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How Intellectual Property Reinforces Inequality

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.

Patents 272

An anonymous reader writes "Here is an article by Dr.Joe Stiglitz on how intellectual property reinforces inequality by allowing patent owners to seek rent (aka license / sue) instead of delivering goods to the society. From the article: 'At first glance, the case, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, might seem like scientific arcana: the court ruled, unanimously, that human genes cannot be patented, though synthetic DNA, created in the laboratory, can be. But the real stakes were much higher, and the issues much more fundamental, than is commonly understood. The case was a battle between those who would privatize good health, making it a privilege to be enjoyed in proportion to wealth, and those who see it as a right for all — and a central component of a fair society and well-functioning economy. Even more deeply, it was about the way inequality is shaping our politics, legal institutions and the health of our population.'"

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Commies occypied /. ? (0, Troll)

mike555 (2843511) | about a year and a half ago | (#44283693)

Since when /. became the platform for commie propaganda? Inequality is good, it is what drives progress.

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44283713)

+1 insightful, if I had the points. Life is not fair, people are not equal. It's been that way since the world began ... and has worked out pretty well, IMO.

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (5, Insightful)

polar red (215081) | about a year and a half ago | (#44283735)

yes, the 'life is a race' concept. I heard of that. Nice concept. if everybody started at the same point (and not: some near the finish pole and others without legs outside the stadium)

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284195)

yes, the 'life is a race' concept. I heard of that. Nice concept. if everybody started at the same point (and not: some near the finish pole and others without legs outside the stadium)

I believe in this concept so strongly that I want the Government to raise all the kids, think about nobody gets money from daddy. Inheritance wouldn't exist because people wouldn't have kids, instead the goverment would breed and raise all the people. There would probably only be a need for 300 facilities to do so each housing around 15,000 kids. Also, we should neutering everyone not selected as good breeding stock. Yes, some people would have the job to procreate, but sexual contact wouldn't happen instead look to how man breeds animals efficiently for inspiration. Think of all the hours and effort wasted looking at porn, going on dates, fucking, etc. Instead those efforts redirected toward ending hunger, saving the plant, an efficient space program, etc. But best of all through prenatal surgery this could happen in the womb meaning that their would be no difference between men and women thus the long sought and once thought after goal of near true gender equality could finally be realized. Well, with the exception of the breeder women, who would be giving birth ever year while out-numbering their sperm donors at 1,000 to 1. But it even that would way better for the great majority then another point in history. A Truly Great Society is with in the reach of science and everyday we don't work towards it is a day of protracted suffering for the masses.

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (3, Insightful)

tgd (2822) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284233)

yes, the 'life is a race' concept. I heard of that. Nice concept. if everybody started at the same point (and not: some near the finish pole and others without legs outside the stadium)

That's the second part: "Life isn't fair".

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284415)

I hear people say that all the time. Thing is, that is not a good reason to not try and make it fair.

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284557)

"Life isn't fair" is the same as "Life isn't just". If life isn't just, then no point in having laws. A goal of having just laws is the same as the goal of being "fair"; the betterment of all.

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284253)

So, what's your point?

If I start with nothing, work hard, and generate superior r results I get nothing?

If I raise a superior child, though time, dedication, and, yes, spending some extra dough, do they get nothing?

I think the key is the “OP” is a “little inequity”. Life is not always fair but it should be fairish. Hard work and bright ideas would be motivated with rewards, which will result in inequity. As for a “lot of inequity” - we should not live in a winner takes all, class bound gilded society – that takes away the incentive for hard work.

(I am still mulling the Supreme Court case. I think Myriad should be reward for the research it did but I think the patent may have been overly broad. )

Standing on the shoulders of giants (0)

GPS Pilot (3683) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284811)

Newton wrote, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." When you build upon the work of others who have come before, you effectively start near the finish pole. Thank goodness Newton had that advantage. If he had to start completely from scratch, he may have done nothing notable.

Now back to the topic of IP. If you were forced to donate your IP into the public domain, you would have far less incentive to create that IP in the first place. The fact that people can make money from their IP is responsible for the explosion of IP that makes us all better off in the long run. Don't kill this golden goose.

Re:Standing on the shoulders of giants (5, Insightful)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285069)

Amazingly confused.

Your first paragraph directlt contradicts your second.

Newton stood on the shoulders of giants because he didn't have to pay some mob of rent-seekers for the priviledge.

Re:Standing on the shoulders of giants (2)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285135)

No, telecommunications is responsible for the explosions of innovation, as well as existing technology to build on. Countries without patents and copyright did just fine compared to otherwise similar nations. Countries that shunned trade fell into to decay, and the ability to spread ideas faster and further greatly accelerated that growth in countries which the printing press was widely available and not greatly restricted. With patents, the giants are tripping you instead of letting you stand on their shoulders. Competition provides more than enough reason to innovate. Also, many innovations are the result of scratching an itch, so there is no need at all for an external incentive, and they may actually prove a distraction in some cases. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that.

Then allow patents only on telecommunications (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285259)

telecommunications is responsible for the explosions of innovation

Then what's responsible for the invention of telecommunications itself? Perhaps only telecom patents should be allowed to go through.

Countries without patents and copyright did just fine compared to otherwise similar nations.

Because they were able to mooch off inventions and works produced in other countries.

Re:Standing on the shoulders of giants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44285247)

are you sure that IP makes us all better off? i think that is what is up for debate. what is more beneficial to all? IP or public domain knowledge?

