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Biotech Patents The Almighty Buck Science

Biotech Report Says IP Spurs Innovation 126

Posted by timothy
from the complicated-incentives-and-disincentives dept.
ananyo writes "A report presented at the 2012 BIO International Convention in Boston, Massachusetts suggests that patents do not stifle progress when they occur at early phases of research, as some have suggested. Over the past decade, increases in patents have been matched by growth in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging economies. The strength of patent rights can be quantified in an index ranging from 0 (no patent rights) to 5 (very strong). Over time, the countries that U.S. biotech and pharmaceutical companies have invested in have moved up the IP barometer, the report (PDF) says."
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Biotech Report Says IP Spurs Innovation

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  • IP? (Score:5, Funny)

    by rossdee (243626) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @09:38AM (#40429127)

    Internet Protocol Spurs Innovation

  • by utkonos (2104836) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @09:39AM (#40429141)
    Let's all focus on software patents rather than all patents in general. The argument is much more cut and dry. If we focus all our energy on getting rid of software patents, I think it would be more beneficial than trying to reform all patent law. Once we've gotten rid of software patents, then we can move to reforming the patent law in regards to areas that are much more gray.
    • by KiloByte (825081) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @09:54AM (#40429249)
      Singling out software patents would be selfish -- let's fix this for everyone.
      • It isn't necessarily broken for everyone. In general, the ability to be rewarded for something you invent is a good thing.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Patents do not reward inventors, they reward bankers for exploiting the inventors.

          • Except for the fact that lots of inventors have and do profit from their patented inventions.

            • "Lots" in a 7.2 billion is easy. It isn't even close to "most", though. Usually people who invent work for big companies, who don't really have a need for patents anyway. Patents are supposed to give you some time to be the first to exploit your idea, thus avoiding some big corporation from leveraging their massive capital to beat you to the market. What happens is companies either employ the inventors, since they are the ones who have money for R&D, or buy the patents outright and them proceed to abuse

              • The argument is that those people are getting paid from a corporation, who takes the risk, and they wouldn't take that risk and provide laboratories if they didn't have patent protection.
                • Well, how would we know? Maybe farmers would. They now use those better* seeds for a reason - they are profitable. And the cost to develop is less than what they are being charged for them now, otherwise Monsanto would be broke. Would farmers mobilize and do it? I don't know. Possibly not. But lots of important political and economic justifications are built upon huge ifs, which I dislike because I agree too much with your signature. And given how much overhead those companies and executives (the ones that

                  • The way you find out is run a bunch of experiments, run the economy with patents for a while, then without patents for a while. Do it back and forth for a while and then you will learn.

                    Of course, it's too dangerous to do that kind of experiment with a trillion dollar economy, making economic changes when you don't know what will happen is dangerous. So you can try meta-experiments, interview people who innovate, try other methods to figure out what might happen. It's not as reliable, but better than nothi
                    • The problem I have with interviewing "people who innovate" is that it always gets you a biased sample. These "people" are actually the current successful corporations. They are innovating because they are profiting, which means they're doing fine with the current system. Odds are, then, that they will defend it. So I believe checking with these people is actually conterproductive when you're looking at ways to better legislation.

                      Also, the article states the correlation of stronger IP laws with bigger invest

                    • Obviously interviewing people who innovate is less than ideal. That was the point of half my previous post.

                      You might be right. Maybe innovation would not stifle if IP laws were completely absent. Or maybe it would completely stop innovation. How do you know?
                    • Well, both "somewhat good" and "somewhat bad" are "less than ideal". In case you meant the former, I expressed my belief that it, in fact, contitutes the latter.

                      As for your question, I don't know. I'm arguing only for a healthy dose of doubt, that I feel is underrepresented in the face of the ubiquitous discourse that IP laws are necessary for or foster innovation. I believe competition, by itself, already fosters plenty of innovation. Not that I think it's a valid comparison - it's only being made to eluci

                    • No, flipping the tub always brings unintended consequences. It's generally better to go with small, incremental improvements.

