Going to College, Cigarette Smoking, and... Learning About Patents?

Apr 25, 2011

cigarette smoke - patents

I used to do research, back in the day, looking at specific cigarette smoke constituents and their role in endothelial cell impairment and atherosclerotic plaque formations. I recently came across some old lab notebooks while cleaning the house (yes I kept my lab notebooks) and it got me thinking about those old research days and subsequently about my current job in intellectual property. Back then I didn’t know anything about IP, which I now look back upon and question why my advisors didn’t make me more aware of it. I wonder how many young scientists really think about IP, or if they’re much more enthralled with the wonders of science and the new tools they have for exploration. Had I been more cognizant of IP, would my research have changed? Would I have steered it in a direction to have maybe been more development-centric? I don’t know. What I do know is that if I were doing research now I would definitely keep an eye out for anything that could be patentable.

Anyway, back to cigarette smoke constituents. Since I was thinking about it, I decided to look and see if there were any patents regarding cigarette smoke constituents and either endothelial cells or atherosclerosis. I can’t easily think of what would be patentable regarding this, but that’s the marvel of intellectual property, oftentimes somebody has thought of something. So, I ran a string, “((cigarette w/2 smoke* w/2 (constituent* or component* or composition*)) or (sodium* w/2 thiocyanate*) or (cadmium* w/2 (sulfate* or sulphate*)) or nicotine*) and (endothel* or atherosclero*))”, in a global intellectual property database to satisfy my curiosity. First I ran the string in Title/Abstract/Claims, and there were 0 hits, then I ran it in the Full Patent Specification and there were 31 hits. Upon further review of these 31 hits though, there was only one that was somewhat related; a German patent regarding low pollution tobacco goods, but even that didn’t really pertain to the research that I used to conduct.

So then I decided to go a little broader with “cigarette* and (endothel* or atherosclero*)” and it pulled up 1 reference; another German patent! This patent dealt with treating endothelial dysfunction using a pharmaceutical formulation comprising L-ascorbic acid, or alpha-tocopherol acetate with other pharmaceutical auxiliaries. They cited research that showed that vitamin c prevents cigarette smoke-induced leukocyte aggregation and adhesion to endothelium in vivo. That’s a little more interesting and somewhat related since leukocyte adhesion to endothelial cells is one of the earliest steps in atherosclerotic development.

So, all in all, I was a little surprised to have found so few related patents, but more relieved that in this instance there was no real harm in my youthful naiveté.

- A.S.


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