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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Feb 2009 @ 8:45pm

    "governments are trying to end a dispute over a surge in company patents on life in the continent."

    Interesting, except that this statement is not attributed by the correspondent to anyone associated with the upcoming meeting of treaty members. It seems, based upon the contents of the article, that the only who sees a "dispute" is the correspondent. As Mr. Holder has noted, the pricipals associated with this matter appear to want to talk among themselves to see if there even is a problem.

    Let me be frank. I am neither a copyright nor patent apologist. I am, however, an attorney who has devoted over 30 years of time to examine and understand the many aspects of the law of which you speak so derisively. It is not the fact you have opinions that is troubling, it is that you express your opinions in ways where you broach no contrary views or take even a moment to try and understand nuances that may place a given situation is a slightly different perspective. You say you have closely studied the law and are very well familiar with what it says, yet you continually make comments that clearly contradict what you say. It is not that I disagree with you having opinions. It is that you present your opinions in a manner wherein you hold yourself out as an expert on the law, but when those who are expert say something with which you happen to disagree, your modus operandi is to go on the attack and simply label them as either uninformed or biased or worse.

    You declare every patent you look at as obvious. You decry the stifling of innovation by a system that you seem to believe is repugnant. When challenged you resort to a laundry list of "research" that you repeatedly assert proves you are right and the commenter is wrong. When other research is brought to your attention that may (note, "may" and not "does") contradict your sources, the individual is declared misinformed, devoid of any knowledge of even basic economics, and an apologist for a system of law you palpably dislike. What is especially troubling is that whenever such research is noted and cited, the dialogue ends with nary a comment from you.

    The other day I read yet another, all too predictable, article pertaining to copyright law. You declared that an item being "transformative", then all further inquiry was over because under your understanding of law that was dispositive. No attorney, academic or practitioner, versed in copyright law, certainly neither Mr. Lessig, Mr. Patry, Mr. Nimmer, etc., would ever make such a declaration because it is simply incorrect.

    Attorneys like myself who read your articles are impressed with your mastery of economics and constant search for new ways of doing business. Yes, technology is changing many of the old rules and does need to be embraced. However, the fact that some individuals may choose a path you deem sub-optimal is no good reason to call them uninformed and "buggy whip" makers. I still reel at the thought of the totally inappropriate comments directed some months back towards an individual who pursues as his avocation the design of creative fonts. Your view was quite simple. Once something goes digital, any attempt to try and preserve one's livelihood in a manner other than what you deem is correct means that the person is a fool. No allowances are made for such a person's opinions or circumstances, and that mitigating/ameliorating factors are simply irrelevant.

    You are a bright young man, but I daresay that as time goes by you will come to the realization that what seemed so "right" at the time is not quite so cut and dry. I urge you to hold firm to your opinions, but do not believe in them so unerringly that you pass by situations and opportunities that may cause you to rethink them. A phrase I was taught many years ago was to not "get drunk on your own wine". Keep it in mind and it will hold you in good stead.

    As a final aside, and your views to the contrary notwithstanding, in the days of Jefferson and the other so-called "Founding Fathers", the term "progress" signified the dissemination of information. To say that progress can only be measured via economics misses by a wide margin the underpinnings of Article 1, Clause 8, Section 8 of the US Constitution. See, e.g., Madison's Detached Memoranda, Jefferson's letter as detailed in Mr. Boyle's book "The Public Domain", Adams' record of the Constitutional Convention proceedings, the treatises by Messrs. Nimmer and Patry, the work by Mr. Mossoff, etc. While there can be nibbling at the margins as is always the case among legal scholars, the substance of each in largely in agreement.

    If I may ask a small favor. Please do not view this as yet another insult because this is most certainly not my intent. I am commenting solely to make the point that there is much to be learned from persons holding other points of view, and that thoughtful consideration of them is immeasurably beneficial for a more informed and complete understanding of the many issues of law you write about.

    Thank you for affording me the opportunity to better understand other viewpoints. I agree with some, disagree with others, but feel quite confident that I have acquired a more informed perspective.

    BTW, it is not that I "hide" behind a wall of anonymity, but that I have configured by browser to clear all history, temporary internet files, cookies, etc. each time I close my browser. Frankly, it is laziness on my part that keeps me from filling in the boxes above before commenting. Since I choose not to hide my IP address, it is clear my browser preferences as noted above do not hide my identity from you. This is as it should be.

    M. Slonecker

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