                      In my opinion, the lowest hanging fruit is to get rid of obvious patents. Sometimes it's hard to tell, but most software patents are obvious.
                    • There we fully agree. You don't have to flip it all of a sudden. By all means, give the baby time to adjust, just don't stop turning, is what I'd vote for. And starting with software patents seems only logical - even quite a bit of the software giants are fed up with them by now.

                    • You go slow, that way if there was something you didn't notice or consider earlier, then you can handle it or change back. Just like with refactoring, you don't make a huge refactoring all at once, that introduces bugs.
      • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @10:46AM (#40429635) Homepage Journal

        I don't think you could have typed that with a straight face, unless A: you simply don't understand copyright law and/or B: you have your own software patents.

        Software patents should NEVER have been approved. The first one submitted should have been laughed out of the building. All software is covered by one or more copyrights. No software should be covered by patent. End of story.

        • by jhoegl (638955)
          Copyright is just as blindly ignorant as patents for software.
      • Singling out software patents would be selfish -- let's fix this for everyone.

        Patents as such represent singling out one particular entity of the human thought process.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Singling out software patents would be selfish -- let's fix this for everyone.

        I disagree. Software is fundamentally different.

        The difference is that in 99.99% of cases, software patents are the result of very little research and development expenditures. When Amazon patented "one click purchase", there was essentially zero R&D expense to develop it -- it was basically one software engineer who made an obvious suggestion.

        In the pharmaceutical industry, they spend millions of dollars in development and testing for each individual drug. There, patents are an essential motivator f

        • If you can prove (to an independent auditor) that you spent $X in relevant R&D expenses to develop a non-obvious innovation

          Given how many drugs fail clinical trials for each drug that ends up marketed, how are you going to define relevance?

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        Don't break what you don't understand. Patents are necessary in most fields. They get abused, yes, but destroying them would do incalculable harm to many industries. Your cavalier "let's fix this for everyone!" attitude is horrifying and represents the worst trends in activism.

        • by darjen (879890)

          Hogwash. Destroying them would not do incalculable harm to many industries. Patent defenders such as yourself are the ones harming innovation.

          http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/against.htm [ucla.edu]

        • by Znork (31774) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @02:28PM (#40431265)

          Ignoring the monopoly right sleight of hand patents are just another transfer method. Like any tax and spend system, of course they're beneficial for the recepient and if the recipient was the only party to the equation we could just hike taxes and spend on everyone and everything.

          But patents and taxes are not free. They already do harm to everyone else by the funds they transfer to the beneficiaries. So the question becomes, do we gain as a whole by taking from everyone else and giving to the patent holders? Do we gain more by giving monopoly rights than we would by outright state funding?

          There are strong indications that IP rights are far less efficient than even the absolutely worst run government programs in existence. For the money transferred to pharmaceuticals not even 20% are spent on actual R&D, while twice that falls under their marketing budgets. That suggests we'd get far more R&D if we junked patents and created research funds tied to actual research. Basically any system would beat patents. In any and all industries.

        • All this shows is the biotech patents spur biotech companies, not more actual biotech.
        • No, they aren't. Of course they are very good for whoever holds them, but they are by no means necessary to anything. As they are now, they basically enable cartels and racketeers. Without them, enterprise would be a lot freer. Yes, there would be lots of knock-offs, but if your product isn't better nor cheaper than the copies, why should anyone protect your greedy or incompetent ass?

          • It's not entirely clear that they're good for whoever holds them. IBM is the largest patent holder in the world; a statistical sample all by itself. One of the high up guys in IBM[1] claimed patents where 10x more valuable to IBM as defense against other companies suing them compared to licensing revenues. Another way to look at this is that if 10% of patents transfer to non-practicing entities (patent trolls), then patents are a net negative for IBM.

            And this ignore all indirect costs of patents on societ

      • Singling out software patents would be selfish -- let's fix this for everyone.

