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Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart
Mini Article – Volume 23, Issue 10

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World Ocean Day and Patents Powering the Tide of Change

By Kristyn Webb

June 8th is World Ocean Day which raises awareness about the importance of the oceans and encourages conservation efforts to protect marine ecosystems. Since this is a topic very near and dear to our beloved mascot Finny, we are taking a moment to highlight some of the game changing inventions designed to keep our oceans clean.

US8795519B2 describes a method and system for cleaning up oil spills, like what occurred in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The invention seeds the spilled oil with tiny magnetic particles and then uses a boom to create a magnetic field to manipulate the oil spill for better cleanup.

The invention of US20230084588A1  is another play on magnetism for use in cleaning up oil spills. The disclosed magnetic nanoparticle coating turns a normal, everyday sponge into a “smart sponge”—an oil absorber that can suck up and store more than 30 times its weight in oil until wrung out or otherwise safely decontaminated and then reused.   

Species of oil-eating bacteria occur in nature, and some are man-made. For example, in the 1970’s, Ananda M. Chakrabarty developed a new genetically engineered strain of the Pseudomonas bacteria, now known as Pseudomonas putida, that has the ability to break down hydrocarbons found in oil. He filed a patent with the US Patent Office but was initially rejected on the basis that a living organism could not be patented. He appealed the rejection, and it eventually landed in front of the US Supreme Court which ruled in his favor, establishing a precedent that genetically engineered living organisms could indeed be patented. This decision had far-reaching implications for the biotechnology industry, opening the doors to the patenting of genetically modified organisms and stimulating further advancements in the field.

In honor of World Ocean Day, we are offering for sale Finny NFTs. Any proceeds will go to support The Ocean Conservancy.

Kristyn Webb is the Group Leader of Fishman Stewart’s Copyright Practice Group, and is currently earning a Master’s Degree in Copyright Law at King’s College London.

Published June 2, 2023

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