Re: Inquiring minds, NovaRed, and Secrecy

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From:"J. A. Kiernan" <>
To:"" <>
Date:Sat, 3 Jul 1999 23:56:31 -0400 (EDT)
Content-Type:TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII

On Fri, 2 Jul 1999, Craig Pow ( wrote:

> choice. The assumptions by J. A. Kiernan about Vector NovaRED are 
> incorrect. We are not willing to be involved in a discussion on why some 
> products are proprietary. 

   Just for the record, I (J. A. Kiernan) did not make any assumptions
   about Vector NovaRed. I speculated that the reaction product
   might dissolve in either an acidic or a basic environment, and
   recommended doing the obvious simple test. It would not give
   away the identity of the chromogen in NovaRed to say what its
   oxidation product does and does not dissolve (or decompose) in.
   It is surprising that the product was put on the market without
   any information about such a simple matter as the solubility 
   properties of the final reaction product. 

>                        Vector Labs is certainly not unique in offering 
> proprietary products, and it should be made clear that companies such as 
> Vector manage to stay in business by protecting their intellectual 
> property. 

   This is a valid point, but secrecy is not a very effective
   kind of protection. Another company with a smart chemist on
   the staff might well come up with an identical product and
   sell it under another name, with or without saying what it
   really is. A patent, in which the nature of the product is
   disclosed, is the safe form of protection. It costs quite
   a lot, but allows the inventor to confidently sue another 
   company that copies the patented invention. For a patented
   peroxidase chromogen there would be no need for secrecy.

   All this was discussed at some length on HistoNet about a
   year ago, when we were all told that the tyramide amplification
   method, which embraces a whole family of peroxidase chromogens,
   was patented, even though detailed instructions for easily making
   labelled tyramides have been published in the regular peer-
   reviewed scientific literature. The point was made by various
   people that not many individuals would synthesize their own
   labelled tyramides. A research worker doing so would risk 
   getting sued but probably would not be, because (a) his actions
   would not significantly erode the patent holder's market, and
   (b) the researcher wouldn't have enough money to pay the
   settlement when he/she lost the case. Another company making
   and selling labelled tyramides would be another matter

   Another important argument against secret products is that they
   cannot be used by people who have to justify their actions.
   This includes research workers, who are subject to peer review
   for publication and for the awarding of money to do research, and
   also pathologists, who risk being ridiculed in court by attorneys
   skilled in the demolition of expert witnesses. Research and
   pathology must surely account for a major proportion of the
   market for chromogens used in peroxidase histochemistry. 

 John A. Kiernan,
 Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology,
 The University of Western Ontario,
 LONDON,  Canada  N6A 5C1

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