The Mayo doctors, having made their specific arguments with regard to salvarsan in their 1917 letter to Congress, end with a full scale plea, not only to cancel the patent for salvarsan but also for other German drugs, and for patents on drugs in general:
We beg to urge upon you that you use every influence which you can bring to bear in favor of an immediate abrogation by Congress of the patent rights on this drug and incidentally on other drugs necessary to the public health whose usefulness is curtailed by German patents.
Then their expanded plea, for a “radical revision of our patent law”:
We urge that such an abrogation shall not be merely for the duration of the war but shall be permanent, and that furthermore, there shall ultimately be a radical revision of our patent law, looking to the prevention of private monopoly of remedial agents indispensible to the public health.
The letter is signed (by my count) 86 members of Mayo Clinic including both Mayos.
What follows, then were two bills introduced into the Senate, one that canceled the salvarsan patents (S. 2178) and the other authorized the United States to make and distribute for use any drug “that cannot be procured at a reasonable price” (S. 2363). Not quite what the Mayo doctors wanted, but something.
In this day and age, when the NIH and NIST officials claim to be confused by what “reasonable terms” might mean in 35 USC 203 of the Bayh-Dole Act, we might start with usage a century ago. Eighty plus Mayo doctors were clear on the idea–the terms that mattered for public health were quantity, quality, and price. Those are the terms that must be reasonable, or the United States should take action to make and permit the use of the “drug, medicine, or other remedy or device” and any patent or trademark owner can recover “reasonable compensation” through a court of claims. Continue reading