Yet Another Nobel Prize Winner Says That Intellectual Property Is Harming Science

from the add-another-one-to-the-list dept

We've discussed in the past how Noble Prize winning economists have been worried about the impact of intellectual property laws, and how at least one Nobel Prize winning physicist is warning that strict intellectual property laws are harming science and innovation. Now we can add a Nobel Prize winning biologist to the list (his Nobel was for medicine). Sir John Sulston has written up a column for The Guardian explaining how intellectual property is "shackling" science:
The myth is that IP rights are as important as our rights in castles, cars and corn oil. IP is supposedly intended to encourage inventors and the investment needed to bring their products to the clinic and marketplace. In reality, patents often suppress invention rather than promote it: drugs are "evergreened" when patents are on the verge of running out -- companies buy up the patents of potential rivals in order to prevent them being turned into products. Moreover, the prices charged, especially for pharmaceuticals, are often grossly in excess of those required to cover costs and make reasonable profits.
He goes on to attack the massive growth in things like gene patents, which has resulted in: "research on certain genes [being] largely restricted to the companies that hold the patents, and tests involving them are marketed at prohibitive prices. We believe that this poses a very real danger to the development of science for the public good." He points to the long history of how scientific advance has come from collaboration and the sharing of knowledge, rather than the hoarding of it, and fears where things are heading now that knowledge is so often locked up:
For science to continue to flourish, it is necessary that the knowledge it generates be made freely and widely available. IP rights have the tendency to stifle access to knowledge and the free exchange of ideas that is essential to science. So, far from stimulating innovation and the dissemination of the benefits of science, IP all too often hampers scientific progress and restricts access to its products.
We keep hearing more and more people who recognize all of this speaking out against what is happening. But the politicians only seem to listen to the lawyers and the lobbyists who have every incentive to ignore the reality around them. How do we change that?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 11:54am

    Hooray for smart people!

    Coming Soon: Pirate Scientists.
    (heck, there's a movie title I'd pay to see the movie of)

    Somebody should put together a good fact book about this. We'll call it: Intellectual Privilege & What Smart People Think of It. It could also be distributed as a free ebook, just to rub a few other choice noses in reality. Anybody know if Cory Doctorow has time for such a project?

     

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

  2.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 11:56am

    Re: Hooray for smart people!

    (...hmmm, runaway italics. sorry about that.)

     

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

  3.  
    icon
    senshikaze (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    i just wish politicians listened to Nobel prize winning scientists and not money from pharmaceutical companies and software companies.
    I'm assuming I wish for too much.

     

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

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    you cant compete with free genes! if you dont protect the genes then scientists will steal the genes and do science on them without paying anyone

     

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

  5.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 12:13pm

    "But the politicians only seem to listen to the lawyers and the lobbyists who have every incentive to ignore the reality around them. How do we change that?"

    Lets define what this is... Lets call ... it "Lobbery" a simple merging of the words Robbery and Lobbying.

    Lobbery def :
    1) The act of soliciting or lobbying for changes in the laws to protect, monopolize, or quash competition, to create financial gains.
    2) Throwing an object in an overhand manner.

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 12:24pm

    IP all too often hampers scientific progress and restricts access to its products.

    He forget to say "for a comparatively short amount of time". How long is a patent for?

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 12:28pm

    "He forget to say "for a comparatively short amount of time". How long is a patent for?"

    It's upwards of 15 years to my knowledge, not exactly a short amount of time especially within the realms of science.

     

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

  8.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 12:29pm

    Re:

    He forget to say "for a comparatively short amount of time". How long is a patent for?

    You seem to ignore the massive ripple effects. The basis of innovation is innovation on top of innovation on top of innovation. So, in the course of a year, there may be a dozen innovations on top of an original idea. But with patents that last 17 years, that one year of innovation gets delayed to about two centuries. Nice, huh?

     

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

  9.  
    icon
    IshmaelDS (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    Re:

    Seconded!

     

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

  10.  
    icon
    Designerfx (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Re:

    don't forget that the derivatives are usually only found via the original due to overbroad patents. So you have 1 company profiting for 2 centuries.

     

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

  11.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Or rather, you have 1 company stopping others from innovating or bringing useful products to market without fear of bogus legal repercussions for 2 centuries worth if innovative man-hours.