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (4, Insightful)

VanGarrett (1269030) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284279)

Ah, but all people should be equally valued in the eyes of the law. That's the point. Laws should not favor the rich over the poor, or one ethnicity over another. While one person may be born into wealth, and their possession of it, therefore a given, another person born into poverty should not be barred from obtaining wealth through hard work and careful planning. When laws exist that effectively preclude the poor from gaining wealth, we now have inequality in the law, and that is what the article describes.

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285041)

> When laws exist that effectively preclude the poor from gaining wealth, we now have inequality in the law, and that is what the article describes.

Much of law defines the property and the rights of property owners. All of this prevents the poor from gaining wealth, and is inequitable in that the poor don't benefit from it. However personal property is also regarded as one of the Inalienable Rights bestowed on man by the Creator by the Founders of this nation.

IP law is just one facet of this. The idea that it is any different in this regard is preposterous.

IP law's justification is that it encourages the development of the useful arts. It is important to realize that progress in technology is the ONLY proven way to increase the standard of living. As such any institution that can be shown to accomplish this end deserves a special place in society. The Founders recognized this and gave it special status in the Constitution of the United States of America.

If it can be shown these laws are ineffective toward this goal they should be abolished. If they are shown to be inefficient they need to be made efficient. But the idea that they are unreasonable based on equity is not reasonable.

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (4, Interesting)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#44283881)

Since when /. became the platform for commie propaganda?
Inequality is good, it is what drives progress.

paying rent for imaginary things doesn't drive progress all that much - if you count progress as progress in the physical world, what if all combine harvesters cost 100x as they do today because someone had managed to extend patents to be 200 years?

ludicrous (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284431)

How short-sighted can someone be? If a landlord couldn't collect rent, they wouldn't provide an apartment for a renter to live in. Innovation doesn't "just happen". It happens because people expect to profit from their investment of time and effort.

So what if you have to pay a royalty? If it's too much, you don't have to take advantage of the innovation. At least you have a choice, which you wouldn't otherwise.

Moreover, the newest innovation means the older stuff becomes cheaper. An old iPhone may have been too expensive for you in the past, but you can pick one up for nearly free now. And the same thing will happen to current products when the next generation comes out. This isn't just true of phones, but lots of other things like cars, medicine, computers, etc.

Re: ludicrous (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284529)

You actually believe in this?

Re: ludicrous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284583)

You actually believe you would have an apartment if you didn't pay rent?

Re: ludicrous (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285171)

Land is inherently scarce. We can't create land (outside of a VERY expensive process that is still very much limited). An idea in the abstract is the antithesis of scarce.

Re:ludicrous (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284683)

How short-sighted can someone be? If a landlord couldn't collect rent, they wouldn't provide an apartment for a renter to live in. Innovation doesn't "just happen". It happens because people expect to profit from their investment of time and effort.

So what if you have to pay a royalty? If it's too much, you don't have to take advantage of the innovation. At least you have a choice, which you wouldn't otherwise.

Moreover, the newest innovation means the older stuff becomes cheaper. An old iPhone may have been too expensive for you in the past, but you can pick one up for nearly free now. And the same thing will happen to current products when the next generation comes out. This isn't just true of phones, but lots of other things like cars, medicine, computers, etc.

yeah I suppose your angle would fly if I was paying rent to someone who owned this piece of land back in 1917.. and not the current owner of this physical property(which I am doing!). do you send monthly checks to the guy who drew your apartment or did you buy it from the previous owner?

the thing with intellectual property licensing about technical solutions is that.. surprise surprise I no longer have choice to figure out how to do thing XYZ instead of buying someones solution.

and in regards of something like iphone? you really think that's the value there, intellectual property? fuck no, manufacturers would still be compelled to sell you their latest, fastest cpu's, so you can buy a phone that's vastly superior to the generation 1 iphone now pretty cheap. however thanks to the fucking ip laws you can no longer get sw without hassle for the iphone1.

the need to have a product to sell drives people to creating products to sell, which would still be there. you'd have more variety too but I suppose you don't want that. someone like intel would still thrive in their business because it's not their patents but their practical knowhow that's kept them on top. that's why you aren't seeing some mega infringing intel killer clone chips on the black market from north korea.

Re:ludicrous (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284899)

My apologies. I thought most people who read /. could write and understand coherent thoughts.

Perhaps you are overmedicated? If so, lay off a bit. If not, you have my sympathy for the crappy life you perceive you have.

Re:ludicrous (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285083)

yeah I suppose your angle would fly if I was paying rent to someone who owned this piece of land back in 1917.. and not the current owner of this physical property(which I am doing!). do you send monthly checks to the guy who drew your apartment or did you buy it from the previous owner?

Are you saying you can't buy IP and then "rent" it to someone else? Also do you know that patent protection expires?

Re:ludicrous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44285097)

Innovation doesn't "just happen".

But it does.

People who innovate are typically the type of people who will do so for personal gratification. The corner case is the person who does so entirely for money. The person who innovates also tends to have a large advantage in that they understand the system much better and typically have a working prototype, allowing them to get a product to the market much much faster than the competition.

There is also a large argument on what innovation really is. Most things that people think are innovative are really just common sense for people in the field. It usually isn't that one person has some special insight, but many variables align and create a community-wide realization that there is a better way.

Take a "look" at the telescope. It was created independently by something like 6 people at nearly the exact same. Communications in these days meant it would be nearly impossible for them to have "stolen" ideas from each other.

There are more specialized communities in many areas of science that toss around ideas, than there has ever been, but they are being hamstrung by one company getting credit for these ideas.

