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Medicine Science

WHO: Intellectual Property Claims Hindering Research On Deadly Novel Coronavirus 121

Posted by Soulskill
from the soon-your-vaccines-will-have-protective-DRM dept.
New submitter kwyjibo87 writes "The World Health Organization (WHO) publicly expressed dismay yesterday concerning news that intellectual property claims were hindering research on a deadly new emerging virus. Novel coronavirus (nCoV), a member of the same viral genus as the causative agent of SARS, has claimed the lives of 22 people (out of 44 reported infected) and left both researchers and health officials scrambling to develop effective diagnostic tests in addition to possible medications and vaccines against nCoV. Now, however, claims of intellectual property on the new virus are hindering research on nCoV according to the WHO, delaying advancements on tools to prevent further spread of the infection. Stories of intellectual property rights in science hindering advancements in research, particularly in clinical applications, are nothing new; the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments on the validity of patents on the BRCA1/2 genes and has yet to issue a decision. The issue of sharing scientific information in order to promote faster research on emerging pathogens is not limited to intellectual property — a recent article in the journal Nature highlighted a case where Chinese researchers risked having their research scooped after uploading viral sequences to a public database designed aid global scientific collaboration."
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WHO: Intellectual Property Claims Hindering Research On Deadly Novel Coronavirus

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  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday May 24, 2013 @03:47PM (#43816563)

    You freeloaders should be ashamed. It takes a lot of money to do that kind of research, and all these poor, defenseless companies are doing is protecting their investment by patenting the genes they discovered so if and when they choose to further develop it, they will make a reasonable perfectly reasonable 3000% profit on every pill sold.

    Not only that, but I think you're all forgetting a very important point here: This virus kills quickly, and any treatment would only last a few days. Where's the profit in that? Sure, it'll kill you, but you as a patient are worth far less than the guy with the limp dick and a few extra bucks to eat pills to make him hard again.

    If you want the situation to change, you need to get sick with diseases that are treatable but long-term. We're simply not interested in short-term illness, regardless of whether it kills you or not. Any cures or treatments for a short-term illness are purely accidental and you should be thankful we even bothered to develop it and market it! Ungrateful poor people... jeez. Why can't you all just dry up and die?

    Yours Truly,

    Big Pharma

    P.S. I know you're taking Ritalin your friend gave you to do better on the finals. Contact me privately and I can hook you up with a doctor of questionable repute who will give you your very own legal script. Remember: Unless it comes from Big Pharma, it's a Bad Drug(tm).

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I hear ya' Big Pharma. In order to acknowledge your potential ownership of this IP and the related virus I would like to hereby volunteer to force feed it to you with a rusty funnel until you successfully recall the "share and share alike" lesson you should have learned in pre-school.

      • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday May 24, 2013 @04:05PM (#43816705)

        I hear ya' Big Pharma. In order to acknowledge your potential ownership of this IP and the related virus I would like to hereby volunteer to force feed it to you with a rusty funnel until you successfully recall the "share and share alike" lesson you should have learned in pre-school.

        I have a patent on that form of intra-oral medication delivery and since I haven't licensed it for commercial production, you'll owe me $150,000 per rusty funnel used so far by you, henceforce referred to as "John 'Rusty Funnel' Doe, Defendant", $15 million for the rights to use the rusty funnel -- a 1 year limited, non-exclusive license, treble the amount of any profits incurred through the use of the rusty funnel intra-oral delivery system, and $150 million in legal fees due to us being forced to defend our intellectual property.

    • by volmtech (769154)
      You laugh about someone's limp dick. Wont be so funny when it's yours.
    • The free unhampered exchange of ideas and scientific conclusions is necessary for the sound development of science, as it is in all spheres of cultural life.

      Einstein, 1952

  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Friday May 24, 2013 @03:48PM (#43816565) Journal

    1) If the funding for research that led to the "patent" was in any part public, then the Patent needs to be public domain at least for non-profit research. Period.
    2) If the funding for the research was not public, then the Government should pay for the patent, and make it public domain for non-profit continuing research.

    Ether case, The patent should be still commercially viable for commercial purposes.

    • Sounds like another issue of national security to me. So they could just take it away if it isn't offered.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      Choice 3. The government declares that research use of the intellectual property is in the public's best interest, confiscates the patent through eminent domain, and invalidates it.