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Re:

    I hope you are better at economics than you are at math. Once the patent is up, it's up. So there is no repeating 17 years over and over, just one time, and then poof, it's an open market.

    So the "one year of innovation" happens in the 18th year at worst. In reality, most advancements are licensed out to pay for more research and more development, so the time of a patent doesn't always have the same effect. Further, in publishing the patent, they end up disclosing much about how they got there, which may encourage others to look for other routes to similar or even better results, and that doesn't have to wait 17 years, now does it?

    I don't ignore the ripple effects, but you do seem to ignore reality often enough.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 12:48pm

    What is reasonable profits? Define that for me.

    "IP all too often hampers scientific progress"

    Well, how often does it move it along, encourage progress? Which is a greater tool?

    Back when the govt. was talking about bailouts, I read one Nobel Prize winner in economics saying they would be good. I read one Nobel Prize winner saying they would be bad. They both won the prize, who was right?

    3 years ago all the "reliable" scientists agreed that man was causing global warming and we needed to limit the amount of carbon we produce. Now, not so much. My point? We just don't know about a lot of things.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    But you realize those advancements in the 18th year get patented right?

    So what happens is...

    year 0: 1st innovation
    year 18: 2nd round of innovation based on 1st
    year 36: 3rd round of innovation based on 2nd
    ...

    Compare it to:

    year 0: 1st Round
    year 1: 2nd Round
    year 3: 3rd Round

    Patents are to help disclose information but that's been perverted. The system needs to be reformed to both account for today's faster pace of technology and to promote sharing not restrict it.

     

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

  15.  
    icon
    jjmsan (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The idea that the free (sorry four letter word here) circulation of ideas helps science has not been seriously disputed, ever. Patenting ideas is a recent change in the law and we are only begining to really feel its negative effects now.

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    TheStupidOne, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:03pm

    Re:

    Yup, 17 years is a really short amount of time. I mean who would die in that amount of time if they couldn't afford the name-brand drug that would save their life but was patented so there weren't any cheap generics either? I know I can wait 17 years for life saving drugs, anyone who complains about that is a cry-baby!

    And what about those genetic tests to determine who needs the relatively cheap preventative treatments to stave off cancer? Not economically feasible for many people because those naturally-occurring genetic mutations are patented. So if they can't get the test done in 17 years, then they'll find out about their predisposition when they are told they have an inoperable, cancerous tumor ... no big deal.

    So yea, 17 years is a short time!

     

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

  17.  
    icon
    jjmsan (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:04pm

    Re:

    Excuse me, when did that report come out? At least cite a source for your made up fact.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:06pm

    Financial gain is not the only reason scientists do not share information. Quite often it is because they don't want recognition to go to others. Patents have nothing at all to do with this factor.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    KP, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    The current IP system has no validity or real value

     

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

  20.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I hope you are better at economics than you are at math. Once the patent is up, it's up. So there is no repeating 17 years over and over, just one time, and then poof, it's an open market.

    No. The point (thought it was clear, guess not, so sorry) is that the next level of innovation gets patented too. So, there goes another 17 years. Twiddle your thumbs and wait.

    So the "one year of innovation" happens in the 18th year at worst.

    Nope. Just the second step. Then we're locked down again.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    AC, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:12pm

    Re:

    And to that point, of the three groups address in this thread (lobbyists, lawyers, and nobel prize winners), who would you rather have your politician listen to? If I had to choose between paid lobbyists, paid lawyers or scientist whose minds are open to a convincing debate, I would choose scientists every time. The great thing about science is that theory a can be demonstrated to be right or wrong. Lobbyists, on the other hand, can only be swayed by money. I'd rather base policy decisions on demonstrable evidence than spin, even if it turns out to be wrong.

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:17pm

    Ahhh, but you assume that scientists or others are not using spin, pushing for their agenda.

    Isn't it funny that the guy who won the nobel peace prize just ordered 40,000 more troops to battle? Wasn't he given the award for leading the way to peace? But I digress.

    Who do you listen to (between scientists) when two really bright ones tell you to do different things?

    Not all theories can be demonstrated to be right or wrong, that is why the scientists are always arguing. Some can be proven, but not the majority.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    KP, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:17pm

    The current IP system has no validity or real value

    The entire idea that a scientific discover can be owned by the original discoverer is ridiculous. The reality is that scientific fact was and has been true since the beginning of time. It just took us silly monkeys a really long time to figure it out. Understanding cannot be owned. Helping others achieve understanding and mastery of the application of a specific piece of knowledge has tremendous value but only if it is delivered in a usable format. In other words a discover's ability to exploit a specific discover and execute a valid business model around it should be the only measure of the value of the discover to that discoverer. Knowledge and understand of the true nature of existence should not be something that requires licensing and registration.

