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Duke University will this week challenge a court ruling made last year that effectively puts a stop to scientists borrowing patented technology for non-commercial basic research.

In October 2002, the US federal court ruled in favour of physicist John Madey — inventor of the free-electron laser — who accused the university of infringing his patents by continuing to experiment with his lasers. But universities say that such a decision sets a precedent that would hinder research by forcing universities to obtain permission before using patented technologies, a time-consuming and costly process.

If the Supreme Court decides to take the case, it will probably be heard some time after October 2003. But some observers predict that Congress may want to have the final word on the right balance between patent holders and the needs of academic researchers.

Link to full Science news story

Reference: Science 299, 26 (2003)