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Subject: Patents


From: Donny L. Hamilton <dlhamilton>
Date: Tuesday, June 25, 2002
Recently the Wet Organic Archaeological Material (WOAM) working
group of ICOM (Newsletter No. 32, June 2002) passed a resolution
which stated,

   "That it is against our guidelines and code of ethics to withhold
    information about conservation methods or techniques by patent
    or other restrictive practice."

We want to wholeheartedly support this resolution, for information
about new procedures should never be withheld from the conservation
community for any reason, be it through patents or inhibiting
publications or presenting papers at professional meetings. At the
same time we want to note that we, along with Jerome Klosowaki of
Dow Corning Corporation, hold four patents (a fifth is pending) on
various aspects of utilizing silicone oil for conserving waterlogged
material--commercially the technique is primarily used to process
cadavers, which is not a major conservation concern
<URL:>. We also want to make it
clear that this research could not have been conducted without the
support of Dow Corning Corp. which holds the patents in conjunction
with Texas A&M University. However, at no time has any information
been withheld.

The techniques are clearly detailed in our web site at
<URL:> and in a number
of publications. Anyone can purchase the necessary chemicals and
utilize the processes as long as it is not a commercial enterprise
out to make money on the techniques. Thus the patent process has not
in any way withheld information or hindered it use by conservators.

Patenting is not the problem. The main obstacle that we have
encountered in raising awareness about these procedures is the "peer
review" process that is in existence . A small clique effectively
restricts any publications or presentations of papers on
conservation techniques that are contrary to preconceived ideas,
especially within WOAM.

Our personal philosophy has always been to keep an open mind and to
consider other alternatives once it becomes obvious that there are
problems with existing techniques utilized to conserved waterlogged
organic material. That is the reason we are always experimenting and
trying new procedures, for we learned long ago that in waterlogged
organic conservation you really only have one change to successfully
conserve an object. Also in many of the treatments we utilize,
reversibility is not the issue, retreatability is. Once should never
become too personally attached to any given treatment or consider
any treatment to be the one and ultimate way of conserving any
material. Things do change and there are alternative conservation
procedures for different situations. In given cases, we have found
silicone oil to be superior over many existing techniques utilized
to conserve waterlogged wood, leather, textiles, and plant parts.
Yes, there is still a place for freeze drying, PEG treatments,
acetone/rosin, and other techniques. The use of silicone oil has a
role to play in archaeological conservation, even if some of the
processes are patented--heaven forbid!

Donny L. Hamilton
Director, Conservation Research Laboratory

C. Wayne Smith
Director, Archaeological Preservation Research Laboratory
Texas A&M University

                  Conservation DistList Instance 16:3
                  Distributed: Thursday, June 27, 2002
                        Message Id: cdl-16-3-001
Received on Tuesday, 25 June, 2002

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