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    KP, what planet do you currently live on?

     

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

  25.  
    identicon
    this guy has, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:33pm

    Intellectual integrity award goes too

    this guy gts the award and is a true nobel winner

    look at the past and most recent winners its becoming a joke

    scientists will pirate to advance our knowledge
    wonder how freemasons think about all that yack about freedom of knowledge yet aid in its restriction

    no folks its all about control and i call them out on it
    they should be disbanded as a bad force of control

     

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

  26.  
    identicon
    TheDumbOne, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re:

    And 17 years is still too short! We should make it 20 years because it's a rounder number.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Big Al, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:48pm

    Re:

    But if the information remains secret and unshared, then the original scientist gets no recognition for them anyway.
    Your post makes no sense.

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:55pm

    Al, they don't share until they publish, which is kind of like a patent. It is restriction of information.

     

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

  29.  
    icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 1:58pm

    Re:

    Tell that to the guy who first created the phone. Do you remember his name? I sure don't, Bell got the patent first.

     

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

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Nope, sorry, not locked down - individual branches, perhaps, but not the main root of the subject. There isn't only ONE direction to go, and the underlying technology / patent would be open without restriction.

    You are desperately looking for a worst case scenerio that isn't happening in the real work. Maybe is happens in Masnick world, but not for the rest of us (otherwise we would still be enjoy them AM radios and TV would be a thing for rich people).

     

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

  31.  
    identicon
    Shawn, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 2:17pm

    Re:

    I'd rather have two or more scientist arguing over their own agenda right or wrong. (Scientist or anyone arguing a point last I heard is Democracy)
    Than a lobbyist arguing spin backed by money for self gain.

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 2:31pm

    Useless IP laws

    Scientists always argue.

    But there is one thing nobody argues.

    When a body of research or facts all point to the same thing there is a very good chance that the proposed thing is real.

    e.g.: Body of work or proof means the quantity of people saying the same thing or pointing to something.

    Anybody will argue with the body of studies that say monopolies are bad?

    Anybody can show 1 enduring monopoly in history that was not taken away?

    This is the fate of IP laws. to be taken away and be recreated in a later time until a balance is found.

    Society is not a static system is a dynamic one and right now IP laws are annoying and useless to the majority of society.

    Never mind the fact that only a small group of people take advantage. The little guy's don't have the financial or human resources to make it work for them. It is used as a weapon to fend off competition and not fuel it.

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 2:56pm

    Re:

    Nobel prize winning William Shockley made some extremely controversial comments regarding eugenics and the African American population, including comments that the birth rate among African Americans would ultimately lower the IQ of African Americans and reduce the gains they made through the Civil Rights Movement.

    Nobel prize winner Wangari Maathai appeared to lend credence to the conspiracy theory that white scientists created HIV to destroy black people. She later apologized.

    Nobel prize winner Rigoberta MenchĂș apparently distorted(?), enhanced(?), well, call it what you may, she apparently made changes to her award-winning autobiography to, well, you can figure out what might make a person change the story of their life.

    Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace prize even though he was either directly or indirectly responsible for some of the most violent U.S. activities of his era.

    Then there was the Nobel Peace Prize to Yasser Arafat, which caused at least one resignation from the Nobel committee, who labeled Arafat a "terrorist."

    Cordell Hull, winner of a Peace Prize in 1945, also strongly influenced the turning away of a ship of refugess in 1939. The refugees returned to Germany and many of the refugees were later executed in Nazi concentration camps.

    Physicist Philipp Lenard later created the idea that there were different kind of science, "German Science," "Jewish Science," etc., and later denounce the theory of relativity as a Jewish fraud.

    Winning a Nobel prize may lend a speaker a certain cachet, but how important is that cachet with respect to intellectual property? These people are just like any other. They have an opinion based on their personal beliefs, which may or may not have societal value and factual support.

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 2:56pm

    Re: Re:

    Got any evidence to support the "two centuries"?

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 3:07pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Patents have a loophole.

