kal at cs.toronto.edu
Wed Jul 31 01:41:07 EDT 2002
On Tue, 30 Jul 2002, Tom Trottier wrote:
> What would happen if there were no patents?
Who knows. Patent rights and applicability have expanded over the years
and it hasn't done us much good. Let's start shrinking them slowly and
stop when we find a happy place. Maybe we can eventually find a world
where we don't need patents to reward innovation.
> Would there be as many clinical trials of drugs and applications for
We would certainly have less drugs for sexual dysfunction and weight loss.
Meanwhile, the death toll mounts. And those who believe in compulsory
licensing, or weaker intellectual property laws for drugs in developing
countries, like to cite the case of Jonas Salk, the inventor of the
polio vaccine. As the ancient scourge of polio was rolled back by his
vaccine 50 years ago, Salk was asked why he never took a patent out on
the medicine -- a patent that would have made him wildly rich. "There is
no patent," he replied. "Could you patent the sun?"
I can't help but feel the rest of these questions basically assume
monopoly grants are the only way to get innovation. I do not accept that.
We've seen with software that people do not need a monopoly on copying to
be motivated to write innovative and useful software. We've seen with the
polio vaccine and many other medicines that people do not need a monopoly
on producing the medicine to be motivated to discover them.
Innovators, scientists, and researchers, should do what they do best and
be rewarded for it. If a marketeer can market some innovation in an
effective way, they should be able to do that. If an industrialist can
mass produce an innovation inexpensively and with high quality then they
should be able to do that, too. We just need to find a business model for
all this to happen. We don't even need it today. We can slowly shrink
monopoly rights and see which new business models are successful.
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