Cere’s stated interests in patenting of whole cDNA sequences and promoters is supported by the patent documents we found for Arabidopsis.
Our analysis of bulk sequence applications focused on their 724′ A1 application. This document was chosen becuase it represents a more recent example of a bulk sequence application than the Paradigm or Mendel applications. Interestingly, there are a few differences between such applications in the past 6-or-so years. Differences between the Cere’s and Paradigm applications include the change from EST sequence claims (whch are effectively partial coding sequences only), towards complete cDNA sequences. One significant difference between Ceres and Paradigm’s applications is the fact that Ceres has analysed missexpression of the claimed peptides in plants and made claims based on sequences that are more likely to have utility.
Mendel, in the patent application describes previously, also investigated the function of claimed transcription factors by over expression or knock-down experiments. However, unlike Mendel, the Ceres’ bulk sequence application appears to be at a much earlier stage of the patenting process. The patent family surrounding the Mendel application is far more extensive and complex than that of the present Ceres application. It is not unreasonable to suspect that Ceres patenting strategy for Arabidopsis has been guided by knowledge and experience of previous bulk-sequence claims, and perhaps by the USPTO’s requirement for significant utility in sequence applications.
Some interesting points, underlined by the analysis of the promoter patent applications, were:
- Ceres Inc. does not appear as either the applicant or the correspondent in the patent document,
- It is not always straight forward to identify assignee information using the USPTOs patent assignment databases
- Inventors can assign their patents to companies such as Ceres, after the applications have been made
- The USPTO assigment databases may not reflect the present assigment details for patent documents
Considering the points above, it is a difficult and time-consuming task to actually identify the present assignee of a particular patent. This is particularly true if there is little benefit for the assignee in disclosing this information in a clear and public fashion. It is entirely possible that many Ceres patent documents may not be identified from the analysis conducted here, which used a combination of both a standard patent document search (using “Ceres” in FULLTEXT) and a USPTO assignments database search (using “CERES” in ASSIGNEE).