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.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: antartica, discovery, patents, science, sharing


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 7 Feb 2009 @ 3:25pm

    Re: Re: Open-Minded & Other Things

    I am intrigued by the interplay between patent and trade secret law.

    I've discussed this with you in the past -- and I tend to find it to be a red herring. Companies are discovering today that relying on trade secrets is also a *bad* business practice.

    So they can try, but they'll be eclipsed by companies that are more open, and this problem is not a problem at all.

    Where he and I happen to differ is that I believe the sources upon which he relies are flawed in numerous, fundamental respects, the consequence of which is that they neither prove nor disprove anything

    There are certainly some studies that have flaws. But on my desk alone, I have a stack of nearly 70 different studies on this issue (mostly patents, a few IP in general, some copyright, some other IP rights). Some have flaws -- certainly. But as you go through the evidence, it's impossible to not realize how harmful to society IP has been.

    Again, that doesn't mean that we should throw the whole thing out. But I think that if you are going to have IP, you NEED to show the market failure first to prove the need for it. No one has done so.

    I'm very much against any time of gov't interference without evidence of market failure. My whole problem with the IP regime is that no one wants to present any such evidence.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.