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), 7 Feb 2009 @ 12:21pm


    Mr. Slonecker,

    I'm sorry you feel that way and I'm sorry you feel that I dismiss these ideas out of hand. I do not. I take these ideas very seriously, but I *have* been studying these issues for a long time, and if someone brings up an idea that *is* clueless then I will say so.

    I saw this post today from Mark Potts concerning journalists, and I feel the same way:

    http://recoveringjournalist.typepad.com/recovering_journalist/2009/02/welcome-to-the-ageold- debate.html

    People come and bring up poorly thought out arguments that were proven wrong ages ago -- and so I say so.

    As for the other stuff that you accuse me of doing, I would suggest that you are more guilty of almost every one. You have been rude, condescending, dismissive (obnoxiously so, repeatedly) and not at all open to any new ideas... and you mostly do so anonymously, which I find to be particularly weak. Your excuse that you don't save cookies is hardly compelling. You write long posts. Is it that hard to put MLS in the name field?

    I do not, and have never, set myself up as an expert in the *law*, though I do take getting the points of law important correctly. I often run aspects of my posts by a group of IP lawyers that I know -- and they don't find many problems with them. My posts are my opinions, and I have always made that clear. They are not legal advice. It's not that I think all patents are obvious, but I tend to comment on the ridiculous patents that I find.

    So, yes, I do have an open mind. I have told you this before, but apparently you choose not to believe it. My position on these subjects now is quite different than it was when I started this. That's because I do keep an open mind and as the evidence has accumulated, I have changed my mind.

    But, if I get short with people, it's because they present already disproved ideas and they do not present themselves with an open mind at all. I would suggest that you are often in that crowd. You have shown, repeatedly, that when you are caught being incorrect on something that you lash out and insult people. You call people morally repugnant. You have insulted many readers here and have directed many personal insults at myself.

    Because of this we don't take you seriously at all. You don't like the tone in which I say things, but I do not insult YOU, I challenge you, your thoughts and your actions, because they are based on outdated ideas. Your response has to become belligerent, defensive and insulting.

    I'm sorry if you feel I have been like that, and I will try to avoid it in the future, but it's tiring to have to respond to the old silly ideas over and over again. Your insistence, for example, that it is morally correct to have everyone be WORSE off when everyone can be better off is particularly troubling to me.

    Your claims about "promoting the progress" are also incorrect and are taking my words out of context. I agree that they meant the dissemination of ideas. My point is that it has been PROVEN time and time again that the WAY in which you best and most widely disseminate ideas is through better economic growth. Economic growth is the conduit by which this works. And you are simply incorrect if you think that the "promote the progress" clause is not about economic progress. If it weren't, why would the entire purpose of the law be about setting up a system to remunerate the holders of such monopolies? It's about getting people paid. It's the recognition that the best way to disseminate ideas is to get people paid. The *mistake* was thinking that the best way to get people paid was to set up monopolies. It's an understandable mistake. At the time that the constitution was written, economic monopolies were still considered a good thing by many. The realization by Jefferson, Madison and others that they also cause harm was actually quite unique at the time -- and very forward thinking. However, today there is much more evidence on the harm done by monopolies, and I think it's important to focus on the best way to promote the progress -- and to date, all of the convincing evidence I have seen is that it's to reduce or get rid of such monopolies.

    I do not dismiss other evidence. I just have not seen any that is convincing. Lonnie has sent in some evidence that shows patents help *divert* money to a particular industry, but that is not convincing to me. That just means that other aspects of the economy are unfairly hurt by such things.

    So, I'm sorry that you feel I am dismissive of you or your ideas or the ideas of others. I am not. But if you are simply repeating silly myths and making dumb statements I will say so.

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