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), 8 Feb 2009 @ 9:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Lonnie,

    I certainly agree that many companies will focus on trade secrets, but as more open business models find success, they'll discover that it goes against their best interests.

    Also, the fact that trade secrets would increase in response to an abolishment of patents is rather meaningless. Of course it would, because those who formerly got patents would *try* to use trade secrets. That doesn't mean it would succeed, of course. In many of those cases, it will quickly be reverse engineered, such that the trade secrets are meaningless.

    Anyway, I'm not sure I get your point about macro vs. micro here anyway. Macro and micro are not mutually exclusive. Micro can focus on the individual actions of a company, while macro discusses the whole system. If we're deciding which system is the best, we should be using the macro perspective, but if we want to understand *why* something is happening, then we look at the micro perspective.


    Mike, there is some merit to your viewpoint about expanding knowledge and markets, but you cannot change the instinctual behavior of people. People will always defer to being protective of their territory or their knowledge.


    On this, I have to vehemently disagree. We're seeing every day businesses that are much more open using that to defeat more closed businesses. Yes, it's mostly in the tech space right now, but it will spread as more recognize the benefits of openness.

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