    You can patent the same thing with minor changes and get another 15 years and go on forever if you want so theoretically a patent can be forever.

    That patent will include not only the original but will encompass the changes too so if you have the money to sustain that patent it will be forever.

    Patents don't protect the little guy.

    Anyone who has ever tried to patent something knows that if you don't patent everything way you can do it you risk loosing it so you have to take dozens if not hundreds of patents on a single idea to "protect" and invention and that cost millions besides there is the annuities that can easily reach $1000 dollars for application so you have a maintenance cost of tens of thousands of dollars.

    Who has millions and can pay thousands of dollars anualy?
    Not the little guy.

    Copyright is even more obnoxious as it encompass derivative works and that is ridiculous but it is even longer reaching 150 years in some cases. Dead artists don't produce anything why do they need protection?

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 3:07pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Patents have a loophole.

    You can patent the same thing with minor changes and get another 15 years and go on forever if you want so theoretically a patent can be forever.

    That patent will include not only the original but will encompass the changes too so if you have the money to sustain that patent it will be forever.

    Patents don't protect the little guy.

    Anyone who has ever tried to patent something knows that if you don't patent everything way you can do it you risk loosing it so you have to take dozens if not hundreds of patents on a single idea to "protect" and invention and that cost millions besides there is the annuities that can easily reach $1000 dollars for application so you have a maintenance cost of tens of thousands of dollars.

    Who has millions and can pay thousands of dollars anualy?
    Not the little guy.

    Copyright is even more obnoxious as it encompass derivative works and that is ridiculous but it is even longer reaching 150 years in some cases. Dead artists don't produce anything why do they need protection?

     

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

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 5:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Or we could be living in a world where the only limitations that exist reside in our dreams.

    That sounds horrible!

     

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

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 5:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Do you have some examples?

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 5:30pm

    Re: Useless IP laws

    One enduring monopoly that has yet to be taken away. The Coca-Cola brand.

    A second enduring monopoly that has yet to be taken away. The formula for Coke. There are those who claim the "secret" is no longer secret, but the several versions of the formula that all exist disagree and are from a long time ago, before several critical changes to the formula. No one knows the current formula.

    Would you care for more? There are many.

     

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

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 5:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You can patent the same thing with minor changes and get another 15 years and go on forever if you want so theoretically a patent can be forever.

    Example, please.

     

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

  41.  
    icon
    herodotus (profile), Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 8:07pm

    "Winning a Nobel prize may lend a speaker a certain cachet, but how important is that cachet with respect to intellectual property? These people are just like any other. They have an opinion based on their personal beliefs, which may or may not have societal value and factual support."

    Scientists are often full of shit, it's true. But not nearly as full of shit as you are.

     

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

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 8:52pm

    Re: Re:

    And what about those genetic tests to determine who needs the relatively cheap preventative treatments to stave off cancer?

    A remarkable thing, you know, is that someone had to finance those things, they had to pay researchers, pay for a lab, pay for all the equipment, and let them go for years and years before they came up with a product. Now, without some way to financially recoup the costs of all of that research, the research wouldn't have happens to start with, or may not have happened in our lifetimes. There is a balance, much of what has pushed science ahead so quickly now is the ability to get financing for the stuff.

    Further, and this is just as important, discoveries made in a field often lead to MORE investigations in the same areas, and other solutions are found. It's amazing, but just because there was one erectile dysfunction pill (viagra) didn't stop the makers of Cialis from finding a different and potentially better way to accomplish the same thing. They didn't sit on their hands for 17 years waiting for the clock to tick down, they INNOVATED!

    Oh noes! Innovation! What will we have next? Multiple companies selling blood pressure medication, anti-depression drugs, and more than one pain reliever in your pharmacy?

    IP minimalists would make us think that there would only be one of each and that would be that, but reality says that is very, very far from the truth.

     

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

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 10:30pm

    I have seen a similar venture in the food industry. With the Seed companies keeping patents to the extent that they are infringing on the rights of private farmers and stepping over the bounds of nature. At the rate they are going the Corporations will own the rights to all foods processed in the world.

     

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

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 11:02pm

    Patents are forever.