    • Re:Two suggestions (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pmontra (738736) on Friday May 24, 2013 @05:35PM (#43817365) Homepage
      A modest suggestion: if the virus which is of your property kills someone you go to jail. Discounts granted if you own only a few genes. Let's see how long intellectual property lasts once it faces responsibility.
      • by jopsen (885607)

        A modest suggestion: if the virus which is of your property kills someone you go to jail. Discounts granted if you own only a few genes. Let's see how long intellectual property lasts once it faces responsibility.

        You call that "A Modest suggestion" ? :)
        I thought it was quite funny, but insightful or modest doesn't really fit...

        <sarcasm> by the same arguments, if someone commits a crime with a 3D printed gun or knife for which you hold copyright, you go to jail.

        On the topic of all 3D printed guns stories we've seen lately: I think it is the saddest most horrific thing in recent slashdot history. Why do people buy the idea that the ability to make guns have anything to do with freedom. It makes me so sad...

        • by kermidge (2221646)

          I've long understood freedom to mean doing whatever you want to do. For many it also implies a corollary - to accept responsibility for your actions. You are free to accept either one or both right up until someone relieves you of the burden of those freedoms.

        • by pmontra (738736)
          Yes, modest was an understatement :-) but my line of thought was along the lines of "if my dog bites you I pay damages" or "if somebody uses my gun to rob you, I pay consequences". And yes, I believe that I should pay consequences if the gun design I created is used to kill. Weapons creation and distribution are regulated in many countries and manufacturers are waived with the responsibility for their use. A license is required in my country (Italy). The USA are quite liberal about weapons for well understo
        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          Having a copyright to gun design does not prevent people from controlling gun distribution through use of social methods such as legislation or physical methods such as building bullet proof vests.

          The entire point of copyright is to prevent medicinal research on the topic of the virus in question so that profit can be made by essentially blackmailing people into paying just to be able to do research.

  • Liability? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by seven of five (578993) on Friday May 24, 2013 @03:48PM (#43816567) Homepage
    Fine, you knuckleheads want to claim ownership? How about some wrongful death suits?
  • by bobstreo (1320787) on Friday May 24, 2013 @03:50PM (#43816577)

    Any survivors/Next of Kin should sue the commercial labs which are claiming patents.

    • Any survivors/Next of Kin should sue the commercial labs which are claiming patents.

      It's what you do to dogpooh on your porch.

      • The subject says it all... smartass reply to the wrong post.

        Now I'm afraid to take that new intelligence test.

    • This is all on the courts who in a totally moronic decision greatly narrowed the research exemption back in 2002.

      This decision needs to get overruled like right NOW.

  • I know Slashdot is a US centric site but please remember that there are many non-native-US-English speakers reading it as well. I'm a native English speaker but I don't know what "scooped" means in the context of TFS.

    • I know Slashdot is a US centric site but please remember that there are many non-native-US-English speakers reading it as well.

      There's a website [urbandictionary.com] for that problem. And just so we're clear; There's a lot of lingo us Americans don't understand. Calling gas "petrol", for example, or a semitruck a "lorry". Seems just a bit hinky, if you ask me. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to shove off and go do the needful somewhere.

      • We have the same sort of problems here in Canada.

        Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go find a serviette, I seem to have spilled some poutine on the chesterfield.
    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      It means someone else got "the scoop," the big story. It's bad grammar (turning a verb into a noun and back into a verb), which may explain some of the confusion. Scientists or news reporters are said to get scooped when they've been working on a project/story and then someone else publishes the same thing before they do and steals all the attention.

      The idea that scientists are under pressure to be first depresses me. Proper science requires a lot of thought and attention to detail, and to rush the process

    • Re:Scooped? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by stephanruby (542433) on Friday May 24, 2013 @04:21PM (#43816807)

      I know Slashdot is a US centric site but please remember that there are many non-native-US-English speakers reading it as well. I'm a native English speaker but I don't know what "scooped" means in the context of TFS.

      The term scooped means "first one to get the credit for a discovery". It's usually used in the context of journalism, but the term still works in this case.

      It's just like when French scientists first discovered the HIV virus (or so they claim). They mailed their blood samples to American scientists so the American scientists could confirm their findings and replicate their results, but the exact same American scientists who received those samples and the methodology the French scientists used, just used the same samples and ended up publishing the same results -- claiming the original discovery for themselves (at least, that's the story being told from the French side).