        One thing at a time. The surest way to make sure nothing gets done is to try to do it all at once. The one thing I can agree on with agile programming is the idea that you do the work in discrete stages because it works better than doing it all at once. If you're any kind of a computer nerd, you'll see and use the analogy. If you are merely spouting a politically correct dogma because it is so kumbaya good to be all inclusive, th

    • by Sun (104778) <shachar@shemesh.biz> on Sunday June 24, 2012 @11:22AM (#40429919) Homepage

      Let's keep it to patents that a reasonable engineer from the field cannot read. That is the situation with software. It is not, say, with pharmaceuticals. I don't know how it is with biotech.

      The moment a "patent editor" starts to pile on the claims and to obfuscate the language, that is the point in which you know that patents made the transition from a tool design to protect an inventor to a tool designed to block out competition.

      Shachar

    • by jez9999 (618189)

      Let's all focus on software patents rather than all patents in general. The argument is much more cut and dry.

      Is it? Care to explain why? The best it's been explained to me thus far is that software is just over of the "short" end of the "development lifecycle" spectrum, and so someone is much more likely to violate other patents that haven't yet expired when creating their new software. With hardware the same problem could in theory exist but because the development lifecycle is slower, you're less like

      • by utkonos (2104836) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @01:07PM (#40430709)
        The idea that software patents should not exist is based on the idea that all software is simply sets of algorithms. Therefore all software can be boiled down to mathematics: algorithms and formulas. According to commonly held ideas about patent law [legalmatch.com]: "You cannot patent a formula."

        Sorry, I posted this a sec ago as AC by accident.
        • The idea that software patents should not exist is based on the idea that all software is simply sets of algorithms. Therefore all software can be boiled down to mathematics: algorithms and formulas. According to commonly held ideas about patent law [legalmatch.com]: "You cannot patent a formula."

          But, similarly, you can reduce the gear ratios of a machine down to a mathematical algorithm, or describe the operation of an engine through abstract equations... Does that mean that machines and engines shouldn't be patentable? Of course not... The distinction is that you're not attempting to patent the machine or engine algorithms, but rather the hardware implementing the formula, right?
          But the same thing happens in software patents. We (and yes, I'm a patent attorney) don't patent the algorithm. As you

          • by utkonos (2104836)
            Well, I'm not pointing my finger at that type of patent. If it uses hardware, that's different. My problem is with patents on pure software. For example the patent on 1-click [wikipedia.org] at Amazon. That should not be patentable.
            • Well, I'm not pointing my finger at that type of patent. If it uses hardware, that's different. My problem is with patents on pure software. For example the patent on 1-click [wikipedia.org] at Amazon. That should not be patentable.

              From that patent:

              1. A method of placing an order for an item comprising:
              under control of a client system,
              displaying information identifying the item; and
              in response to only a single action being performed, sending a request to order the item along with an identifier of a purchaser of the item to a server system;
              under control of a single-action ordering component of the server system,
              receiving the request;
              retrieving additional information previously stored for the purchaser identified by the identifier in the received request; and
              generating an order to purchase the requested item for the purchaser identified by the identifier in the received request using the retrieved additional information; and
              fulfilling the generated order to complete purchase of the item
              whereby the item is ordered without using a shopping cart ordering model.

              That one includes hardware systems. While you could perform the underlying mathematical algorithm with a pad and pencil, you couldn't actually infringe the patent.

              • by utkonos (2104836)
                But that is the bullshit that I'm talking about. Everything uses a client system and a server. Tying the patentability to that is a load of horseshit ten miles deep.
                • But that is the bullshit that I'm talking about. Everything uses a client system and a server. Tying the patentability to that is a load of horseshit ten miles deep.

                  Respectfully, you're confusing two things. The fact that there's a client and server in the claims - hardware - makes the claims not purely a mathematical algorithm, and therefore are patent-eligible under Bilski and 35 USC 101. However, yes, everything uses a client system and server, so alone, those elements don't make it new (35 USC 102) or nonobvious (35 USC 103).