    "A patent is not the grant of a right to make or use or sell. It does not, directly or indirectly, imply any such right. It grants only the right to exclude others. The supposition that a right to make is created by the patent grant is obviously inconsistent with the established distinctions between generic and specific patents, and with the well-known fact that a very considerable portion of the patents granted are in a field covered by a former relatively generic or basic patent, are tributary to such earlier patent, and cannot be practiced unless by license thereunder." - Herman v. Youngstown Car Mfg. Co., 191 F. 579, 584-85, 112 CCA 185 (6th Cir. 1911)"

    Continuations rules:
    http://www.uspto.gov/patents/law/exam/presentation/clmcontfinalrule.jsp

    Guide on how to extend patents
    http://biopharminternational.findpharma.com/biopharm/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=150834

    Evergreening
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evergreening

    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/ health-and-families/health-news/drug-giants-swindle-nhs-by-blocking-cheap-medicines-extending-patent s-793129.html

    http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2004/08/06/1091732084185.html

    In the Pharma business there is not one example, there is lots of examples but it is not only the pharma business doing it, new formulations can be read as new improved forms that can be added to the patent and granted extensions based on the continuation rules.

     

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

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 11:08pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Except for the fact that most medical research is based on government research done and them passed to the private sector.

    The big business don't invest in basic research do they now?

    Regenerative medicine is being done by whom in the private sector exactly?

    Anti viral research is being done by whom in the private sector?

    Most of those researchs are paid by governments the public money.

    Not big business. They just rip the rewards without doing the work.

     

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

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 2nd, 2009 @ 11:19pm

    Patents are forever and thus useless for society.

    Strong IP laws are bad. It doesn't matter what type of monopoly is or what excuse one uses to justify it, in the end is a monopoly and is bad there is no proof that a monopoly ever benefited society but there is ample examples of how monopolies leads to corruption, fights, deception and reduction of wealth for society.

     

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

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 2:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Some way to financially recoup investment? Come on, surely they can sell T-shirts, lotss of them.

     

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

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 3:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    jjmsan,
    the patent system has been around since the 15th century!! The real aim of the system is to ensure that those who come up with ideas may disclose them in full to the public in exchange for the monopoly which in the past was about 14years(time it took to train 2 apprentices to practice)and is now 20 in most countries.

    The IP system is not perfect but it does have some benefit. Inventors have an incentive to disclose their invention in detail (a requirement to obtain a patent).

    Patent offices publish all patent applications and their databases are accessible free to access.

    ps.. Alfred Nobel had 355 patents to his name.

     

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

  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 5:58am

    Re: Patents are forever.

    Continuations expire on the date the patent from which the continuation claims priority expires. Thus, all continuations expire at the same time as the original patent. You have neglected to provide an example of "forever" or even a long time.

    Only certain patents can be extended, on pharmaceuticals, only because of the length of time it takes to get a drug approved. Regardless of the length of time for approval, the maximum length of time a pharmaceutical patent can be in force is 14 years with the single permitted extension. Not only is 14 years far less than "forever," it is far less than the typical length of a non-pharmaceutical patent.

    Note in the "evergreening" link you posted, nearly all the strategies were not in extending the life of patents, which is not possible, but in delaying the entry of generics through a variety of techniques. There is a short section in that article in strategies that companies might use to gain an additional monopoly, but not one of those strategies prevented a competitor from creating a generic version of the original, patented drug. Ergo, you have yet again failed to prove, not only "forever," but even any sort of "very long" period of time.

    Your next link, to an article from the Independent, while it described an attempt in the UK to change from a capsule to a tablet (the patentable reason for this was never explained - and such shallow attempts have been litigated in U.S. courts and held to be unpatentable improvements), the article did not say the attempt was successful. It is interesting that the title talks about "extending" patents, and yet it did not provide any examples of successful attempts to do so.

    The final article is even less helpful than the previous articles. Though the article keeps using the term "evergreening," if finally gets around to explaining that "evergreening" of patents has nothing to do with the patents at all, but raising objections to entry of generic firms through a series of protests. Though it should be obvious, these objections have absolutely nothing to do with PATENT law and you will not find any of these supposed "evergreening" rules in patent law. These techniques are instead related to how drugs are approved by the FDA.

    Your articles fall into two categories. The first category, relating to continuations and patent term extensions, are related to patent law. Those rules are fixed. In the case of extensions, all continuations expire at the same time as the original. In the case of pharmaceutical patents, an extension up to five years is possible, but in no case is an in force length greater than 14 years permitted. Neither of these examples support anything even close to "two centuries."