Re:ludicrous (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44285211)

The fallacy in your thinking is that the landlord actually "provides" an apartment. Look at Don Trump, one of the biggest "landlords" in country. He did nothing to actually produce a building, He only hired architects, land consultants, contractors, and property management with money he inherited.
Landlord is a term dates back to the feudal system of where "lords" owned the land and the people who lived on it.
Only such a privileged person would want to continue such a system.
 

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284623)

paying rent for imaginary things doesn't drive progress all that much
Unicorns are imaginary, music is not.

Easy answer (0)

GPS Pilot (3683) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284891)

what if all combine harvesters cost 100x as they do today

If all combines cost 100x as much, no one would be able to afford to buy one, and the intellectual property owners would make no profits whatsoever. IP owners would be extremely displeased by that arrangement.

Despite what you've been taught by leftist educators, the price structures that naturally arise out of capitalism tend to be fair to everyone, and work much better than your farfetched example.

Re:Easy answer (3, Insightful)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285251)

Except copyright and patent holders do tend to try to screw themselves quite often. They wanted to stop the VCR despite the gold mine it turned out to be, as well as many other technological processes. Allegedly, P.L. Robertson screwed himself out of the US market despite having a superior product because he refused to license his screw technology due to a bad business deal in England, and thus lost out to the inferior Phillips head.

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (2)

xigxag (167441) | about a year and a half ago | (#44283979)

Did you even read the article? There's nothing "commie" about it.

"Inequality" in itself isn't good or bad. Otherwise, please allow me to abscond with your savings and reduce you to pauperdom...I'll be doing you a favor, right?

Some inequality is good. When you expand the sum total of wealth available to humanity, and benefit from that, it's good. Inequality that is based upon rent-seeking is bad. As when someone patents an existing gene located in the human body and tries to charge you fees to access your own genome.

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284285)

That is because its beyond your comprehension, it just implies it, but like most followers you deny the obvious. This site has become a big time agenda machine. Free speech for the dumb.

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (1)

Ultracrepidarian (576183) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284109)

We must be progressing faster than ever.

heat death (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284463)

Google "heat death" and see if you are still a big fan of equality.

Re:Commies occypied /. ? (1)

cffrost (885375) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284625)

Since when /. became the platform for commie propaganda?

Around the time you stopped beating your wife, maybe?

Inequality is good [...]

Good for who, you? Inequality has another aspect, which you probably wouldn't find as agreeable.

[Inequality] is what drives progress.

I suppose that may be partially true in some regards — for example, inequality helped drive the enactment of the Civil Rights Act and the Thirteenth Amendment.

Monopolies in general (5, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | about a year and a half ago | (#44283727)

That's common to all monopolies in general: by disallowing newcomers and competition, they serve no purpose but feeding whatever company/cartel holds that monopoly. And governments, instead of disrupting them, take more and more bribes to allow creating even more monopolies...

Re:Monopolies in general (1)

Xicor (2738029) | about a year and a half ago | (#44283789)

nothing wrong with monopolies as long as they dont start abusing it... google is a monopoly, see anything wrong with them yet? the fact of the matter, without intellectual property, there would be no reason to put your foot in the door first. if you come up with something and then someone else copies you but drops the price a little, you go out of business.

Re:Monopolies in general (0)

Trulak (1971012) | about a year and a half ago | (#44283859)

That defies economic logic. If your competitor steals your idea and then is able to copy your idea for cheaper...doesn't that mean you just lost and SHOULD go out of business? They improved upon your idea, right or else how would they sell it for less? Or it means you were charging too much in the first place? And if your competitor steals your idea and then sells it so cheap they don't profit...well then they go out of business. I really fail to see how the basic laws of economics are not at play here. And Google is not a monopoly, they are just ubiquitous. Plenty of people are using Bing and other search engines. And this whole NSA thing has given everyone in the world a pause when thinking about whether or not to do business with any US tech companies.

Re:Monopolies in general (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44283999)

They improved upon your idea, right or else how would they sell it for less?

They don't have to recoup the cost of development, as all they have to do is copy.

Re: Monopolies in general (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284565)

Talking about Samsung again?

Re:Monopolies in general (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44285237)

That falls under copyright infringement. Why do we need patents again? And how are they getting a hold of your source code in the first place? Even then, most in-house code is specialized to the understanding of a certain system's architecture, that it would still be hard to reserve engineer the entire environment without intense investment. Then you're hamstrung to being reliant on the competition's design, which they have a better understanding.

I see no benefit provided by Patents, and little benefit provided by copyright, when it comes to source code.

Re:Monopolies in general (3)

Xicor (2738029) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284059)

they dont have to get back the money spent developing, or the research. and google is a horizontal monopoly... it has been reviewed countless times by the EU monopoly court as well as the US court system(it has even been fined a few times by the EU)

Re:Monopolies in general (4, Informative)

mark-t (151149) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284175)

They improved upon your idea, right or else how would they sell it for less?

Because they had less expenses. That doesn't necessarily mean they made the idea any less costly than it already was, unless one considers the idea of waiting for somebody else to invent something, then taking the idea and selling it themselves without having to waste the R&D time on it an acceptable means of lowering associated costs with product development.

Re:Monopolies in general (4, Interesting)

danbert8 (1024253) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284245)

That is why intellectual property should last long enough for recoup development costs plus enough incentive to encourage the creation of new inventions/ideas. That was the whole point of copyright in the first place.

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

Intellectual property rights are only put in place to encourage the creation of new creations, not to form an exclusive monopoly for the life of a corporation which in fact discourages and prevents the progress of science and useful arts.

Recouping R&D costs (5, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284523)

Disclosure: I am a certified accountant with a specialty in cost accounting.

