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Letter from the editor | 53

From patents to resources for innovation

To support research in science and technology is not only to finance it

The protection of the intellectual ownership of inventions which have their origin in financed research, has been worrying FAPESP for some time. Naturally, if the registration of any patent – the best method of protecting this ownership – implies in expenses, its licensing and the concession of right of use, produce income. We are talking about income that can in no way be discarded by those directly responsible for the inventions which generate patents, by the institutes or companies which hold them, and thinking big, for the country where the request for registration came from. In other words, neglecting the protection of intellectual ownership usually amounts to an unjustifiable loss of income and hard currency for all the sectors which take a stake in scientific and technological research.

The worries of FAPESP on this theme took on a more consistent form in last December when it promoted a Seminar with specialists from the country and abroad who debated in depth the question of patents. Then the concerns became more objective with a new initiative: the creation of the “Núcleo de Patenteamento e Licenciamento de Tecnologia” (Nuplitec) [Center for the Patenting and Licensing of Technology], approved by the Senior Board of the Foundation during its past meeting on the 10th of May. Now in the phase of implementation, the Nuplitec is the theme on the cover of this edition of Pesquisa FAPESP.

Given the relevance of the theme for Brazilian research, the choice couldn’t be any other. Brazil, while it answers for 1% of the world’s scientific production, taking into consideration published scientific articles indexed through the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), appears with the very modest participation of 0.05% in the total of patents granted by the Office of Patents and Trademarks of the United States (USPTO) during the period from 1980 until 1998. Nevertheless, initiatives to change this sad picture need to be valued.

If it wasn’t for this, the cover of this issue could have been taken up by the story on a new discovery in the field of the movements of the tectonic plates, that is, that these movements may be much more profound than we had thought. A team of São Paulo researchers have concluded that they may occur at a depth, at least here in Brazil, as deep as 700 kilometers as against the 100 to 200 kilometers which were established up to this point, as the limit of this fascinating internal restlessness in the earth.

In a very different area but of prime interest to public health, namely epidemiology, we will be talking about the recent results of research which confirmed the existence of two different strains of Trypanosoma cruzi, one historically associated with the Chagas disease in human beings, and the other which has wild animals as their hosts. The story also brings up an alert by various researchers on the risks of an increase the disease transmission, in spite of the success of the campaigns for the eradication of the “reduviid bug ”, the insect transmitter of Chagas disease.

Important news in the field of technology is the increase by the order of 50% of the limits of financing offered by FAPESP for projects supported in the area of its Programa de Inovação Tecnológica em Pequenas Empresas (PIPE) [Small Business Innovation Research]. Meriting distinction as well are the laser distance meters developed by a small company from São Paulo for the Companhia Vale do Rio Doce which, like a sophisticated radar (working through light beams rather than radio waves) indicates precisely the best place for train wagons filled with iron ore to stop and for their buckets to be tilted for the unloading of the material. The system is already in operation on the company’s railway in Espírito Santo.

Finally, we could not fail to bring to your attention the article on a beautiful book which details, with 329 representations, a journey through urban planning in Brazil between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Good reading!