    Your other examples focus on attempts by drug companies to slow the entry of competitors into the market place through various non-patent challenges or to change formulations in a minor manner in order to get a new patent.

    There are two problems with the second strategy. First, the USPTO has wised up to these attempts and has routinely been rejecting them. Second, if the USPTO errs then competitors have been challenging the patents in court, and routinely succeed when the supposed improvement does not change the nature of the medication. Third, the original patent has still expired and is available to produce the original patent medication.

    As to the various challenges to entry based on safety, etc., i.e, non-patent based challenges, those challenges do sometimes succeed for short periods of time, but hardly "two centuries."

    You have failed to provide any support for the contention that patents can last forever.

     

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

  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 5:59am

    Re:

    By golly, what a brilliant, well-reasoned comeback. I salute your literary brilliance. I bet you did well in debate.

     

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

  51.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 6:03am

    Re: Patents are forever and thus useless for society.

    Bad is a value statement, as is good. Just because you believe something is "bad" does not objectively make it so.

    I believe people who fail to follow traffic laws are "bad," but again that is a value statement. Why are people who fail to follow traffic laws "bad"? Well, because they are criminals. Have they created a public danger? Sometimes they do. Obviously, someone who violates a traffic law and then causes harm to someone else would be considered, in general, to be bad. But the term is full of interpretation and will never mean the same thing to two people.

    You should avoid "good" and "bad" when possible.

     

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

  52.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 6:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I would love someone to take a drug patented by a pharmaceutical company, say Pfizer, and show where the funding for that drug came from. Though there have been tons of allegations, every time you ask for actual proof you get lots of talking heads saying that research was paid for by the government.

     

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

  53.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 6:27am

    Re: Patents are forever and thus useless for society.

    You claim that monopolies are universally "bad" and that there is no proof that a monopoly ever benefited society. Yet, there have been many references to the telephone company monopoly as having been the right thing to do at that time. However, let us leave that aside.

    In order to refute your contention that "there is no proof that a monopoly ever benefited society," I need only provide one supported example. So, let's give it a shot...

    It has generally been decided that dispersion of technology is a benefit to society by many commenters on this web site. Assuming that dissemination of knowledge is beneficial to society, then patents have benefited society based on a study done by Sokoloff, Lamoreaux and Kahn that showed that patented innovations "tend to be traded more than those that are not, and therefore to disperse geographically farther away from the original area of invention."

    Foreign investment is often a desire by many societies. Such investment is considered a societal good, particularly in some developing countries. Boldrin and Levine provided a summary of 23 studies on patenting and innovation, noting that "strengthening IP increases the flow of foreign investment in sectors where patents are frequently used."

    Another societal goal can be research and development. Kanwar and Evanson summarized data for 31 countries in the period 1981 to 1990. They found a correlation between higher patent protection and increases in research and development as a fraction of GDP.

    Chun-Ya Tseng and Cheng-Hwai Liou in "Valuation of R&D and Patent: An Economic Value Added Perspective," found a positive correlation between R&D and patents and the financial success of 219 Taiwanese electronic companies sampled from 1990 to 2003. This paper also provides many references to other papers supportive of the value to the economic health of companies. These companies employed tens of thousands of people, providing employee benefits and taxes to support social services.

    The entry of new companies into the market place increases competition in the long term. Also, smaller companies have been shown to be more innovative per person than larger companies. Thus, entry of new companies is likely beneficial to society. Hall and Ham noted that their "results suggest that stronger patents may have facilitated entry by firms in niche product markets..."

    States typically use various methods of measuring income growth and consider income growth to be a benefit to society. A 2006 study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland found that the single best predictor of how a state's income will grow is the number of patents in the state per capita. Education ranked second.

    Albert G.Z. Hu and I.P.L. Png, in their extremely well researched paper "Patent Rights and Economic Growth: Cross-Country Evidence," found a positive mathematical relationship between patents and economic growth. From their conclusion:

    Using an ISIC 3-digit industry level database that spans 54 manufacturing industries in 72 countries between 1981-2000, we found evidence that stronger property rights were associated with faster industrial growth measured by value added. The impact of stronger patent righs was both statistically and economically significant in three of the four periods we analyzed: 1981-85, 1991-95, and 1996-2000, and had become stronger in the 1990s compared to the in the 1980s.

    Our analysis also showed that the stronger patent rights promoted industrial growth through technical progress in the 1981-85 and 1996-2000 periods and through more rapid factor accumulation in the 1991-95 period.