If your competitor steals your idea and then is able to copy your idea for cheaper...doesn't that mean you just lost and SHOULD go out of business?

What it means is that you need to study cost accounting. It's quite easy to demonstrate how a company that knocks off another company's product can gain a cost advantage. Research and development costs are often a very substantial portion of the cost of a good. Copying someone else's research is usually cheaper than doing it yourself. For two similar sized competent companies there is typically little difference in manufacturing or distribution costs. Holding all other things equal it is quite impossible for the company doing the R&D to sell it cheaper than a company which can simply copy someone elses work. This is called the free rider problem [wikipedia.org] and it is the entire reason why patents exist in the first place.

They improved upon your idea, right or else how would they sell it for less?

They can sell it for less because they do not have to recoup R&D costs. Please go find a cost accountant and they will explain this to you in exquisite detail. You do not have to improve on a product at all to sell it for less if you do not have to do any engineering yourself.

Re:Monopolies in general (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285175)

That defies economic logic. If your competitor steals your idea and then is able to copy your idea for cheaper...doesn't that mean you just lost and SHOULD go out of business? They improved upon your idea, right or else how would they sell it for less? Or it means you were charging too much in the first place? And if your competitor steals your idea and then sells it so cheap they don't profit...well then they go out of business. I really fail to see how the basic laws of economics are not at play here.

The problem is you competitor didn't invest funds for the R&D to come up with the product. When you make the product you have to charge extra to recoup those funds while your competitor does not have those costs, it's why generic drugs are so much cheaper then name brand, there are no R&D costs. They can make the product the same way as you do and charge less.

Re:Monopolies in general (4, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284941)

What is google a monopoly in? At best they were at one point a near monopoly in search but that wasn't because they were a monopoly they were just literally 10x better than what else was available. Today others are catching up and are viable alternatives that are even better in some ways.

If a new company came out with a car that required no maintenance for 20+ years, ran on any fuel you could find, got the equivalent of 120 MPG and still maintained a stylish appearance and sporty performance they would become a near overnight monopoly as well.

Re:Monopolies in general (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44285253)

If a new company came out with a car that required no maintenance for 20+ years, ran on any fuel you could find, got the equivalent of 120 MPG and still maintained a stylish appearance and sporty performance they would become a near overnight monopoly as well.

Elon Musk, is that you?

Re:Monopolies in general (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44285179)

Google has 60% of the search market, and falling. How is that a monopoly?

Not that simple unfortunately (1)

sjbe (173966) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284357)

Nice simple sound bite. Pity that like most sound bites it grossly oversimplifies the situation. Monopolies form for a variety of reasons, some of which are very much in the public interest. Monopolies are not something to be generally desired but it's not difficult to point out circumstances where they are the least worst option available.

Patents create a monopoly for a time in order to combat the free rider problem [wikipedia.org] which is a FAR worse problem in most cases than a temporary monopoly. There are lots of inventions that are simply not economically viable without something resembling patent protection. If you want to do away with patents and the problems with their associated monopoly, all you have to do is explain how your alternative to patents will combat the free rider problem. So far no one has come up with a lesser evil but if you can do so I believe a Nobel prize awaits you. (and no, just doing away with patents without a replacement will NOT improve things - particularly for tangible manufactured goods) Please note that I'm in no way implying our current regime of patent law is well designed or without problems. I quite firmly believe our current set of patent regulations are quite broken. I'm merely saying that patents (with their associated monopoly) as a concept are in the public interest due to the existence of the free rider problem.

In many cases you have a natural monopoly [wikipedia.org] whereby the lowest cost of production is only possible if carried out by a single firm. Public utilities tend to fall into this category. If the cost of production is not as low as possible then prices to consumers by definition cannot be as low as possible either and low prices are very much in the public interest. However because any monopoly creates potential opportunities for abuse and monopolistic pricing, such monopolies are often regulated. Again, it isn't perfect but it certainly serves a purpose beyond "feeding whatever company holds that monopoly".

Don't tell Silly-Con Valley (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44283757)

In the valley everyone is ga-ga for patents. Their mantra seems to be greed is good and screw the little guy. It's an awful place to work if you have a heart.

Re:Don't tell Silly-Con Valley (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284325)

If they sue you, file an improvement patent based on their own one, than enter mutual licensing agreement. That's how AMD survived Intel.

Re:Don't tell Silly-Con Valley (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284703)

The more I learn about the place the less I like it. It's amazing that it's acquired a reputation as a progressive/liberal business environment, it's actually the most ruthlessly Randian business environment in the US. Silicon Valley libertarians have absolutely no qualms about producing products that make the world worse in any way possible (social networking, drones, "mechanical turk" clones and other race-to-the-bottom accelerators, mass surveillance for marketing purposes...literally anything), with the possible exception of when it's making the world worse through government interference e.g. NSA spying - and even in that case most of them rolled over for it. Of course none of them have any qualms with ridiculous tax avoidance schemes. And they're racist and sexist as all hell in terms of hiring practices, but if you cover it up with trendy interior design and hipster fashion nobody notices.

Article doesn't understand the point of patents (5, Interesting)

jcrb (187104) | about a year and a half ago | (#44283765)

The article author seems to assume that patented technology just falls from the sky and comes for free to the lucky patent holder who then exploits the rest of the world, when they say;

"But the patents had devastating real-world implications, because they kept the prices for the diagnostics artificially high."

they are arguing from false premises. Now in this case I happen to agree with not allowing patents on unmodified genes however it is still the case that the prices are only artificially high if the diagnostics would have existed had it not been possible to acquire patents on them in the first place,

According to the article it would have been ok if they had gotten the patents if they were motivated to save lives rather than make money. This is not an article which rationally discussed the problems of the patent system, and those problems are legion, it is an article that says if you try and make money you are bad. Not really very interesting.

