zondag 30 oktober 2005

Intellectual property is costing lives

I've said before that I don't believe in the concept of intellectual property and that I think existing patent and copyright systems should be removed. They no longer make economic sense and are blocking, instead of stimulating, innovation. Both in the cultural and industrial parts of society. With the many ridiculous cases of granting software patents in the US as a perfect example. The only form of intellectual property that probably (still) makes sense is trademarks.

An example that is always being used as a counter argument in this case is the pharmaceutical industry. Why would they still invest billions in the development of new drugs when anyone is allowed to copy these innovations and market them? A good question for which there is no easy answer. But I do think that as a society (on a global level) we have alternative means to stimulate innovation in these kinds of industries. Why should a new form of public-private cooperation involving an organization like the United Nations, on behalf of all of us, not be able to map all problem areas (lack of innovation due to high economic risks) and provide necessary funding for research and development? Innovations should be published and allowed to be used, patent free, by anyone who thinks there is a market for them. Competition, always a good driver for innovation, should definitely have a place in such a (financing) model. Let examples like X-Prize, Darpa's Grand Challenge, the 'paid-pitch-model', scientific research, 'beauty-contests', etcetera, inspire us.

And, at the same time, why not integrate the lessons and methods from the succesful open source communities in such a system in order to make sure innovations are being made accessible so that they can be further build upon?

Granting monopolies for a certain period of time in order to protect profits, with the risk of slowing down innovation, can not seriously be the best possible answer in today's world. It's even costing lives.

"In fact, it's been said for years that, especially in developing nations, it's often important to ignore intellectual property issues from developed nations in order to protect citizens. Of course, the counter argument is that none of these drugs would have been developed in the first place if there weren't these patent laws around. While that may be debatable, it is true that the cost of developing these drugs often requires a high expected payout at the end. So what are ways to align these two issues? How can companies expect to get paid for saving lives -- and still make the products affordable enough that they actually can save lives?"

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