Thursday, December 29, 2005

Analyzing Hwang's Patents

I finally got a look at an English translation of the 8 patent applications filed by Hwang Woo-suk. I cannot post them in full because of their size, but I will summarize what I can. I may make some mistakes on the descriptions. The translation is not exactly professional quality (don't ask me why) and this is a rather complicated subject that I only have introductory knowledge of the subject, so I hope my errors will be forgiven.

All the applications are rather old. He may have things on file with the Korean Intellectual Property Office, just not published yet for public review. The fact he has been silent in trying to obtain rights since 2001 agrees with his claims of poverty previously mentioned on this board (I would estimate these eight filings alone totaled fees of at least a quarter of a million US dollars).

I give a brief summary below. However I want to point out a few things to put it into context. The last one is perhaps the most important. Hwang once filed a patent for making human stem cells. This was rejected by the Korean Intellectual Property Office (for reasons unknown, common under Korean practice). This patent was filed all the way back in 2000, and if you look closely at the others and estimate, it was based on research his team did in the early 90's. Now for the interesting part.

Hwang has done work in human stem cell cloning since the early 90's. He was so sure of his work (proven or not) that he filed for a patent, which was rejected. Perhaps KIPO, or rather the examiner, doubted Hwang's work applicability to human stem cells back then (this is supported by the fact that KIPO rejected a very simular patent for cloning a tiger in the same timeframe).  

The most interesting part of this is the names. On his human stem cell application in 2000, Hwang listed these names as inventors:

Hwang Woo-Suk*
Lee Byeong-chon*
Han Jae-yong
Park Jong-im
Yong Hwan-yul
Cho Jong-gi
Kim Ki-yoen
Shin Su-jeong
Choi Yunhui
Koh Bong-kyong
Lee Eun-song
Shin Tae-yeong
Song Gil-yeong

The funny thing is only the asterisked names are the one mentioned as authors in the Science article. Further nobody from the Mizmedi team is there (not even Dr. Noh who got the famous bumper crop of eggs for Hwang, and second listed author for the Science article).

One could say that the change of research team members is normal. However when considering what is coming out about Hwang's relationship with his current "Science Article" team, one has to wonder about his relationship with this group. Did Hwang leave for normal reasons? Or did he leave because his earlier stem cell group was not pliable enough to help out with egg donations or faking research? A story may be had in interviewing the crew mentioned above.

Anyway, an overview of the translations:

Application: 1020000036742 (hereinafter #42)
Filed: June 2000
Status: Registered
Overview: A method for cloning an animal using a harvested egg and somatic cells. Part of the invention includes a cloned cow.
Comment: It could very well be the translation, but the translation leads me to think that the entire ovary needs to be harvested to extract the egg. This could be said for many of Hwang's applications here. Again, I think this is mistranslation.

Application: 1020000004381 (hereinafter #81)
Filed: January 2000
Status: Rejected
Overview: A method for cloning a tiger using a harvested egg and cell from a tiger's ear (unclear what type of cell).
Comment: Similar in many respects to #42

Application: 101999031529 (hereinafter #29)
Filed: July 1999
Status: Registered
Overview: A method for activating a cloned cell (i.e. to make it preformed like a normal embryo).
Comment: Different method from #42. Capstone of #27 and #28 below, in effect the basic steps for cloning. This is a rahter specific method stated in the claims and specification. This indicates a rather narrow patent based mostly off of another work.

Application: 1019990031527(hereinafter #27)
Filed: July 1999
Status: Registered
Overview: A method patent for enucleation (removing a nucleus inside a cell)
Comment: Related to #29. Again, rather specific, indicates a narrow patent

Application: 1019990031528 (hereinafter #28)
Filed: July 1999
Status: Registered
Overview: A method for cell fusion (combining to cells, normally cross species)
Comment: Related to #29. Again, rather specific, indicates a narrow patent.
Application: 1019990031530 (hereinafter #30)
Filed: July 1999
Status: Withdrawn
Overview: Same content as #42
Comment: #42 claims priority (claims official disclosure date) based on this application. The only difference I can find is this one had one less inventor than the registered #42 (A Song Gil-yeong was included in #42).  A dispute  over who was the invention could be the reason for the withdrawal.

Application: 10-2000-000482 (hereinafter #82)
Filed: January 2000
Status: Abandoned
Overview: Same content as #81
Comment: I think this was an application that was revived as #81 above. Similar in a way to the case of #30. However the interesting part is the inventors. While the new version of the other patent added a name, the new version of this one deleted names. Inventors Song Gil-yeong and Lee Byeong-dong are included in #82 but disappear in #81.

Application: 10-2000-003774 (hereinafter #74)
Filed: July 2000
Status: Rejected
Overview: A method to create patient specific stem cells in a manner similar to #42, #82, #30, and #82.
Comment: This perhaps is the smoking gun of sorts. I have not read the Science article, but everything leads me to believe that this was the method used.


At December 30, 2005 10:34 AM, Blogger Sperwer said...

Nice work. Provides a genuinely new perspective on things. Quite telling about the quality of Korean journalism that no local media seemed to even have thought of looking into this.

At December 30, 2005 1:54 PM, Blogger Dram Man said...

Thanks, for the comment. Its nice to know I am not shouting in a vacuum.


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