Re:Article doesn't understand the point of patents (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44283925)

Oh, but trying to make money == racism these days*

* Unless you make a bunch of money from government "loans" that are never paid back, then making money is OK because you were thinking about poor people while you stole from them or something along those lines.

Re:Article doesn't understand the point of patents (1, Informative)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284015)

This is one of the rare cases where I have to side with the patent holders (despite how uncomfortable it is). Myriad Genetics did *not* patent a gene, they patented a propensity for disease test, that featured a specific gene at the center of the test.

What did getting a patent do for them? It allowed them (or their licensees) to be the only ones legally allowed to perform propensity for disease tests as a service, using that gene. What else did it do? It allowed them to be open about their research, so that the gene and it's functionality could be better understood. What would happen if a patent were not a viable option from the onset? Myriad would have either not put the research in (fearing that their work would go unrewarded) and we would have not found this gene until much later on when casual science (at universities) came across it, or they would have done the work, and kept it all a secret in order to protect their ability to recoup the money spent on the research. Either way, we never would have found out what that gene does until some other research effort came across it, perhaps in 10 more years, or even 20 or 50.

How many other diseases will go unstudied, now that there is no reward for linking a gene to a disease? How close might we have been to spotting/treating other cancers? Does that matter at all, or is this just about "putting patent trolls in their place"?

Re:Article doesn't understand the point of patents (5, Informative)

larkost (79011) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284701)

The vast majority of the basic research into disesases is done in univesity labs, funded by government grants. Only when the results hint at commercial viability do businesses (often the reasearchers by leaving the university) then take over and commercialize the work. I am not saying that there is not a lot of effort still left to do, but in many cases the patents are mostly comming out of the early work, and are then blocking people from doing the commercialization work.

While the drug companies might spend a lot of money to do the final commercialization work, the vast majority of the development cost (lots and lots of dead ends) is born by the government. I am not arguing that that is not how it should be (that is how science gets done), but rather saying that it is silly to think that without patent protections that new things would not be discoverd.

The case at hand the company was trying to use teh cour system to prevent anyone from creating tests that looked for naturally occuring genes. They were not just blocking people from using the test method they developed, but from using any conceviable method of teting for those specific genes.

No patents allowed for things found in nature (5, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284757)

Myriad Genetics did *not* patent a gene, they patented a propensity for disease test, that featured a specific gene at the center of the test.

If what you say is true then why did the recent Supreme Court ruling invalidate [wikipedia.org] Myriad's patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2? Myriad was apparently granted patents on naturally occurring genes they had managed to isolate and they used these patents to prevent anyone else from testing for the presence of these genes. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Myriad on this topic. This does not prevent Myriad from developing some novel test technology, it simply means they can't patent something that is just found in nature the same way they cannot dig up a pile of some mineral and get a patent for what they found.

How many other diseases will go unstudied, now that there is no reward for linking a gene to a disease?

There is plenty of reward for coming up with a therapy, coming up with novel testing equipment, etc. There is no public interest to be found in allowing patents for things simply found in nature.

Re:Article doesn't understand the point of patents (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284127)

I am fairly sure that it is you that doesn't understand the issue. The patent was for knowledge that many others would have discovered in short order anyway - because they patented a section of the actual human genome. They were perhaps that first to discover its relationship to a type of cancer, or perhaps they were only the first to hit upon the idea to try and patent the human genome. The underlying technology - the test they developed - is fully patentable. But not the human genome itself.

The patent system is to preserve the rights of inventors, not to keep knowledge from disseminating. And accusing Joseph Stiglitz of not understanding the purpose of patents should have gotten +1 funny and +1 flamebait

Much More Complicated Than That (4, Interesting)

mx+b (2078162) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284129)

... it is an article that says if you try and make money you are bad...

The author I'm sure very well understands patents. I think your statement over-simplifies his argument though.

One of the conversations we as a society need to be having right now is regarding HOW people make money. Is it bad to try to make money? Absolutely not. Everyone needs to be able to at a minimum cover basic life needs, and those that work harder should definitely be able to reap what they sow and have extra goodies and a good retirement. I think that's fair.

The question is, are people making money by exploiting people? Are they knowingly taking advantage of people's ignorance, or taking advantage of laws and systems, to maintain their upper hand and avoid competing against others that very well might have better ideas and more drive, but cannot get a foothold to even start a business? Worst of all, are people suffering when they do not have to, if such a business model was not in the way of a better system? Patents make sure that anyone with a better idea (perhaps someone could come up with a way to make healthcare more affordable while still making money??) is not able to actually compete. What about the right of the entrepreneur to establish a new business? Why is everything always framed in the established businesses, rather than the people prevented from creating businesses (and jobs)?

IMHO, there is something sociopathic about one's business model being to make money on the suffering of others (particularly things like medical issues, which are often through no fault of one's own -- cannot choose your DNA, etc.). Simply saying "Well someone has to pay for it, and they have a right to make money" doesn't really correct the fact that someone is still capitalizing on someone's illness. Perhaps this is a place where the government makes a lot of sense -- perhaps most medical research should be publicly funded and available to all. Get the idea of "I have to make money off of this cancer patient!" out of the system entirely. (Really, I think education and health care should be rights (or "perks", if you prefer) of any citizen; the function being to give everyone a similar base when they start out in the world. After that, it is up to you what you want to make of yourself, but at least everyone is given a fair chance.). This isn't saying patents in general are a bad idea, but simply questioning whether patents on human health are a good idea..