                  Basically, these are not drawn to software-only because of those elements, and therefore shouldn't be rejected as just math... But patentabil

              • by utkonos (2104836)
                Let me make it clear that, it doesn't matter. Software patents should be abolished. Allowing them to stand as foobar algorithm "on a computer" should NEVER be allowed.
          • by utkonos (2104836)
            Or this one [espacenet.com].
    • There is no such thing as a "software patent". There are a few entirely unrelated classes of patent that are lazily bundled together under the rubric of "software patent". A business method patent or "...on the Internet" or "...on a computer" patent are very different beasts from fundamental machinery or algorithm patents. From a patent policy and theory standpoint, these different cases are essentially unrelated.

      The lack of precision is part of the reason there is not a cohesive movement to reform patents

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Exactly : biomedical patents work more or less how they are supposed to work : a process is disclosed, a reasonable (but arguably a bit too long) exclusivity time is given to the filler. I wouldn't be against some enforced maximum margin on life-saving drugs, but well, I'm a heathen commie...

      What is funny is that biomed patent works well because most drugs are NOT inventions through ingeniousness : they are usually the result of thousands (millions ?) of test-and-fail procedures. A huge quantity of molecu
  • people invested in a broken system have enough to lose to profess faith in the broken system

    • Re:in related news (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @09:46AM (#40429193)

      I like your sig. I would only add that intellectual property is incoherent with nature. Nature is the best example of how ideas are copied, improved and discarded when they don't work anymore. The entire concept of intellectual property is an attempt to disregard a billion years of evolution.

      • Another fact of nature is that restrictions are stifling. Each patent is a restriction on all humanity except the one who was granted exclusive ownership.

        We're supposed to get something in exchange for that monster huge concession, something valuable enough to make it a good deal. What? Oh yeah, the idea. We receive an idea that at worst is not original and not great, in exchange for ... promising not to use that idea without permission for 17 years, for fear that might cheat great inventors out of on

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          Tabitha Babbitt [wikipedia.org] invented but did not patent the circular saw. The circular saw was put into immediate use. Recently, some inventors made a safety improvement they call SawStop [wikipedia.org]. No more fingers lost to accidents! This improvement is so rarely seen it may as well not exist. I have thought of getting one as a present for my father. He's old enough he may not be able to use a circular saw quite as safely as he once could. But I have never seen any portable saw with it. You'd think at least one of the major retailers of power tools and hardware would stock at least one saw with this feature, at least one major manufacturer would license the technology, but no. They couldn't come to an agreement. Worse, the establishment is trying to stifle it, as it is competition. While they fight, we must do without. That's not how the system is supposed to work!

          Unless you know of some failed negotiations that came down to licensing costs, I think you're jumping to conclusions. There may be valid business reasons why other manufacturers haven't jumped on board that have nothing to do with the licensing costs.

          Since the consumable brake cartridge alone costs $70 retail, the whole system including control board, actuators, etc may add $100 or more to the retail cost of a saw, which is a significant bump even on a $1500 table saw. Other manufacturers may not think that

          • by sjames (1099)

            All good points, but it is worth noting that part of the high price is due to patents. Without patents, either SawStop would lower prices to compete or someone else would design a competing system that was cheaper to implement or that had less false triggers.

            The general legal framework probably doesn't help either. I suspect a practical solution will be one where some injury occurs but the liklihood of a grievous injury goes way down. Consider, if the system brakes the blade 250 times slower, it becomes muc

            • by hawguy (1600213)

              All good points, but it is worth noting that part of the high price is due to patents. Without patents, either SawStop would lower prices to compete or someone else would design a competing system that was cheaper to implement or that had less false triggers.

              The general legal framework probably doesn't help either. I suspect a practical solution will be one where some injury occurs but the liklihood of a grievous injury goes way down. Consider, if the system brakes the blade 250 times slower, it becomes much easier to accomplish. In that time, you will likely do enough damage to need the ER for stitches but you're still much less likely to lose a finger than with a non-braking saw.

              Alas, that would leave you open to every ambulance chaser who figures the injury shouldn't have happened at all.

              Or, without patents, Mr Sawstop may never have been able to bring his product to market at all, since no one would invest thousands of dollars in R&D if the company down the street could just copy it for free. And since that other company hadn't spent all of the money developing prototypes and refining the design, they could undercut Sawstop's pricing.