      It's not just a question of ownership, although that's a part of it too, it's also a question of who gets the original credit (or shared credit) for the discovery (since that also determines who ends up getting mountains of public funding and/or royalties). And even public institutions are capable of stealing credit even if there are no patents/royalties involved, since reputation and public funding are just as important to them (as profits are to a private corporation).

    • by Kreigaffe (765218)

      Nobody gives half a shit. The term is 140 years old and is not simply an American term (though it was coined here).

      Enjoy your expanded vocabulary. At least it isn't some godawful full-retard work like gaol, or some fucking Australian throwing rhyming slang that can't be deduced without knowing the generations-past pop culture reference it was originally based upon.

  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday May 24, 2013 @03:55PM (#43816623)

    I thought patents did not prevent research that uses the patented material.

    At any rate, allowing patents on discoveries (vs. inventions) is just stupid.

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Friday May 24, 2013 @04:33PM (#43816885)

      Yes, that was my impression as well. In fact I used to routinely investigate patented techniques in my research when I worked in R&D.

      Ah the frigtarded Courts screwed us over:

      From Wikipedia:

      "In 2002, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit dramatically limited the scope of the research exemption in Madey v. Duke University, 307 F.3d 1351, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2002). The court did not reject the defense, but left only a "very narrow and strictly limited experimental use defense" for "amusement, to satisfy idle curiosity, or for strictly philosophical inquiry." The court also precludes the defense where, regardless of profit motive, the research was done "in furtherance of the alleged infringer's legitimate business." In the case of a research university like Duke University, the court held that the alleged use was in furtherance of its legitimate business, and thus the defense was inapplicable."

      this is disgusting

      The purpose of patents is to "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts".

      • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Friday May 24, 2013 @04:39PM (#43816933)

        In fact this really pisses me off. The court of Federal Appeals is supposed to be subject matter experts on patents. Instead they are the maroons who have done more to expand the patent system to cover all sorts of malarkey that should have never been covered.

        When I first heard about establishment of this court I thought it sounded like a good idea because in theory it was going to put an end to crap like venue shopping for patent appeals.

        Well, I was dead wrong about that. These nuts turned out to be more radical than any of the existing venues.

        Arrgh.

        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          They are experts on patents. The point is that current trend is for protection of private interests at cost to public and society.

        • When I first heard about establishment of this court I thought it sounded like a good idea because in theory it was going to put an end to crap like venue shopping for patent appeals.

          When you establish a single court for an issue, they roam further than when you have a whole system of courts on it. Individual opinions become greatly magnified in there effect, as you essentially give up peer review.

      • From TFA:

        No IP (intellectual property) should stand in the way of you, the countries of the world, to protect your people.

        I find it really sad that countries are willing to bomb other countries and kill people under the auspices of protecting their citizenry, but feel so hamstrung by IP claims when they're actually trying to protect their citizenry that they need a pep-talk from the head of the WHO.

  • COMMUNIST! (Score:4, Funny)

    by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Friday May 24, 2013 @03:59PM (#43816665)

    WHO==U.N.==SOCIALISM==COMMUNISM

    Sure, maybe IP is *interfering* with scientific research in this case, but so what? If you take down the IP and interfering with corporations maximizing their profit, no one will be motivated to do anything. We'll all just loll around , (if they're people like me) staring at our navel disinterested in the world (if they're people like me) ....We'll be like Old Sick Europe . Then where will ALL of science be? Do you think people are motivated by the mere chance to relieve human suffering ? Do my whores fuck me because they love me???? We need REAL motivation !!!!!

    What's your value system here? Is science for the betterment of mankind , to save human lives and advance the general welfare of people or is its primary purpose to make money for people with money so they'll go on doing science ?

    COIMMUNIST! I SMELL A COMMUNIST!!!!
    If the IP system is pared back, then all progress will cease.

    • Stop being an idiot. Communism is opposed due to what it is, a horrid system that killed tens of millions of humans in pursuit of a perfect society. They tried your idea where nobody wants to make a profit and it failed. Making a ridiculous extremist straw man post doesn't help things.
      • They tried your idea where nobody wants to make a profit and it failed. Making a ridiculous extremist straw man post doesn't help things. He. Have a look in the mirror. Where did I say no one should make a profit? You guys are all the same. Binary, thinking is all you're capable of. Either we're maximizing profit under all circumstances or it's Communism. I know you meant to diminish my post by pointing out what you thought was my straw man. Too bad you had that gun pointing the wrong way.
      • DNS-andBIND said:

        They tried your idea where nobody wants to make a profit and it failed. Making a ridiculous extremist straw man post doesn't help things.

