South Africa Considers Potentially Requiring Patents On Publicly Funded Research

from the say-what-now? dept

I missed this story from a few weeks ago, but one of our readers, going by the name of bikey, alerts us to a proposal in South Africa, that would potentially require patents on certain publicly funded research. While this seems totally backwards for any number of reasons (and many of us believe that publicly funded research should be available to the public since they paid for it), apparently some are concerned that "foreign multinationals" might "misappropriate" the research. So, even if a university and the researcher choose not to protect the research results with IP, if a government body determines that the results could have commercial viability, it would have the ability to control the rights. Amusingly, those supporting this proposal claim it will help "facilitate tech transfer." Actually, it does the opposite, because it puts limits and a tollbooth in the way -- but why let that get in the way.

The article notes (phew) that there's significant opposition to the proposal -- especially from researchers who are greatly troubled by the fact that researchers may have no say in whether or not their research is "protected," and how it may do serious harm to "open" research initiatives and idea sharing -- which, by the way, have been shown to increase the pace of innovation. The article also does a good job highlighting how the focus on patenting university research in the US has done more harm than good, by decreasing openness, slowing down the pace of innovation and causing universities to spend tons of money on "tech transfer offices" that get too focused on trying to lock up every idea a professor has. All in all, this proposal sounds dreadful. Who would support it? Well, at the end of the article, they indicate Microsoft is a big fan. Anyway, since the article is from a few weeks ago, it would be great to know if there's been any update on this. Anyone have any info on whether this proposal is going anywhere?
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Filed Under: patents, research, south africa


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  1. identicon
    Free, 26 Jun 2009 @ 2:33pm

    Patent doesn't mean it's not

    I mean, all a patent really means is that you need a license to use it. That doesn't mean you can't grant that license freely. There are plenty of technologies that have this and even a free patent association that allows it as well.

    I don't think it's a bad thing for work done by public money to be protected by a patent. I work for a government and have seen lots of cases where a government idea gets put in a tech data package, supplied to a contractor, and then the contractor makes a small change and files for a patent.

    Despite prior art, this usually guarentees the contractor a soul source

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