              So not having patents becomes a disincentive to bringing products to market - you come up with the idea, spend lots of money making it into a commercial p

              • by sjames (1099)

                Given the practical lack of SawStop on the market, I hardly see where it would have made a difference. Perhaps he's allowed the whole patent thing to lead him down a blind alley.

          • You may be right that SawStop may be too expensive to be worthwhile, or not feasible for hand saws. There may be better ways to prevent accidental finger amputations.

            But we should take patents out of the equation. We don't know if the main reason this innovation is not available to the public is the expense, or failed patent licensing negotiations, or something else. If patents didn't exist, didn't add so much friction to the process of bringing an invention to the public, didn't raise the barriers eve

    • Re:in related news (Score:5, Informative)

      by ATMAvatar (648864) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @09:56AM (#40429261) Journal

      The entire premise of the article is that patents == innovation, and thus, more patents indicate more innovation. As an example, the article mentions that:

      Similarly, after Taiwan instituted a rule about IP based on government-funded findings, the Bayh-Dole Act, university patenting increased by 354% between 2004 and 2009.

      Clearly, the increase was due to an acceleration of innovative research and not because of an act that made previously un-patentable research now available for patents.

    • Why are you so sure that it's a broken system? The huge explosion of innovation and new technology during the patent era (ditto for art under copyright era) is not enough for you?

      • by darjen (879890)

        How are you so sure we wouldn't have ended up with better technology than we have today without patents?

        Your post is just another variation of Bastiat's "seen and unseen."

      • by sirlark (1676276)

        Patents in some form or another have existed for centuries. In the middle ages, they were called guilds, and they did anything BUT increase innovation. Also, you ignore two very important confounding variables: widespread minimum levels of public education, and a general increase in inflation adjusted terms of worldwide wealth. Artistic output hasn't increased because of copyrights, it's increased because more people can afford to patronize artists, and more artists can make a living. It wouldn't matter if

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2012 @09:45AM (#40429189)

    American companies insist on having rights! The fact that they are getting those rights does not mean the rights are doing anyone any good. In fact the pharmaceutical industry is in trouble because they've been leaning on their patents instead of doing basic research. Now the patents are expiring and the companies have nothing else to offer. In that light, the patent system is doing tremendous harm.

  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @09:50AM (#40429221)
    My understanding is that patents covering genes themselves have stifled innovation. For example BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes for breast cancer patented by Myriad. Technically Myriad patented the method for discovering these genes; however, they have been using this patent to stifle genetic research.
  • by CobaltBlueDW (899284) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @09:57AM (#40429279)

    Bank report says,"Banks are awesome!"

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @10:05AM (#40429339) Journal

    I kid you not (I read TFA). At least the have a good acronym (BIO).

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      Wait... so you are telling what? What's next? The RIAA or MPAA supporting a study on how copyright has spured artists' creativity? Oh wait ....
  • IP just spurs IP.
    Maybe innovation spurs IP, but the inverse is a lie.

    When the finality of a system becomes the system itself, there is something wrong.
    It's like bureaucracy, which leads to more bureaucracy.

    How can we simplify the whole IP system ?

  • "patents do not stifle progress when they occur at early phases of research,"

    especially when they are derived from materials discovered by aboriginals in their own land thousands of years prior to the invention of the notion of intellectual property, and can then be "propertised" through the application of the rapacious maw of industrialism. "Progress" continues while profits are made, wealth is extracted, and the biosphere erased. Yes, progress. It smells like victory.

  • by gavron (1300111) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @10:17AM (#40429425)

    This pro-ACTA pro-IP organization writes lots of so-called white-papers.
    This is one more of the same.

    Think of them as a lobbyist organization for the pro-IP side of the world
    including Big Pharma and Microsoft: http://www.pugatch-consilium.com/?page_id=580 [pugatch-consilium.com]

    Here's their list of publications which includes pro-ACTA stuff:
    http://www.pugatch-consilium.com/?page_id=590 [pugatch-consilium.com]

    This isn't news. It's more astroturfing by the "IP is Awesome" side of the world."
    There's a reason that Microsoft and Big Pharma pays these guys. This paper is one such.

