back to article Orangutans concoct plant-based soothing balm

Indonesian wild orangutans have demonstrated a certain degree of medicinal savvy by deploying naturally-occuring anti-inflammatory drugs to "treat aches and pains", as the New Scientist puts it. Four of the Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) were spotted by Cambridge University primatologist Helen Morrogh-Bernard in the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good news.... may make some of the monkeys in the NHS up their game now. Nothing like a bit o' competition to bring the best out in people.

    Seriously though, not sure that it's a good thing for the Orangutans, how long before they become preceived as a threat, or indeed, as terrorists and we exterminate them?

  2. dAVE SHIT
    Thumb Up

    Orang-utans are so cool...

    ..they'll be curing cancer next.

  3. dervheid


    You'd have bloody sore arms swinging about the trees all day!

    Oh, sorry.

    You DO!

  4. Hrishikesh


    that's all.

  5. Louis

    @ Hrishikesh

    Shorely shome mishtake?

    It should be


    [coat icon] Ook Ook.

  6. Mark

    Don't Panic!

    It's OK, the oragutangs don't know how to fill in the patent application forms.

    GSK is safe, citizen!

  7. BigTim

    Right turn Clyde

    and stop outside Boots, I need some hydrocortisone cream.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prior art

    @ Mark

    they don't know how to fill in a patent application, but they have established prior art by letting the scientist take a glimpse at their "invention" and make it public, thereby preventing any human from filing a patent. It's now public domain, yay! Well done!

  9. Dangermouse

    And in other news...

    ...rumours that Windows 7 is being developed by a group of Orang-utans in a secret location near the Niger Delta have been hotly denied by Microsoft.

    "Its absolutely not true." said a Redmond spokesman. "Our code is not that advanced..."

  10. Nic Brough


    They just looked it up in a library? Well, the only library.


  11. Mark

    Re:@Prior art

    Aww. You're cute when you're naive!


    You forget, "prior art" only exists if it's in the patent office.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Anyone seen...

    the Librarian? i know for a fact that he can do more than just apply soothing balms, he is a well known theatre critic, champion organist and more.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cambridge University primatologists

    Do they not carry cameras these people ? I can understand missing a photo on the first occasion, but several times since, and still no "proof" ?

  14. Anonymous Coward


    aka, "shhh! I see..."

  15. Joe

    How long before we see it in stores then?

    Just think of the revenue it would make. Body Shop would be bananas to ignore this new product line's potential. Organic? Check. Contains goopy animal spit? Yup. Made by monkeys? It's a winner!

  16. Ishkandar

    It just proves that....

    ...they are smarter than your average dole-scrounger !!

  17. Chris G Silver badge

    @ By Joe

    You are right ! In the name of fashion or trendy alternative medicine there are plenty of people/idiots who would buy chewed leaves and monkey... oops sorry ape spit.

  18. Wokstation


    Just don't call it a monkey, or it'll be you needing balms... or is that arms?

  19. James Minney

    @ prior art

    In US patent law, prior art outside the US is expressly not counted - thank Vandana Shiva for noticing that. And then they expect WIPO to help make US patents automatically enforceable into other countries.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    prior art

    "You forget, "prior art" only exists if it's in the patent office."

    Not if you mount a challenge. Granted, not ideal, but still if you can show its been published before, then a patent can be challenged. I know this because a company I once worked for had a patent challenged and struck out because the principle behind the claims in the patent had been published in a science magazine.

    The lawyers tried to get the challenge dismissed because the article was published in a magazine printed in the UK and the challenge was mounted at the USPTO. The US court held that this didn't matter because the magazine had circulation in the US. This was in 2003 or 2004.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ James Minney

    "In US patent law, prior art outside the US is expressly not counted"

    That's a myth.

    If you file a patent in any country which is a signatory to WIPO, then you only have got a 1 year grace period from the first filing date during which you can also file the patent in the US. If you miss this grace period, then you can no longer file the patent in the US because the earlier filing in another country will be regarded by the USPTO as prior art, even if this prior art is your own invention.

    I was on a team at a very well known European communications technology company developing a prepay GSM system for which the company filed patents in various countries but not the US because at that time there was no GSM in the US and it seemed unlikely there ever would be. The claims in the patent were outright GSM specific so it was decided not to file in the US.

