Monday, November 5, 2012

Intellectual Property: Attempting to Patent Psychological Treatment

I know I promised to look at the two big IP cases* before the Supreme Court this session but I keep forgetting. I will get to them. In the meantime, from Big Think:
Profiteering from anxiety
Imagine someone patented exposure therapy (one of the basic tools that all psychologists use) and required users of the technique to pay a hefty fee for time limited use. Nader Amir, a researcher from San Diego State University may have done just this to a potentially useful new tool for treating anxiety.

 There are many reports (MacLeod, Mathews, and Tata, 1986; Bar-Haim, Lamy, Pergamin, Bakermans-Kraneberg, & van IJzendoorn, 2007) of an attention bias towards threatening stimuli in those with generalised anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder. A method for taking advantage of this attentional bias for the purposes of alleviating anxiety was established as long ago as 2002 in an analogue sample, i.e. using psychology students (MacLeod, Rutherford, Campbell, Ebsworthy, &Holker, 2002). The paradigm commonly known as Attention Bias Modification Treatment (ABMT), Attention Retraining or more generally as Cognitive Bias Modification is essentially a modified dot probe task, which is a test that is commonly used by cognitive psychologists to assess selective attention....
...So not only has he patented a program based on something ridiculously simple (the dot probe task and some pretested imagery or individualised verbal stimuli, which would take me less than two days to code, for example with PEBL) that he wasn't the first to use or design, he's also marketing an internet-based treatment directly to patients, but strangely does not mention on the product homepage that he has himself co-authored a paper showing that internet based ABMT did not work....MORE