South Africa Considers Potentially Requiring Patents On Publicly Funded Research

from the say-what-now? dept

I missed this story from a few weeks ago, but one of our readers, going by the name of bikey, alerts us to a proposal in South Africa, that would potentially require patents on certain publicly funded research. While this seems totally backwards for any number of reasons (and many of us believe that publicly funded research should be available to the public since they paid for it), apparently some are concerned that "foreign multinationals" might "misappropriate" the research. So, even if a university and the researcher choose not to protect the research results with IP, if a government body determines that the results could have commercial viability, it would have the ability to control the rights. Amusingly, those supporting this proposal claim it will help "facilitate tech transfer." Actually, it does the opposite, because it puts limits and a tollbooth in the way -- but why let that get in the way.

The article notes (phew) that there's significant opposition to the proposal -- especially from researchers who are greatly troubled by the fact that researchers may have no say in whether or not their research is "protected," and how it may do serious harm to "open" research initiatives and idea sharing -- which, by the way, have been shown to increase the pace of innovation. The article also does a good job highlighting how the focus on patenting university research in the US has done more harm than good, by decreasing openness, slowing down the pace of innovation and causing universities to spend tons of money on "tech transfer offices" that get too focused on trying to lock up every idea a professor has. All in all, this proposal sounds dreadful. Who would support it? Well, at the end of the article, they indicate Microsoft is a big fan. Anyway, since the article is from a few weeks ago, it would be great to know if there's been any update on this. Anyone have any info on whether this proposal is going anywhere?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 12:27pm

    They need a toll booth because they are a "low cost" country. Coming up with ideas only to have them slip out the door is one of many. many issues that face this country.

    By developing and protecting new ideas and patentable concepts, they have the potential to grow dramatically. They don't grow as long as they are just widget makers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 12:43pm

    Alternaitves

    1. The patent is held by the State in trust for its citizens.
    2. The courts of the State (at issue) don't recognize the validity of the patent when issued by a foreign state. Also the State's patent office must reject any such patent application.

     

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  3.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 12:45pm

    Re:

    From the article:

    "So, even if a university and the researcher choose not to protect the research results with IP, if a government body determines that the results could have commercial viability, it would have the ability to control the rights."

    Do you really not see the problem with FORCING copyright onto researches and educational institutions? There is a very simple term for this: Intellectual Nationalization.

    This is the government basically saying that if it wants your research, it will take your research. I'd like to get an idea of what the process for applying for government funding for research is in South Africa. Related, I'd also like to know if the government puts roadblocks in the way of PRIVATE research. If they did, this could simply be a way to gobble up and nationalize all research.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 1:13pm

    It's amazing how the first post usually is some sort of troll. Makes me think that someone is getting paid to poo poo this blog.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 2:54pm

    Re:

    It's amazing how the first post usually is some sort of troll. Makes me think that someone is getting paid to poo poo this blog.

    No need to assign malice/shilldom to some bored troll with too much time on their hands. There are such people in the world, apparently, as sad as that seems.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 3:31pm

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, but where is Angry Dude, who always accuses Mike of being a shill for the "anti-IP" camp? He says Mike is serving his corporate masters like MSFT, ridiculous as that claim is.

    Well, what about this case where MSFT is in favor, and Mike is not. I expect Angry Dude to pop in and explain that it's some kind of subterfuge.

     

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  7.  
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    Big Al, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 3:55pm

    Maybe they're taking a lead from Australia's CSIRO - You know, develop the basics of Wi-Fi, allow them to be licensed out for a small fee and then, when no-one pays up, sue the hell out of them to fund further useful research (and no, there's no sarcasm in this comment - the CSIRO really DO do useful, publicly-funded research!).

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 11:38pm

    I love the idea of seeing the leeches worry about their "blood supply".


    I think it is quite interesting that "Not For Profit" Universities and their associated researchers feel they are entitled to patents.

    If "Universities" paid for taxes, such as property taxes for fire, police, etc, Income tax, etc then maybe. But when the government puts a gun to my head, says "give us your money" so we can give it some some dumb fuck professor that wants tenure instead of "real job" on the off chance he or the university might get rich off some research that I funded is BS.

