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One of my conspiracy theory-loving friends posted about this patent, thinking the government created ebola for the purposes of population control. This is obviously hogwash, but I don't quite get the dense language - what is the point of this patent?

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But why use a patent to prevent others from researching it?? –  coffey Aug 5 at 10:40
    
To request clarification on an answer, you should leave a comment on the answer, instead of commening creating a new answer –  Soren Aug 5 at 11:05

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Having skimmed though the patent, it looks like it is a patent for a weakened version of the virus, that is taking the existing virus and making it non-threatening -- it is certainly not a patent which is supposedly creating the virus.

Weakened version of a virus and disease agents in general are desirable for research purposes, so that they can be studied in laboratories without any unnecessary risk to staff or for using it in a vacination effort.

The process of weakening the virus is known as 'inactivation' and you can read more about it on wikipedia here.

Your yearly flu short contains flu virus which has been 'inactivated' and you can read more about it here

Exact purpose for the patent is very likely basic research which is why it is being done by the government rather than by some private institution. As the motivation, it is very likely to gain sufficient information of the virus to defend against it should it ever come to the US as an outbreak.

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To address the question "why has the US government filed this" -- US government work is typically considered public domain -- that means that rather than having a private company blocking research for others, the benefit of a US government patent (and I speculate here) would be that it can be used by anybody -- hence it is a un-patent which blocks other from patenting the same thing making it open for all to use. –  Soren Aug 5 at 15:05
    
This is not correct information- The agency can let everyone have it, no one have it or grant selective non-exclusive licenses or even exclusive licenses. See 35 USC 209. –  George White Aug 6 at 1:32
    
I agree with George and have first hand experience, government employee inventor, that patent rights belong to the government to parse out as they see fit; They do license patent IP to outside organizations. Believe it or not, employee inventors get 15% or so royalties! You are probably thinking about US government "copyrights" which are public domain for some reason. This isn't necessarily true for state and local governments by the way. –  JSH Aug 6 at 2:10

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