Joe Mullin has another excellent article looking at an important ongoing patent lawsuit, Prometheus Laboratories v. Mayo Collaborative Services, which looks at whether or not certain medical tests can be patented
. As Mullin notes, it's a situation where patent system believers find themselves diametrically opposed to doctors, who feel patents on such things are a serious problem and harming patient health. Once again, what you see is a single entity trying to block out competition in an effort to gain monopoly rents, even if people are harmed in the process by not being able to get or afford important medical tests. And the biggest concern (especially among medical professionals) is the idea that you can patent counting something that occurs in nature:
"The patents are based on observations of the laws of nature," says David Herbert, chief administrative officer for Mayo Medical Laboratories. "We chose to make a stand." Such "observational" patents increase costs, slow innovation, and worsen patient care, he says. "It doesn't allow the test to be performed close to the bedside, and there's no ability to have second opinions."
The lawsuit is in the appeals court right now -- with a current ruling that the patents aren't valid for merely observing nature, though an earlier summary judgment found the other way. Still, this isn't just some random discussion on patents and copying. Lives are at stake, and doctors are pissed off at the ridiculousness of the situation:
"Physicians have longstanding obligations to advance and share useful medical knowledge with patients and physicians." Patents on basic scientific principles "threaten to stifle innovation and raise the costs of medical treatment." And claiming exclusive rights to "scientific facts," such as the correlation that Prometheus purports to own, actually harms research and personalized medicine rather than helping it, the doctors argue.
Hopefully the court realizes how dangerous
such patents are for society (beyond just being ridiculous) and rejects them.