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Sturgeon's House

The 'ask a geneticist' thread


Toxn
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What it says on the tin: I know stuff about genetics and biotechnology (especially population genetics and crop biotechnology), so feel free to ask me anything about these topics. If there is something I don't know enough about (human genetic disorders, for instance) I will do my best to remedy that issue or tell you so.

 

I am also a trainee patent lawyer, so you can also ask questions related to Intellectual Property law. I must, however, stress the 'trainee' part.

 

Fire away, chaps.

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Ok, here is an IP scenario that may or may not be based on actual events:

 

An LLC claims that they own certain IP of an individual who, at the time of creating the IP, owned part of the LLC, but the individual was never compensated for this IP. The individual was also never on the payroll of the company (as in, no W-2). The individual was then removed from ownership of the LLC before the LLC made claims of ownership of the IP.

 

So, is the LLC's claim of ownership valid?

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From my understanding of US patent law (keep in mind the caveats stated in the OP), the rights always vest with the inventor unless ownership has been assigned. However, the law differs somewhat by state (because of your ridiculous and stupid approach to government :P ) and there are things like the 'hired to invent' doctrine to consider.

 

Here are the crucial issues you have to sort out to determine ownership: did you have a contract with this company ceding your rights? Did the founding documents of the company, which you presumably signed on to, include a clause where you would have ceded your rights? Finally, was there an express understanding between the founders/owners of the company that you were taken on board specifically in order to provide your design expertise in lieu of capital? Without knowing these specifics the most I can say is that, as the inventor, it should have been clear to you that you were giving your ownership away during the process of filing. If not, then there may be a good case that your former company has overreached in their claims of ownership.

 

Lastly, and this is VERY important, I would recommend talking to an IP lawyer (not a generic one) about this.

Don't make any public statements, don't call up your former partners and don't write any letters until you know what you're dealing with and have legal council on hand. Once you have done so, you will also have a better grasp of what legal avenues to explore and what measures can be taken to protect your interests. Assuming that you take this route, you should also try to gather as much material (including hard copies of electronic communications, copies of design documents, minutes of meetings and so on) as possible from your end in preparation. Again, though, don't contact people or make demands until you have council.

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I will go back through my documents again, but I don't remember signing anything ceding my rights, and I wouldn't have signed any document containing such language. There was no contract regarding and design or product development work, and the founding documents didn't contain any language ceding my rights. There was an expressed (and witnessed by multiple other people, on multiple occasions) understanding with the founders/owners that I was taken on board specifically for the first piece of IP that I provided them, and that I was not taken on board as a designer/inventor. Mostly they got it into their heads that because I owned a small part of the company that I had a duty to provide them with additional designs without receiving any compensation for them other than when the ownership took a dispersal from the company.

 

I know a local patent lawyer that I can talk to, I've worked with him before, I will contact him for additional assistance.

 

Thanks.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm tempted to say 'not particularly well' - pure examples of single-gene dominant traits being rather rare.

The bit that your teacher left out is that recessive alleles are generally non-functional: a copy of the gene where something got screwed up and doesn't work anymore. As you inherit your genes mostly in pairs, the result of having two recessives is that the organism gets to play a rousing game of 'do I need that gene to live'. In the other hand, one working copy does for two.

It is obviously a bit more complex than this, but the rest can bide until I'm in front of a keyboard again.

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Here's a more comprehensive answer:

 

Like a lot of things, the genetics you learn in school is radically simplified in order to get across a core concept rather than the whole complex truth. In the case of mendelian genetics, the core concept is that genes are transmitted (mostly) in pairs, consist (mostly) of individual functional units and that this can lead to interesting and non-intuitive things. Note that I will talk about genes here, rather than alleles. This is mainly a convenience thing, but also reflects the fact that we now have the technology to drill down to the actual functional units of heredity rather than the hypothetical units whose existence we inferred by clever induction.

 

Having established that genetics is Mendelian, we now discover that traits are almost never controlled by a single gene. Instead, multiple genes will have varying effects on any given trait. Here, the work of Fisher and his contemporaries demonstrated that genes corresponding to traits will invariably form a normal distribution, with many small-effect genes and a few large-effect genes acting on any given trait. This avenue of enquiry then leads of into the thickets of quantitative genetics, upon which the vast majority of our plant and animal breeding is based.

 

Heading back into fundamentals, another important issue to keep in mind is the fact that strongly selected genes tend to get fixed in the population. This is intuitively obvious, as mutations affecting vital processes are pretty likely to be lethal and thus won't get passed on. By corollary, then, only traits that are not strongly selected will vary in a population. Here, the neutral gene hypothesis and genetic drift become important concepts in understanding variation and fixation of traits in populations.

 

Finally, as I mentioned in my previous post; it should be borne in mind that genes code for proteins or control protein coding in some fashion. There is an actual product being produced, with effects upon the cell and organism. Getting two dud copies of, say, tyrosinase will thus have a cascade of effects on the organism, the end product of which is the trait known as albinism. Return the product (in the form of a functioning copy of tyrosinase) and the cascade doesn't happen.

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