Saturday, April 09, 2005

Patenting to Curb Innovation

I picked up this article ("Patent [Amendment] Ordinance: A Blow Against Science & Public Health" by Rajesh Ramakrishnan, in Breakthrough Vol II No.1 March 05) from a posting in one of the maillists.

The article highlights the following issues:

  • The dangers of amending the Patent Act to include Product Patents apart from the existing Process Patents are that if any product patent has a Unique Selling Proposition no one else can develop a similar product. For example: If a company develops a cure for AIDS can anyone else bring out another product for curing AIDS without patent infringement?

  • Patentability is determined by Money Power. The legal expenses to fight patent law suits run into astronomical figures. The big players in U.S.A. use this route to crush new entrants. There are countless cases on record where this has been done. This is in the country which is the Mother of free enterprise!

  • The benefits of Inventions go to Capital - not to the inventor who generally is a paid employee with the gold chain of a Secrecy Agreement round his neck. Are patents, therefore, the real driving force for individual creativity?

  • Patent laws do not bring about a lowering in prices. For example :The Bush Administration has justified the restrictions on importing cheaper drugs even from Canada as they may be spurious! He has a responsibility to protect the lives of the American people. Yet other countries are to open their doors to U.S. products!

  • The justification for patent protection was that it costs the pharmaceutical companies a lot of money to develop drugs. By outsourcing to India these costs have been drastically cut yet the patent protection has been increased several fold. India doesn't benefit by this research as the patent stands in the name of the MNC, but Indians have to pay for the higher priced drugs. The same applies to Clinical Testing & Research outsourced to India by the MNCs.

  • Prescription drugs are several orders of magnitude more costly than the basic chemicals needed to cure an illness. This is on the plea that they prevent side effects. The basic drugs for AIDS cost a fraction of the patented drugs. These are being blocked from being supplied to the poor countries suffering from the scourge of AIDS.

  • Co-opetition, exchange of information, reverse engineering are the routes to innovation & cost reduction. These are being blocked by the Patent Amendment Bill under pressure from the affluent countries who have rightly seen the threats from the developing countries where the Power of Knowledge is on the ascendant.
  • 1 comment:

    mathai said...

    Nice article. I particularly liked the one about curbing innovation. Once the guy invents something, it belongs to the company and he has little information to continue innovation. Thankfully, such innovations get outdated soon and there will always be a forward march of the human spirit. The classic case is that of PKZip, which became popular only because it released its algorithm to the public.