    As crop failures and increases in diseases threatened food supplies in the 1960's, the U.S. government wondered how to get more industry involvement in creating new, disease-resistant plants. Surely assuring food supplies is beneficial to society. Of note was that about 150 new plant varieties were developed in the U.S. in the 1960's, which was believed to be insufficient to protect food supplies. The Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970 provided patent protection for sexually reproducing plants. In the 1970's, over 3,000 new plant species were developed.

    While monopolies may be "bad" in your opinion, there is apparently a lot of societal benefit that derives from them, based on study after study after study.

     

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

  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 6:45am

    @52

    Read the history of insulin, not one breakthrough came from a private company but from universities.

    And after those breakthroughs companies came to partner with them to further develop something and still the company Lil something got all the credit for it.

    Most cancer drugs come from public research you can go and verify all you want :)

    Stem cell research is almost all public funds as are almost all cutting edge research on the medical field.

    Just go ahead and count how many discoveries big pharma did and how many discoveries public funded research made it. It is not even funny.

    @51:

    Nope, bad is the final conclusion one have when they take a good look at the body of work about monopolies. Don't believe me go research and just count how many works there are that say that it is good and how many say it is bad. If the ratio is 10 to 1 saying it is bad I would not be surprised because rarely I see some fool trying to say that monopolies are good.

     

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

  55.  
    icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 6:57am

    Re: Re: Patents are forever and thus useless for society.

    Would 'evil' work for you?
    I believe they are evil.
    As the man said, they lead to corruption, fights, etc.

     

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

  56.  
    identicon
    Benjie, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 7:23am

    New IP Law idea

    Your IP is only valid until your recouped your R&D. If you want your IP to last longer than 1 year, you must show proof of not having recouped your R&D costs and proof that you are correctly trying to recoupe costs. None of that sitting on IP crap.

    If you don't want people copying your process, don't patent it for the world to know.

     

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

  57.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 7:38am

    Re: @52

    Read the history of insulin, not one breakthrough came from a private company but from universities.

    I am unsure that this statement is true. According to references, Ciba-Geigy was the first company to develop fully synthetic insulin. That sounds like a breakthrough from a private company.

    However, what is your point with this statement?

    And after those breakthroughs companies came to partner with them to further develop something and still the company Lil something got all the credit for it.

    Actually, histories seem to show that the only thing that Lily did was mass produce insulin. I do not see where Lilly received any patents for insulin. According to Wikipedia, insulin was developed in the University of Toronto. According to Wikipedia, Lilly had a "major breakthrough" in figuring out how to mass produce insulin - not the developers of insulin or the University of Toronto.

    Most cancer drugs come from public research you can go and verify all you want :)

    Okay. How many of those cancer drugs are patented by pharmaceutical companies?

    Stem cell research is almost all public funds as are almost all cutting edge research on the medical field.

    Nice, unsupported statement.

    Just go ahead and count how many discoveries big pharma did and how many discoveries public funded research made it. It is not even funny.

    No, you provide references that count them. Also, point to the references that show how many publicly funded inventions are patented by private companies.

    @51:

    Nope, bad is the final conclusion one have when they take a good look at the body of work about monopolies. Don't believe me go research and just count how many works there are that say that it is good and how many say it is bad. If the ratio is 10 to 1 saying it is bad I would not be surprised because rarely I see some fool trying to say that monopolies are good.


    If we count the objective research into intellectual property, it appears that nearly ALL intellectual property research has indicated at least some benefit to intellectual property. Are there potential disadvantages? Yes, also reported by objective reports. What is more interesting is that the very few papers that study the balance of benefits indicate that patents have more benefits than disadvantages. But hey, you already read that - you just ignored it.

     

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

  58.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 7:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Patents are forever and thus useless for society.

    Would 'evil' work for you?
    I believe they are evil.
    As the man said, they lead to corruption, fights, etc.


    Actually, the word "believe" works for me. When you say that your system of beliefs includes that patents are evil, then you have moved over into religion, which only requires faith and belief versus actual evidence. It is hard to sway beliefs, no matter how ill-founded they may be.

     

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

  59.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 8:14am

    Re: @52

    Nope, bad is the final conclusion one have when they take a good look at the body of work about monopolies. Don't believe me go research and just count how many works there are that say that it is good and how many say it is bad. If the ratio is 10 to 1 saying it is bad I would not be surprised because rarely I see some fool trying to say that monopolies are good.

