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Follow-up: Amazon's Mea Culpa, Good News for Gene Therapy, and Sydney, Ahoy!

Will patents on Internet business methods hurt e-commerce? Last issue, TR singled out Amazon.com for its troubling patent on “one-click” purchasing. Now, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has conceded in a public letter that he’s troubled too. In fact, he believes the new wave of e-commerce patents “could end up harming all of us.” Although Amazon isn’t ready to give up its own intellectual property just yet, Bezos has asked for congressional action. One suggested fix: Make software patents last only three to five years, instead of the usual 20.

Last issue, when TR profiled the effort by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Kathy High to cure hemophilia using gene therapy, the scene was tense. High’s field was reeling from the death of a patient, and documented successes were few. In March, however, there was good news. Two hemophilia patients in a small gene-therapy study led by High and Stanford University’s Mark Kay had gotten measurably better with unexpectedly low doses. An editorial accompanying the results in the March issue of the journal Nature Genetics called the study “exemplary,” adding that “it may prove to be the first report of clinically efficacious application of gene therapy to haemophilia.”

Almost two years ago a novice inventor from Australia told TR of his unlikely ambition: to build a solar-and wind-powered, “winged” ferry boat in time to sail Sydney Harbor during the 2000 Olympic “Green Games.” Now it looks like Robert Dane and the company he founded, Solar Sailor, are right on course. With the help of corporate and government sponsors, they’ve built a 21-meter, 100-person ferry, due to be commissioned on Easter Sunday. Tickets for the vessel’s first commercial voyages, planned for May, are available at www.solarsailor.com.

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