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
    Lonnie E. Holder, 7 Feb 2009 @ 6:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Open-Minded & Other Things

    Mike:

    Re trade secrets: Why is this a "bad" business practice? I am aware of a heat treat company that has a really cool process for heat treating that, to the best of my knowledge, is unknown to anyone else. Yes, they treat the process as a trade secret.

    I know another company that has a finishing process for certain of their components the generate a superior performance to the performance of any of their competitors. This process has been a trade secret for a long time and will continue to be so for as long as no one can figure out the important feature and how it is achieved.

    I am also familiar with an optical company that has a superior process for polishing that yields incredible results that are an extremely closely held trade secret. They charge a premium price for their components, which are highly regarded and valued in the laser industry.

    Why are any of these "bad" business practices? These companies have superior products and are able to charge more for their products. They have no lack of customers who need the performance that these processes provide.

    I have to assume that if I know of three such trade secrets, all of which have survived for more than a decade, than there must be dozens or hundreds more.

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