I can't say I know the answer, but I think pretending any attempt at conversation is an assault on business's rights to make money is disingenuous, and I'm really getting sick of "...but business!" being the response to everything. How about we agree that if current business models are not working, we try to allow new ones to take over?

Re:Much More Complicated Than That (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285039)

"there is something sociopathic about one's business model being to make money on the suffering of others"

This is ridiculous. They aren't making money by MAKING people suffer; they are making money by STOPPING human suffering. They profit by IMPROVING human life. Hell, this is the entire idea behind things like patents and copyrights: create something that may improve the world and you get a time limited monopoly to benefit from it.

There's certainly a great amount of room for debate on how long that time limited monopoly should last.

Re:Much More Complicated Than That (1)

rajafarian (49150) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285257)

Whooosh

US of Awesome v the Corruptwealth of Austrafalia (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44283775)

Yet in Australia, the most corrupt and inequitable country in the English-speaking world, the courts ruled that the BRCA1 patent owners can screw 'we the people' for all they are worth, all the while their porcine politicians snorted and squealed in delight.

Gene patenting: Australian court rules BRCA1 patent is legal http://theconversation.com/gene-patenting-australian-court-rules-brca1-patent-is-legal-12240 [theconversation.com]

This is nothing new. When asked to rule if Australians had free speech the Australian courts wouldn't even grant them that: http://www.findlaw.com.au/articles/4529/do-we-have-the-right-to-freedom-of-speech-in-austr.aspx [findlaw.com.au] http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1741850/QA-What-are-the-limits-to-free-speech [sbs.com.au] http://www.ask.com/question/what-countries-don-t-have-freedom-of-speech [ask.com]

Well, nice to see America putting Australia to shame: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implications_of_US_gene_patent_invalidation_on_Australia [wikipedia.org]

ALL property ownership reinforces inequality (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44283785)

I'm not a fan of patents but Mr. Stiglitz's central argument is silly unless this is a pitch to Marxists or whatever-Richard-Stallman-is types. Landlords can hold arbitrary amounts of property and charge rent on all of them... isn't that an accepted part of our society?

Re:ALL property ownership reinforces inequality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284581)

> Landlords can hold arbitrary amounts of property and charge rent on all of them... isn't that an accepted part of our society?

Actually, no. It's not. There have been plenty of times when cities have enacted ordinances to regulate the ownership and rental of apartments.

Government Monopoly (1)

Trulak (1971012) | about a year and a half ago | (#44283787)

I find it interesting that author opposes monopolies and then cries for help from the most eggregious monopoly of all....government. How else do patent laws exist without the government to enforce them? If the government did not exist at all, do you really think Myriad would be sending armed thugs to the doorstep of every one of their competitors claiming stolen property? That's not a winning business proposition to investors. He cries about the corportism that is rampant, completely ignoring the fact that corporations are an invention of government and only survive because of government protections. Clear case of not seeing the forest for the trees. Properly identified the problem but came to the conclusion that is guaranteed to simply propogate the problem further.

Last dying gasp of the repeatedly disproven. (0, Offtopic)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#44283817)

The Soviet Union had to spend 50% of its entire budget just to put up a facade of keeping up with the US -- and while almost entirely neglecting a navy comparatively.

China didn't do squat either, until the past 10 years when they actually introduced the freedom of private enterprise. This proves there's a hell of a lot more to freedom than just freedom of speech.

Get off your political narrative and look at actual reality, at actual measurements of well-being. Socialized countries are as dependent on invention as anywhere else, and can't give it out for free until other, better countries invent it first.

Re:Last dying gasp of the repeatedly disproven. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44283929)

Mod parent up, obviously patents are required for any kind of innovation, it's clear that microsoft was incapable of creating an OS that wasn't complete shit until the VFAT patent encouraged them to create windows 98.

Re:Last dying gasp of the repeatedly disproven. (1)

Lazere (2809091) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284171)

Wait... Are you implying that Windows 98 wasn't complete shit?

Re:Last dying gasp of the repeatedly disproven. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284839)

AC above forgot his tags.

I don't think most people care (4, Insightful)

Elbereth (58257) | about a year and a half ago | (#44283829)

I've tried making that argument, but most people won't really care until it becomes a talking point beaten to death by demagogues on TV. Also, I cringed a bit when I read that summary, because every phrase screams "leftist academic". That's one of the quickest and easiest ways to get dismissed by moderates and center-right allies.

Re:I don't think most people care (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284763)

Leftist academics despise the center-right, and aren't too keen on moderates, either. Have you ever seen what they write? It's some scary shit.

News channels' parents benefit from copyright (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284947)

most people won't really care until it becomes a talking point beaten to death by demagogues on TV.

And the movie studios, which own the channels where these demagogues appear [pineight.com] , have been doing their best to keep this from becoming a talking point because they benefit from expansion of copyright.

"Non-use" Clause (1)

hashish16 (1817982) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284013)

Innovation is moving faster than the laws. Just as in Trademark, one should have to prove actual use of patented material in the course of ordinary trade.

So what? (1)

tgd (2822) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284063)

As others have said, all property rights exist to protect and promote inequality.

And what's the problem with that? Inequality is pretty much the defining characteristic of life. Evolution works because something got more than something else.

Re:So what? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284287)

Your logical mistake is equalling a "characteristics of life", inequality, with evolution.
Just because A has C and B has C, does not mean that A is B.
The problem is logical failure.

