R.I.P. Heller

The San Francisco law firm Heller Ehrman will formally vote today to dissolve, chloroforming a law firm that survived earthquakes, a depression, wars and social upheavals but was unable to compete in a new global economy. An overview of “What have we learned from this collapse of a century old, over $500-million in revenue firm” is presented by Adam Smith, Esq.  The Wired GC also reports on Law Firm Mergers: Bridesmaid Revisited.

Doctor Perks

In a preemptive strike against likely regulations to curb influence of money on medical research and practice, the NY Times reports that two pharmaceutical companies say they will begin publicly reporting payments to doctors. Eli Lilly & Company announced that starting next year it intended to post an online database of all its payments to doctors for speaking and consulting services. The postings will likely include the names of the doctors, or will provide some other identifying information about them, along with the reason for the payments.  Merck & Company said that it would disclose speaking fees it pays to doctors, also beginning in 2009.

In other news related to medical perks, The Wall Street Journal reports on a federal lawsuit filed by a former company lawyer claiming Medtronic allegedly furnished spine surgeons illegal incentives including visits to strip clubs, undeserved patent royalties, and lavish trips.  According to the lawsuit, Medtronic used the perks to encourage spine surgeons to use its spinal products, including its Infuse Bone Graft. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who has been investigating whether Medtronic has been using illegal kickbacks to encourage off-label use of the Infuse Bone Graft, has repeatedly asked Medtronic to supply an un-redacted copy of the Memphis lawsuit.  So far, the company has refused to do so.

The ‘Wearing Down Examiners’ Fallacy

Just a Patent Examiner has a rebuttal to the argument that patent reform is needed to prevent applicants from “wearing down” the Examiners.  The theory is that by taking advantage of (or abusing) the unlimited continuations available to applicants, applicants can wring an undeserved allowance from an examiner simply by refusing to abandon the application.  According to JAPE, this is wrong.  Every time an applicant files an RCE (or a straight continuation), the examiner receives a count for the express abandonment, and another count for the first action after RCE.  It also makes the Examiner’s job easier:  “Speaking for myself, examining a continuation really does give me a serious head start.”

Barack Obama In 18 Science-Related Questions

Barack Obama recently answered 18 science-related questions for Nature (John McCain’s campaign declined).

Excerpt: What would you do to help restore impartial scientific advice in government?

Obama: I will restore the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best-available, scientifically valid evidence and not on the ideological predispositions of agency officials or political appointees.

In addition he propose to:

  • Strengthen the role of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) by appointing experts who are charged to provide independent advice on critical issues in science and technology; and
  • Restore the science integrity of government and restore transparency of decision-making by issuing an Executive Order establishing clear guidelines for the review and release of government publications, guaranteeing that results are released in a timely manner and not distorted by the ideological biases of political appointees.

McCain has similarly pledged to fill key technical positions in his administration with qualified scientists and engineers, including having a science adviser working directly with the president.  Obama’s answers to additional questions (on topics including biosecurity, the nuclear weapons laboratories and US participation in international projects) can be found here.

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