        WoofyGoofy replied:

        He. Have a look in the mirror. Where did I say no one should make a profit? You guys are all the same. Binary, thinking is all you're capable of. Either we're maximizing profit under all circumstances or it's Communism.

        I know you meant to diminish my post by pointing out what you thought was my straw man. Too bad you had that gun pointing the wrong way.

      • by Muros (1167213)

        Communism is opposed due to what it is, a horrid system that killed tens of millions of humans in pursuit of a perfect society.

        A horrid system indeed, but think how bad things would be if those tens of millions of people in pursuit of a perfect society had survived.

  • by boorack (1345877) on Friday May 24, 2013 @04:05PM (#43816713)
    In the western world we tend to perceive corruption as simple bribery. In my opinion, this thinking is way to narrow - but it keeps us in a kind of comfort zone, that in western world we have much less corruption than anywhere else. BUT if we add regulatory capture and start measuring corruption (simple bribery plus regulatory capture) in terms of human costs, world starts to look totally different. Broken intellectual property law - in this case hindering efforts to fight off a (potentially) deadly virus - is one of many examples of this. I'd rather call it legalized corruption than involve in debating rights and wrongs of this particular (narrow) issue. The same with patented cancer genes, software patents, financial institutions being out of control, monsanto force-feeding us with their toxic crap, legalized tax evasion etc. All those things are legal! Yet until we won't recognize this as ("legalized") corruption, these things won't be solved as root cause of all of this (regulatory capture) will still be there. It will cost us money, health and ultimately lives until we recognize that western countries - especially US - are propably the most corrupt ones in the world just because of sheer scale of this "legalized" corruption and its effects in terms of human costs. If you include all those banana republics we (western countries) imposed corrupt broken regimes just to steal their wealth, the whole picture looks even more grim. Stop debating rights and wrongs of narrow issues - it plays well to the hand of our corrupt corporate overlords. Get up and start fighting corruption in all its forms, including "legalized" one.
    • by gl4ss (559668) on Friday May 24, 2013 @04:33PM (#43816883) Homepage Journal

      technically, if it's legalized and in the open then it is not corruption - it is the system working as intended.
      it's better than having corruption, because it could be changed if there was enough public demand for it. with plain old corruption changing it is harder, as it's shady who is allowed to do what and why.

      • by mspohr (589790) on Friday May 24, 2013 @05:16PM (#43817179)

        Actually, it is corruption if the system is not working as intended... and I don't think anyone would argue that the US political system is working as intended. The entire system is corrupted by money where the rich buy the laws they want to make more money. It is very open and somewhat transparent (and thanks to the rich buying the laws they want, it is "legal") but it is thoroughly corrupt.
        Lawrence Lessig makes the case very eloquently here:
        http://www.ted.com/talks/lawrence_lessig_we_the_people_and_the_republic_we_must_reclaim.html [ted.com]

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If I say the sky is yellow, and pass a law saying it's yellow, it's still not really yellow.

        Just because the corruption is legal doesn't mean it isn't corruption.

      • by Velex (120469)

        I think that GP was arguing that just because it's legalized and in the open doesn't mean it's not corruption, i.e. the laws themselves are corrupt. Perhaps the distorted worship of obscene wealth in the name of some kind of Randian stark individualism that leads to these laws itself is corrupt.

        Not to get off topic, but it works the other way around, too. Just because the law says marijuana is a highly addictive and dangerous narcotic with no medical application doesn't make it so. Athough perhaps that's

    • by rabbin (2700077)
      Agreed. It is "corruption" in the sense that *the intent of the institution* (e.g. to act in the public's interest) is corrupted. Just because it is legal does not mean the system is working as intended.

      But regardless, anyone who justifies their or some else's heinous behavior with a "because it is legal" argument is too far gone to be worth your time anyway.
  • They own it? Then they should have it, in their blood. Then we could discuss if we want to cure them or not, after all, we don't want to harm their intellectual property.
  • Easy way out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vintermann (400722) on Friday May 24, 2013 @04:34PM (#43816893) Homepage

    If I own a bull, and this bull gets loose in a china shop, I'm liable. Why should intellectual property be any different?

    If you own a gene, and a virus is using that gene to kill people, well, it's your duty to stop that virus doing what it's doing, and if you don't, expect to pay damages!

