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05.09.13

Novartis Pursued by Government Prosecutors, But Not for Its Patent Abuses

Posted in Patents at 12:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Challenging the state-sanctioned drugs business

Beer

Summary: The officials who habitually serve multinational corporations finally take some action against Novartis, but they miss the real problem, the patent system harbouring and harboured by the likes of Novartis

TechDirt has this good article which starts by saying: “You may have seen the news recently that the US government has kicked off a lawsuit against Novartis, the pharmaceutical giant, for paying kickbacks to doctors to get them to prescribe certain drugs.” This reaction from the government is well overdue, but it also overlooks much worse crimes/offences from Novartis, especially ones that relate to patents.

Novartis is a troublemakers which we wrote about many times before, even in the early days of the site, 2007 included. It is worth noting that the company has strong ties with Bill Gates, an expert monopolist, “The stories of “favors” and benefits for doctors from mis-named pharmaceutical “sales reps” (often very young, just out of school, incredibly attractive, but with little knowledge of the actual field), whose jobs often seemed more akin to cruise director and entertainer rather than knowledgeable, helpful sales person, are everywhere,” says the article. “That it’s finally taken this long for the government to think that maybe, just maybe, this might distort the nature of our healthcare system, and lead to wasteful prescriptions, including prescriptions that cost significant taxpayer money is somewhat incredible.”

Indeed, and therein lie the bigger issues. Novartis, like many multinationals, is simply above the law and it contributed a lot to the suffering from a rogue patent regime. Novartis should have been broken to pieces a long time ago, or at least have its patents revoked.

Similarly, all software patents should be revoked. Some of them were illegally granted in Europe, so these are in fact an easy element to eliminate. Glyn Moody, a European TechDirt contributor covered this recently, having also noted why the idea of software patents does not fly. Responding to software patents booster Goetz [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] he now writes this followup that says:

What Mr Goetz calls a bug, I call a feature. One of the key problems with software patents is that they give people a monopoly on a programming idea: that’s as absurd as giving someone the monopoly on the idea of a mousetrap. What patents should do is stimulate the creation of better, different mousetraps. That’s precisely what copyright does in the context of software: it protects the details of that nifty subroutine that you wrote to implement a general idea, but does not stop anyone else coming up with a different approach. If somebody is able to patent the underlying idea of the subroutine, that clearly locks out all the better implementations of it, which means that patents actually block innovation.

Not just in software, either. There are several types of patents that should be fought with equal determination, if not greater determination. The veracity of Glyn Moody is commendable. The pains caused by patents in areas other than software are definitely relevant because they help show systemic corruption, myths debunked, and common misconceptions about patents as they relate to innovation and common good.

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