132 S. Ct. 1289) (2012), have shaken up the status quo of biotech patenting. The highest court in our land unanimously agreed with patent challengers that much of what we took for granted as patentable subject matter is not, as a matter of law, eligible for patenting after all. This review discusses the Myriad and Mayo cases, their impact on which biology-based innovations we may or may not continue to patent, and whether the altered status quo is benignly corrective or gravely disruptive. Is what happened here a good thing or not?

Concepts: Patent, Patent law, Invention, Software patent, Patentability, Patentable subject matter


Compound 1, composed of a 1,3,6-trisubstituted 1,4-diazepane-7-one, was discovered as a novel human kallikrein 7 (KLK7, stratum corneum chymotryptic enzyme, SCCE) inhibitor, and its derivatives were synthesized and evaluated. Structure-activity relationship studies of the amidoxime unit and benzoic acid part of this new scaffold led to the identification of 25 and 34, which were more potent than the hit compound, 1. The X-ray co-crystal structure of compound 25 and human KLK7 revealed the characteristic interactions and enabled explanations of the structure-activity relationship.

Concepts: Sociology, Enzyme inhibitor, Inhibitor, Cultural studies, Benzoic acid, Stratum corneum, Invention, Discovery


Scientists and policy-makers have long argued that public investments in science have practical applications. Using data on patents linked to U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants over a 27-year period, we provide a large-scale accounting of linkages between public research investments and subsequent patenting. We find that about 10% of NIH grants generate a patent directly but 30% generate articles that are subsequently cited by patents. Although policy-makers often focus on direct patenting by academic scientists, the bulk of the effect of NIH research on patenting appears to be indirect. We also find no systematic relationship between the “basic” versus “applied” research focus of a grant and its propensity to be cited by a patent.

Concepts: Science, Patent, Term of patent, Innovation, Invention, Research and development, Software patent