Now, if someone is truly better than someone else, clearly they "deserve" a bit more. However, nobody "deserves" to treat other human beings as slaves, or getting rich from their diseases when it can be cured by a simple cure. Modern soceity is built on the foundation of "equality", that all people are "equal".

It's a logical mistake to think "equality" means everyone is or should be the same.
It means everyone should be given equal chances and opportunities in life, as much as possible.
Especially those who don't believe in reincarnation should be adamant about how important equality is, both for each individual, to have a chance to rise up beyond one's station, but also for society. All will benefit from the most efficient and compassionate citizens. On the other end of the scale you have the cruel psychopath criminals destroying everything for their own short-term gains.

Re:So what? (1)

danbert8 (1024253) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284321)

Actually "intellectual" property rights exist to encourage new ideas. At least that's what they were supposed to be...

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

Re:So what? (1)

tgd (2822) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285099)

Actually "intellectual" property rights exist to encourage new ideas. At least that's what they were supposed to be...

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

Um, no shit. And by securing for a limited time, you're promoting inequality for that time.

You know, exactly like I said.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44285107)

Actually "intellectual" property rights exist to encourage new ideas. At least that's what they were supposed to be...

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

And they do that by creating a form of property. Property by definition creates inequality (only one person owns it). Pointing out that intellectual property creates inequality is about as asinine as pointing out that land ownership creates inequality (of coarse it does that's the fucking point of property rights).

You can make an argument that intellectual property is not the best way to promote the progress of science and art, but you're not going to get anywhere useful by basing intellectual property for being juts like regular property.

Education Reinforces Inequality As Well (0)

dslmodem (733085) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284075)

Hardworking and knowledgeable students get good marks. Then, they move into good universities and get good jobs.

In fact, any paradigm advocates differentiation and tracking reinforces inequality.

Is inequality wrong or right? Where is the boundary?

How [all] property reinforces inequality (2)

coldsalmon (946941) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284157)

This is a feature of all private property protections. We don't mind having private property because the goal of our society is promoting general welfare, not promoting equality. Sometimes these two goals are compatible, and sometimes they are not.

But how does rent-seeking increase welfare? (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284965)

the goal of our society is promoting general welfare

In what way does increasing opportunities for rent-seeking increase welfare?

Health inequality is not always bad (0)

MikeRT (947531) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284223)

The case was a battle between those who would privatize good health, making it a privilege to be enjoyed in proportion to wealth, and those who see it as a right for all — and a central component of a fair society and well-functioning economy

Another central component of a fair society and well-functioning economy is a feedback mechanism for bad behaviors that discourages people from committing them before they become social parasites. We live in a society that is extremely self-indulgent in all of the vices and then many still shriek about a right which amounts to bailing them out of their own bad behavior at tax payer expense.

You know what that sounds like? The poor man's equivalent of TARP.

And I say this as someone who is actually not opposed to a social safety net for indigent children, the truly disabled, the retarded, and others who cannot really support themselves or bear responsibility for their choices.

Yea, just forget IP law... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284251)

Forget innovation in the process. SO...

Forget further improvement in the state of the art in medical care (and consign untold numbers of future folks to death). Forget getting most new medical treatments for things like cancer, HIV, the common cold etc. Forget the advancement of technology. Forget getting any new software.

Forget keeping GNU licensed software free...

All because you refuse to *think* though the reasons why the capitalist system actually works. A system that has contributed more to the improved standard of living (world wide) than any other economic system ever tried. You would take away the basis of this system with your need for equal outcome for all. You take away the benefit of working hard and taking risk when you take from the successful to give to the less successful. Take away my copyrights and patents and remove my motive for trying to come up with new solutions for your problems.

Disassembling proprietary software (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285003)

Forget getting any new software.

You underestimate how much free software is distributed to the public under permissive licenses.

Forget keeping GNU licensed software free...

If copyright in computer programs were to disappear, it would become lawful to make a copy of a proprietary derivative of a free program, disassemble it, comment it thoroughly, and spread the disassembly to the public. I've read that this would please RMS just as much as copyleft licensing.

overblown (3, Insightful)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284283)

So (in cases other than this DNA one) a company spending billions on research for something and then making a basic effort to prevent bottom-feeding generic companies and foreigners from ripping off their work with zero investment in the initial research causes Earth's elite population to move to an exclusive space station orbiting Earth called Elysium? I think this article is a little overblown, as is my hyperbolic oversimplification of it.
The real issue here is stupid patents. People patenting round corners and touch to open and the wheel or whatever other stupidity the patent office lets pass by. Those pretty much result in extortion to other companies. But then you've got Dungeons and Dragons. The company invents something that cost a fortune to develop with staff time, spell checking, math, balancing, etc. Someone shouldn't be able to rip it off freely and resell it or give it away just because it's intellectual property and not "real" property. Some copyrights and patents reflect actual value and some are made up BS to go around suing people over. THAT is what needs to be fixed. Depriving the poor masses of their right to D&D information by lording it over them with patents and copyrights is a completely made up fantasy though (pun intended).

Duh! (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284295)

intellectual property reinforces inequality

That's the whole idea.

Oddly enough... (3, Insightful)

Oligonicella (659917) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284347)

his articles are copyrighted.

yet you were still able to read it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44285155)

it's almost as if there is some happy medium between no protection and the overbroad protection proposed by Big-IP...

premise is correct (5, Insightful)

Simulant (528590) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284353)


The problem with IP today is the complete lack of reasonable limits on who can make money from IP and for how long.

It's is fundamentally unfair to the world to expect unlimited and life-long (or longer) income from your IP (or even worse, from someone else's IP to which you have acquired the 'rights').

