50 Years Of Scientific Discovery & Sharing In Antarctica May End Thanks To Patent Greed

from the patents-against-peace dept

For the past 50 years, 47 countries have been a part of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which was used to establish Antarctica as a peaceful science outpost where scientists from many nations could work together and share their discoveries. And it may now all be coming to an end. Why? Because (as Will Klein alerts us) all this discovery and sharing is going on mostly without patenting! This has greatly upset a bunch of companies who want to hoard any such discoveries and want to be able to patent "Antarctic organisms or molecules." Beyond the rather serious question of why either organisms or molecules can be patented, this is a microcosm of what's wrong with patents. Patents are supposed to be used to encourage research (promoting the progress, remember). And this treaty has done a great job promoting progress without patents. As the article notes, products already "derived from Antarctica include dietary supplements, anti-freeze proteins, anti-cancer drugs, enzymes and cosmetic creams." In other words, all of that happened mostly without patents. The only reason to break up this treaty, stop the sharing, and start allowing patents is to slow down the discovery, hoard the results and limit the progress to single companies who get a monopoly on that work.
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Filed Under: antartica, discovery, patents, science, sharing


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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 6 Feb 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Re: You Have Misrepresented the Article

    Please re-read the article. It does not say that all these discoveries are taking place "without any patenting." See the following quote:

    Fair enough. Changed it to read *mostly* without patenting. Otherwise, why would companies be so aggressive in trying to kill off this treaty?

    Perhaps none of this commercial research would be conducted without the patent system, which provides a pwoerful incentive for research.

    As we've pointed out in the past, we've yet to see a single piece of evidence that shows patents are a powerful incentive for research. We've shown they're a powerful incentive to divert resources into a monopoly, but that is not the same thing. The evidence has shown, time and time again, that patents DECREASE the pace of innovation and increase information hoarding.

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