    If it was real research, it would not have used the terms "good" and "bad," which are not quantifiable in an objective way. Good and bad are merely characterizations of likes and dislikes.

     

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

  60.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 8:16am

    Re: Re: @52

    Not to mention that "good" and "bad" and "evil" are terms oriented in religion.

     

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

  61.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 9:14am

    It is called R&D for a reason. Sure, public funds are used to research drugs. Promising ones get sold to a drug company and the drug company does the development. The D part is more expensive than the R part.

    No one living in the United States has ever been given a drug (outside of trials) that has not gone through the trials. Period.

     

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

  62.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 9:35am

    Re: Re:

    Oh you didn't hear? Senator Inhofe has informed us that the whole global warming thing is, thankfully, over. And he must know what he's talking about, after all he's a US Senator.

     

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

  63.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 9:40am

    Re: Re: Useless IP laws

    I don't think that word (monopoly) means what you think it means. That means one company dominates a market, and you have to have some reasonable definition of a market before you can have a reasonable definition of a monopoly in it. The only way Coca-Cola can be a monopoly is if their market is "Coca-Cola", which is ridiculous. The market is soft drinks, and there is plenty of competition.

     

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

  64.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Useless IP laws

    Ah, but according to a Libertarian (which I am not), a monopoly is when there is a sole use of something. In this case, only "Coca-Cola" has the use of the name "Coca-Cola," and that use is mandated by trademark law, law created to prevent unfair competition which has also served the public policy goal of reducing consumer confusion.

    Coca-Cola is even more of a monopoly than many other trademarks. Because of the "famous name" portion of trademark law, the consumer confusion aspects have been muted in favor of unfair competition. Coca-Cola has become so famous that any usage of "Coca-Cola" immediately evokes one company. Therefore, it is close to impossible for there to be a non-infringing use, which thus means that Coca-Cola has a virtually absolute monopoly over the name.

    As for the market, Coca-Cola claims clothing, an array of decorations, advertising, ad infinitum. Their "markets" are extremely broad considering they started life as a carbonated beverage.

     

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

  65.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2009 @ 11:36am

    Re: New IP Law idea

    Good, so now you want to deny them the right to make money, they need to invest a bunch of money, and then hope the drug works out and can be used on the public. If not, they lose the money, and if they are right, they only get the R&D on this drug back before the generic guys can make it without risk?

    Wow. I suspect you have never run your own business (or graduated grade 8 for that matter).

     

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

  66.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2009 @ 7:46am

    Oh, a Nobel Prize Winner. We must abandon all thought in this appeal to authority!

    Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize Winner, also said that Vitamin C prevented cancer. Linus Pauling died of ... cancer. Nobel Prize winners are not perfect.

    Granted, politicians and lobbyists have almost negative informational content, but let's not reach for lousy debate tactics in an attempt to support your point.

     

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

  67.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2009 @ 8:38am

    Re:

    lol...That was my point earlier. Getting an endorsement from a Nobel prize winner about intellectual property is about like getting an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey regarding the president. Her endorsement may be interesting, but what makes her opinion all that relevant?

     

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

  68.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2009 @ 1:40pm

    Scientists are often full of shit, it's true. But not nearly as full of shit as you are.

    The funny thing is the person you responded to made his point with real world, historical examples whereas you were content to mud-sling.

    You are a disservice to your own agenda. Keep up the good work!

    Oh noes! Innovation! What will we have next? Multiple companies selling blood pressure medication, anti-depression drugs, and more than one pain reliever in your pharmacy? IP minimalists would make us think that there would only be one of each and that would be that, but reality says that is very, very far from the truth.

    Indeed.

    IP monopolies do not negate competition. On the contrary, there is lots of competition inside every IP-based industry despite all the requisite monopolies. At it's core, it's "little monopolies" competing with other "little monopolies" rather than a single, market-owning, behemoth crushing everyone underfoot (as the "But mommy I waaaant it!" freemunists would have you believe).

    ps.. Alfred Nobel had 355 patents to his name.

    hahaha, what a perfect little factoid in the context of this thread.

     

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

  69.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2009 @ 2:42pm

    Re:

    Got to wonder what Alfred Nobel would think of the current intellectual property destructionist attitude?

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This