    (But somehow I don't think the champions of intellectual property want the property metaphor to extend that far.)

    • by DRJlaw (946416)

      If I own a bull, and this bull gets loose in a china shop, I'm liable. Why should intellectual property be any different?

      Ignoring the fact that you cannot patent a product of nature, which means that nobody (should) have patented the virus rather than isolated genes or segments of cDNA which might be used to uniquely identify it in a laboratory assay (i.e., patenting a non-viable portion of an organism shouldn't make you liable for the existence of the natural organism)...

      I cannot buy this argument from the

      • The reason FSF have all these disclaimers is of course that they're necessary in the present copyright regime. That does not mean they approve of it. FSF/Stallman would prefer a regime where even their copyleft licenses would be invalid. That is old news, and you aren't very familiar with the debate if you didn't know it.

        But really, if copyrights are like property, the same logic should apply to them. If buying a program is like renting a lawnmover (and it would be, since a program is still someone else's i

  • by number6x (626555) on Friday May 24, 2013 @04:36PM (#43816907)

    Then I think they should be charged with 22 cases of murder. It might not be murder 1, but manslaughter.

    • If a car you owned hit someone, you would be charged.
    • If a building you owned fell on someone, you would be charged.
    • If a pit bull you owned killed someone, you would be charged.

    If you want to 'own' this virus, you get to 'own' the consequences. Corporations are people. Some places have the death penalty for people who commit crimes.

  • It's getting ridiculous, ....

  • The government can't take property (including intellectual property) pursuant to the TAKINGS clause of the US Constitution without paying just compensation.

    The government can take property (including intellectual property) pursuant to the POLICE POWER clause of the US Constitution without paying just compensation.

    If the public need for an antivirus is strong enough, I say pass police power legislation relating to the public health that frees up the scientific field of research.

    If pharmaceutical companies ar

  • http://wh.gov/hrbB [wh.gov]

    Let's turn our swords into plowshares and grab all those patents for the public domain.
    • Assign U.S. Army laboratory (USAMRIID) to investigate and develop a treatment for the MERS virus outbreak. [whitehouse.gov]

      The emerging MERS virus poses a potential threat to the health of all U.S. Citizens. MERS may represent a second example of "SARS-like" viruses and the present emerging outbreak is a good time to practice our national response to a potential emergency.

      The U.S. Army laboratories including USAMRIID, national labs, and other reasources at your disposal stand at the ready to defend the United States from various organisms. These laboratories may have the ability to quickly research the MERS virus for the people of the United States.

      The United States government should in turn give the patents and other properties created by the United States to the American people, and to all the nations of the world.

  • by machine321 (458769) on Friday May 24, 2013 @05:18PM (#43817201)

    I knew when Microsoft and Novel signed that patent cross-licensing deal they were up to no good! Who knew they were working on a Novel virus?

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Friday May 24, 2013 @05:31PM (#43817323)

    They are murderers.

    Hey, if you can equate copyright infringement to theft, you can draw the same comparison between willfully withholding information and murder.

    • by erroneus (253617) on Friday May 24, 2013 @06:04PM (#43817609) Homepage

      I don't have any problem with making that definition. Wilful denial of access to information which can save lives is far more important than money -- any amount of money. And we need some laws on the books that will enforce this notion. It's truly sickening how far people will go.

      But you know, I also consider war to be murder. Leaders who risk nothing send people to other places to kill other people and get killed. All the while, telling people lies about "freedom" and crap like that.

  • This is why patent laws should be reformed to specify that a patent applies to something that was invented/created by a person(s) or company, not discovered.
  • I must be missing something, as it has been a while since I've attempted to read the MPEP, but...when did we start patenting viruses? Last I checked, biotechnology patents related to genes were limited to patents on implementations on finding a gene...

  • So can anyone actually tell me what the actual IP problem is here? That is, who precisely is making claims that are preventing needed research, and what is the nature of those claims? The BBC article linked in the summary is notably weak on these details, so it's hard to judge the true seriousness of the problem, if problem there be.
  • by anadem (143644)

    Thats wicked. Evil. What is the company that digs this grave?

  • how about sueing the company which claim to have ip about the virus, as they claim it's theirs, so they are therefor responsible for it, which makes them liable for any result the virus brings....

Recent research has tended to show that the Abominable No-Man is being replaced by the Prohibitive Procrastinator. -- C.N. Parkinson

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