    E

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @10:22AM (#40429457)

    Over time, the countries that U.S. biotech and pharmaceutical companies have invested in have moved up the IP barometer

    So it's not patents that help the growth of biomedical research, but American biotech companies help the growth of patents (either by lobbying or US pressure).

    • by transporter_ii (986545) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @11:07AM (#40429779) Homepage

      by John Perkins. If you haven't seen it, it is worth seeing (or reading, because there is a book). We go to them and make them an offer they can't refuse: in this pocket, there is enough money to make you and your family wealthy; in this pocket there is a gun...what's it going to be?

      For some reason, America has a strong desire to make the rest of the world "like us." Our foreign policy mirrors that. First we attempt to buy them off. If that doesn't work, we shoot them.

      True freedom means that people are free to make their own choices, for better or for worse. Luckily, the US will step in to make sure everyone makes the right choice...and you better bet your life the right choice is that everyone ends up looking just like us.

    • Over time, the countries that U.S. biotech and pharmaceutical companies have invested in have moved up the IP barometer

      So it's not patents that help the growth of biomedical research, but American biotech companies help the growth of patents (either by lobbying or US pressure).

      Pretty much. I am a patent attorney, and I don't believe IP stifles innovation, but I agree that this report is somewhat circular: "increased patent filings don't stifle innovation, and we can prove this through the increased filing of patents."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 24, 2012 @10:25AM (#40429485)

    "patents do not stifle progress when they occur at early phases of research"

    Implies that they do stifle progress later on.
    Perception is at play here.
    Investors simply want to know that they will control the market; no competition, easy profit.
    This is the ONLY thing patents do if you speak of progress.
    But once entrenched, those interests will do whatever it takes to dominate and control.
    Patents either need to go away completely or be very limited.
    But unfortunately the destructive power of greed will not allow people to "limit" patents.
    So what is the solution?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Specifically, Torstensson says that over the past decade, increases in patents have been matched by growth in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging economies (see ‘Number of biotechnology patents filed under PCT, 1977–2009).

    Number of patent filings is a lagging indicator of sector growth. It does not necessarily aid growth itself, but rather is a consequence, like higher pollution emissions in industrializing regions.

    • I don't know how one could spin things more.

      After Brazil equalized its pharmaceutical patents to the international standards (by the 90's) all brazilian pharmaceutical companies that had exclusive products got broken and were sold to multinationals. The research increased in volume because those multinational spend more, but the results are clearly lacking.

      Also, the only pharmaceutical industries that grow here nowadays are the ones producing generics, framing that as a victory of patents is, well, absurd d

  • by Afecks (899057) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @10:43AM (#40429617)

    There are two separate questions:

    1. Is intellectual property justified?

    2. Does intellectual property promote creative works?

    Regardless of the answer to the second question, the answer to the first question is "no". Threatening to imprison or kill individuals, which is what all laws ultimately are, is unjustified. No, we don't deserve everything for free. Yes, it's immoral to derive value from someone's hard work without compensation. But immoral does not equal illegal. The government should, at most, be using its monopoly on violence to protect people and their property. Using violence, locking people in cages, destroying their lives, killing them, just to promote something that would exist anyways, is asinine and barbaric.

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @11:30AM (#40430009)

      I guess you don't understand the differences between civil and criminal law very well.

  • Of course it spurs innovation.

    It's attracted many billions of dollars of private investment into R&D on biotech all over the world. Without the ability to recover that investment because of protection of the results of the research there would be no biotech industry to speak of.

  • Bad stats, bad! (Score:3, Informative)

    by pubwvj (1045960) on Sunday June 24, 2012 @11:05AM (#40429749)

    A correlation does not a causation make.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So a report commissioned by a convention that is sponsored by some of the largest biotech corps finds that rules which favor biotech corps' ability to lock in revenue streams without reinvesting and restricts smaller researchers ability to advance existing work to a new level are good? That sees so unlikely to happen, I'm shocked.