    Stanford, Havard, MIT, and their professors want it both ways. They have no risk, but all the rewards. Private companies have all the risks and limited rewards (based on patent life time.. 10% of a copyright.)

    I have no problem that if a government funds something it belongs to the people that "funded it". I have a real problem with leeching "Non-profit", "governement funding" institutions owning anything THEY didn't invest in.

    When will people understand that "Government Agencies" that give out extortion money are:

    1. Wasting 80% of the money they give out because no rational institutional would do it. (Including Universities that have HUGE investment funds.. Billions)

    2. If the individuals that worked in the government had insight, they would be working in private enterprise that would pay them 10 times their governement salary if they knew WTF they were doing.

    If Uni. Researcher want to do research, God Bless them, but that should NOT be a free ticket for them getting a tax free, limited edition Lotto ticket. Want fame, go work tax free, tenured, no obligation to produce, Want fortune, then invest your own f**** money or work in the real world. But God Damn-it, Stop putting a gun to my head, taking my money (most likey wasting it) so you MIGHT have a .000000001% chance at both ,instead of me enjoying what I of what I earned. If I should invest in it, then I should get some sort of ROI. .. and don't give me some BS about the "World being a better place".. Sanford, MIT and Havard don't give a care.. it is all about their campus.

     

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  9.  
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    Paul, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 4:21am

    This already exists in the US

    This law appears to create exactly the situation we already have in the US. Bayh-Dole says that universities have the right to patent inventions that spring as a result of government funded research. And, if the University chooses not to file a patent, the IP rights revert to the sponsoring agency.

     

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  10.  
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    Free, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 2:33pm

    Patent doesn't mean it's not

    I mean, all a patent really means is that you need a license to use it. That doesn't mean you can't grant that license freely. There are plenty of technologies that have this and even a free patent association that allows it as well.

    I don't think it's a bad thing for work done by public money to be protected by a patent. I work for a government and have seen lots of cases where a government idea gets put in a tech data package, supplied to a contractor, and then the contractor makes a small change and files for a patent.

    Despite prior art, this usually guarentees the contractor a soul source

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 29th, 2009 @ 8:57am

    "The article also does a good job highlighting how the focus on patenting university research in the US has done more harm than good, by ...slowing down the pace of innovation...."

    i sincerely doubt that. previously most of their developments likely languished with no one to promote them. now the universities have a reason to not just research, but actually put their best technologies into use. without that motivation rarely does anyone risk the time or money to develop through to production.

     

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  12.  
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    Edwin Rose, Feb 6th, 2010 @ 3:25am

    patent funding

    I applied to Innovation Fund for assistance to fund my patent. They want me to explain to them my invention over the internet and I do not even know the character of the person on the otherside that will read it or share it with buddies. I wrote them a letter to tell them that I want to present it to them in person. It is now three weeks and they did not even ackowledge of receiving my e-mail, Is this fund existing or is it just another micky mouse scheme?
    I have technology to challenge Eskom on power generation, but to get funding to patent is difficult. I wrote Eskom a letter requesting them for help.I hope they respond. I wrote to the NERSA and they did not even reply. What is wrong with South Africa. How serious are we in trying to get new technology to get rid of our inferior technology by polluting our country with fossil fuel emmissions.
    It is difficult to be for us to think that we can improve whilst we run the rat race based on the pre programming of the status quo.

    Discouraged Inventor

     

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  13.  
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    Willem Steenkamp, Jun 14th, 2011 @ 12:03pm

    investor for patent development needed

    Might not be your cup-of-tea, but I am looking for an investor to fund an Energy saving Portable geyser being developed in the US.
    I have trien for many years throuh our SA system and have met with more frauds and dead-ends than I can recall.

    Currently in the process of development where I need $10000.00 to present a prototype to an interested corporate.
    I have 90% roylties on my patent and willing to discuss shares of such as bargaining.

    If you can not help, thank you for reading thus far and keep up the interest

    Regards
    Willem

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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