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, 7 Feb 2009 @ 9:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How fortunate that the article is objective...

    Mr. Holder,

    Your contributions here and at Against Monopoly are in my view quite quite valuable, particularly due in part to your propensity to perform independent research before submitting a comment. Attempting to ascertain what is really going on, and not slavishly relying on headlines and incomplete, perhaps inaccurate, statements presented in an article is to be commended.

    Sadly, it appears that far too many who comment here are unprepared to roll up their sleeves and do the extensive grunt work necessary to form an intellectually honest opinion. It seems they are inclined to accept pronouncements of law and fact at face value, and then express their opinions with vitriolic vigor.

    The pespective you bring I find to be both refreshing and highly informative. While it may not change others' opinions, it at least should give them pause for concern that perhaps some of these issues are much more nuanced than they have hitherto believed.

    I thank you for your consistently well articulated comments. Perhaps your approach may encourage others to follow your lead. If they did the discussions on this site would be much more beneficial to all who read it.

    Michael L. Slonecker
    Windermere, FL 34786

    P.S. If you search the web you will find few, if any, papers I have authored. There is a very good reason for this. First, I am not included to regurgitate yet another trite article on a legal issue/case that is being written about by others ad nauseum for what seems to be merely a filler for their CVs. Academics seem to be the worst offenders, but many in private and corporate practice are inclined to do the same. Second, much of my work has been directed at the margins of the law where I examine the assumtions and validity of "conventional wisdom". When representing clients I see no useful purpose to be served blithely publishing articles that can operate to the detriment of many clients, and oftentimes an entire industry, facing a common issue. I certainly do not tip my hand in poker, and believe it would be incredibly foolish to do so in many of the circumstances I face on a daily basis. Finally, I firmly believe my time is much better spent working closely with persons who actually create those things from which all of us benefit to understand the entirety of the process this site terms as "innovation.

    You will, however, find my name referenced in association with photography, my hobby and not my avocation (as much as at times I wish it was). Perhaps it will come as a surprise to some, but every photo I have uploaded to free stock photo sites such as SXC contain a notice that downloaders are absolutely free to do whatever they want with my photos, including doing nothing more than copying them and selling them for whatever they can get. The notice in my profile at SXC (I use the name "slonecker" provides:

    Please feel free to modify and/or use these uploads for any purpose whatsoever (commercial or personal, for-profit or not-for-profit, for print, for web, for "print on demand", for web templates for sale or distribution, for "whatever", etc.) You do not need to contact me before or after using an image, though a note is always appreciated if you have the opportunity to do so. Similarly, attribution is nice, but not necessary.

    See, even a copyright lawyer is able to recognize the benefits of "free". The payback for me is knowing that some people like them and use them in the most unusual of places. It is a "kick" to walk into a store of a national chain and see one of my photos being used, or having them appear in a television commercial, a catalog, etc.

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