  • The problem with claiming "innovation" in the pharmaceutical industry is that they can easily bypass existing patents simply by tweaking the processes or non-essential ingredients in creating a drug to make it just different enough to claim it as a different product. That doesn't really help society at all. The rate of discoveries of "high social value" has not risen significantly in the presence of patents. See Boldrin & Levine: "Against Intellectual Monopoly", Chapter 9.

  • Over the past decade, increases in patents have been matched by growth in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging economies.

    In other words:
    1. Over the past decade growth in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors has been observed in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging economies.
    2. Over the past decade increases in patents in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging economies.

    I would guess these new companies that grew over the past decade in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging econom

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      other than that, they're counting success as number of patents - not by illnesses cured, not by access to cures being spread to more people.

      and the growth we would have if there were no patents isn't considered at all. if we didn't have patents, all the research would be useful - now it's only "useful" if someone else didn't yet patent it.

    • by arose (644256)
      The biotech industry confirms that the biotech industry currently engages in best practices as clearly evidenced by growth in growing economies! Stay are best practices tuned for out next segment where Monsanto has a stunning announcement about the ecological impact of Roundup.
  • We all know that patents, in their original spirit, would be great for innovation. They help encourage inventors to invest significant up-front time, money, and other resources into development, because they know that the legal system provides them an imporant aid to getting a positive return on their investment. And so the fact that some report says that some patents in certain fields have aided innovation is redundant.

    The problem that we're all on about is that the patent SYSTEM is rife with ABUSE, beca

    • Unless of course you think that patents are a fundamentally flawed idea. To develop a system that would encourage innovation, you would need to have a strong grasp on psychology, economics, game theory, and a number of other fields to understand the complexities of the various effects such a system would have. We are probably at least decades away from even hoping to be able to create such a system, and the patent system as we pretty much know it today predated anything remotely modern in those fields. H
      • by Theovon (109752)

        The fact is, whenever someone invents something cool, if they don't have some kind of legal protection, then someone else will come along and make a cheap knock-off. See many TiVos around? They spent R&D money developing the DVR market, and then they basically get run out of business because other companies made their cheaper (and generally much crapper) versions. That isn't exactly great encouragement for companies to invest time and money into developing new technologies. And despite what some peo

        • I agree that really good innovation doesn't pop out of a vacuum. It comes from ideas from many different people crossbreeding and evolving into better ideas. Restricting the ability of ideas to 'have sex' through legal restrictions slows their evolutionary process.

          Also, Tivo's not a really good example. First of all, much of the underlying technology already existed, and it appears that ReplayTV developed very similar technology concurrent. We had digital video and methods of converting analog to dig
  • I'm involved in an very early stage startup. Having protected IP is almost an essential component of a startup in the medical industry for two reasons:

    1) Funding -- many investors (angel and VC) won't fund projects that don't have patents (submitted or otherwise).
    2) Competitive edge -- A big name company could see what you're doing, take the idea and invest huge resources to make it faster than you could. Then you're done.

    For an established company, protected IP is not really a big deal. But for a small sta

    • You are saying that within industries the patent system affects, having patents is important, not that the patent system itself is important.

      1) Funding -- many investors (angel and VC) won't fund projects that don't have patents (submitted or otherwise).

      A major component of that is that patents are useful for countersuits. If you don't have patents, you may be sued. However, if nobody has patents, then that is not an issue

      2) Competitive edge -- A big name company could see what you're doing, take the ide

  • Instead of "patents spurs innovation", the conclusion might be that within the current system "innovation spurs patents" and "patents spurs more patent laws".
  • Don't India and other not-fully-co-operating-with-American-IP-law countries use American medical patents to produce cheap knock-offs? India still has getting on a billion potential customers without exporting
  • Over the past decade, increases in patents have been matched by growth in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging economies.

    The way I read it: biotech growth has kept up with IP growth DESPITE the harm IP does to the industry.

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