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 @ 3:20pm

    Re: Open-Minded & Other Things

    The ones I find most disturbing and ignorant are those claiming that "the system is broke and needs abolished." If the system is broken based on a few abuses, then democracy is broken and must be abolished, for similar abuses are occurring in our political system. However, no one is saying we should abolish democracy. Rightfully so.

    Well, I am not one who is convinced that the system needs to be abolished (despite what some people claim), but I'd argue that you are being unfair to at least some of those who do support abolishment. They are not saying "oh, the system is broken, let's abolish it" they are saying if you look at *all* of the evidence, it shows a pretty clear trend not that the system is broken, but that the entire concept of providing gov't granted monopolies is broken, leads to a smaller economic pie, and does tremendous harm. That's why they believe the system should be abolished.

    I'm willing to be convinced that there is a benefit to IP, but I have yet to see anything convincing.

    I believe -- quite strongly -- that if you are going to remove market forces and have the gov't get involved in cases of market failure, that it is incumbent upon those pointing to the market failure to first PROVE the market failure. To date, I have seen no convincing evidence of a market failure that requires intellectual property. There are broad claims, but the evidence destroys those claims at every turn.

    I am especially troubled by the fact that both the patent and copyright system are designed to *assume market failure in all cases*. That's deeply troubling to me on an economic and moral basis. I'd be all for a system that encourages developing IF there is evidence of a market failure. But the assumption that there must be a market failure in the absence of IP is clearly untrue.

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