IP is a human mental construct that was brought into being to address fairness. The pendulum has swung way too far.

confiscation? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284573)

So if society is going to confiscate intellectual property for the good of the whole.. is it going to compensate those who spent millions iventing it. or subsidize those who in process? As hard as it may be for some of you to beleive.. these people and companies invested A LOT of time and money into these products.

Here's an idea: Crowdfunded confiscation (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285059)

Perhaps this might be a job for the takings clause. The U.S. government already has power under the Fifth Amendment to seize private property in exchange for "just compensation", which courts have defined as fair market value. Here's how it could work: An independent assessor comes up with a figure for the value of a copyright or patent, some non-profit organization crowdfunds buying the property, and then the government condemns the property under eminent domain and makes it available to the public under a permissive license.

Bad Comaprison (1)

jythie (914043) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284595)

While I can see the temptation to compare IP to land ownership, I do not think they make for a good comparison.

Land, as a limited resource, can indeed run into a lock-in problem. When a small number of land owners have a lock on the majority of the usable property they can collect rent and essentially prevent people from building their own resources without actually contributing anything. This was a serious problem when it came to say farm land since once land owners grab up the land, actual farmers have no other option other then to hand over their profits to the 'owner'. This resulted in a class system where you were born (or married) into one side or the other but the lock in prevented upward mobility.

IP is a little trickier since so much of it is 'optional'. Outside overly broad or critical path patents, for the most part you can operate and build your business by working around them rather then having to pay someone for the privilege of working.

Fewer than 106 million songs (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285173)

It's a lot like land. A songwriter has been successfully sued over having accidentally copied an eight note sequence from another song. But there exist only a limited number of eight note sequences. There are seven intervals in the scale from one note to the next, and the time from the start of one note to the start of the next can be short or long. (The last note has no following note.) This means 7 * 2 = 14 possibilities per note other than the last, or 14^(n - 1) possible n-note sequences, or fewer than 106 million eight-note hooks. How many millions of songs do you think are already in the ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC repertories?

You all sound like right wing nuts to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284655)

A casual observation of humanity will reveal that some are gifted with additional skills and intelligence. It is only natural that us elites should look out for the less unfortunates. To take it out of the land of IP, and put it into a more physical realm (which some of you are better able to deal with). Some people have no land and housing. It is only natural that those of us who own the land and the construction companies, and seats of city planning commissions should provide for those who do not own the dirt they unfortunately must walk on. Isn't it natural that those unfortunates should provide a little compensation in the form of rent and taxes for those that generously allow them to live on our dirt. It is. If you do not agree with me you must be one of those right wing nuts who hate poor people, or want everyone to live out in the country or in caves without access to running water, sanitation, and who don't have to pay rent to me.

I think the system works great. It is a way to ensure unfortunates have equal access. You want equal access don't you?

IP doesn't have to be right to exclude (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284739)

IP doesn't have to be right to exclude. Patent pools with a fixed percentage of sale price solves all the problems and have been used before with great effect. It gives the researcher a revenue stream and allows the public access to the latest tech.

The other problem often seen in IP is what I call the patent land rush. By law the patent must be novel and non obvious. The land rush occurs when a new tech, like mobile, opens up. Really email on mobile. It may be novel but it certainly is NOT non obvious.

Another indication that it's Not non obvious is when 2 or more people working separately apply for the same patent.

Changing the patent law to a patent pool decided by practitioner, not lawyers and enforcing the non obvious clause would eliminate much of the problem with today's patent system.

False Alternatives (1)

reedk (43097) | about a year and a half ago | (#44284979)

Privatizing good health, among other things IS " and a central component of a fair society and well-functioning economy ". For an example of the alternative, see this recent article from the Telegraph: http://bit.ly/12htACN [bit.ly] "Equality," in the post-modern sense, is one of the most unjust ideas of our time.

All kinds of property do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44284991)

All kinds of property reinforce inequality but it's the way world works. When the human species will no longer compete for resources then we will all be equal.

I'd have less problems with IP law... (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year and a half ago | (#44285089)

if I had any belief at all that the current system led to a rich public domain of material before that material was largely devoid of value and/or forgotten due to publisher/creator neglect.

The frictionless economy - how to survive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44285095)

So how do we make a living in a frictionless economy? When robots make products .... when business workflow automation on computers replaces people ... when Amazon allows all products to be sold at a loss ... when multiple implementations of every idea anyone could have for an app are given away ... when full-time work disappears and only low-paying six-month contracts are left ... ... what do we do next? How do people make a living when MBAs have squeezed all margins out of the economy and no one can make money? We can't all be gatekeepers with walled gardens and warehouses. That only works for a few centralized companies who control distribution channels.

Right now, the American economy is driven by extended warranties and lottery tickets - what's one step below that?

/. has become political (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44285137)

I was looking for the original "commies occupied /." post, but of course it is gone. Maybe a couple of weeks ago I posted an observation in response to a thread on global warming commenting on the liberalism of the /. moderators, and it was deleted not long after I posted.

This has become so bad that I have no desire to return to Southern California or work in Silicon Valley, Seattle, or NYC. I'm keeping my law and CS graduate degrees in Texas.

Socialist/Communist bullshit (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#44285221)

If you have country full of selfish, dishonest, corrupt, cheating, criminal, stupid THIRD WORLDERS, then you can't expect it to magically be as wealthy, successful, safe, etc. as an ALL WHITE country. Yet these cretins are railing against 'inequality', meaning 'inequality of OUTCOME', when inequality of INPUT is a fact, and the one thing they don't want you to know.
Blacks are less intelligent than whites - fact - and everybody knows it.

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