    Several years later, when the US adopted GSM, the company tried to file the patent with the USPTO which declined the application because the 1 year grace period had long passed since the first filing of the same patent in Europe. The USPTO uses the WIPO database for prior art search and so the European patents showed up when they did a routine search. At that time, I no longer worked at that company, but I and other team members had to sign off on application forms because the US does not allow companies to be named as inventors, the engineers involved in the design have to be named personally and this is how I know about this.

    Anyway, the patent attorneys had advised that the application would be rejected but it was decided to try it anyway, just in case the USPTO might overlook the earlier filings, they knew it was a long shot but they tried.

    This is the real weakness of the patent system. Too many questionable applications that should be rejected but due to the large number of such applications, the patent offices are overwhelmed and bogus patents which should never be granted slip through.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can see a natural (hohum) progression here

    Before you know it, the beasts will conquer the market in natural and herbal products. "Home chewed" and all that. Ugh.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Double win

    Hire the orang-utans to work for the NHS! This will:

    1. Alleviate the skills shortage.

    2. Actually deliver staff who work for peanuts.

    3. Improve the level of care on some wards.

    4. Amuse the patients.

    5. Help avert the impending extinction of the orang-utans.

  24. Mark

    @Anonymous Coward

    "If you file a patent in any country which is a signatory to WIPO, then you only have got a 1 year grace period from the first filing date during which you can also file the patent in the US."

    That's the *theory*.

    However, to take one case, the JPEG compression was owned by Forgent (IIRC) even though IBM had a patent on that same subject about two years earlier IN THE SAME PATENT OFFICE.

    Please also remember that if you get sued in the US, you still have to turn up (expensive if you're in another country) - just see what has happened with in absentia lawsuits against spamcorp. You then have to FIND the prior art. And then pay a lawyer to make it stick.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Mark

    "However, to take one case, the JPEG compression was owned by Forgent (IIRC) even though IBM had a patent on that same subject about two years earlier IN THE SAME PATENT OFFICE."

    You say "same subject" but the only thing that matters is whether the claims in the patent applications are considered to match. If they are not considered to match, if they are even slightly different, then yes there can be multiple patents for an invention that achieves the same end. Nothing wrong with that. In fact many inventions are specifically designed to work around the claims of competitors' patents.

  26. Mark


    The words weren't the same, so they wouldn't turn up in a simple search.

    Look for yourself: I did when I first heard about it.

    Same process. Same maths. Different program, different patent.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Mark

    Your comments show that you are ignorant of the patent application process.

    Jurisdictions which are signatories to the international patent convention (almost all countries which do have a patent system) require a prior art search to be submitted together with the application. There are requirements how such a prior art search has to be carried out and the search parameters have to be submitted as well. There are also requirements to submit comments on the results which show up and how they relate or don't relate to the invention a patent is applied for, and if claimed irrelevant, then why (based on the claims and the claims alone).

    Applications which do not return any similar prior art are always treated with great suspicion and will show up on even the most overworked examiners radar screen which then triggers a request for submission of a broader prior art search which increases your patent attorney fees.

    In any event, there is nothing wrong with multiple patents for different ways to code and decode a given algorithm. This is due to the fact that algorithms are by definition excluded from patentability. What can be patented is a certain method how to implement an algorithm, never the algorithm itself. Thus, if somebody else comes up with an even only slightly different method to calculate the same algorithm, then that method is also _in principle_ patentable. What you call individual components in an application is entirely irrelevant to the claims section because the claims must describe the purpose and function of such components in a generic way.

    For example a claim typically speaks of "a means to determine whether X is Y" and "a further means to indicate/start/stop/modify" etc etc. One application may call the means to detect X==Y a watchdog, another may call it a monitor, yet another may use a made up word. Yet, it doesn't matter what the application calls it, because the claim must describe it generically and at the generic level claims will match if they claim the same.

    It can be sufficiently determined from these claims whether two patent applications for a method to encode and decode a JPEG image are identical or not. If they are not, then there will be two patents that achieve the same end but doing it in sufficiently different ways as to be legally patentable (provided they fulfill the requirements of industrial applicability, novelty, an inventive step and a description in sufficient detail to permit persons skilled in the art to implement the invention).

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