05.23.09

USPTO Leaves People Dead. Is the Intellectual Monopoly Doctrine Practically Dead Too?

Posted in Patents at 8:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

USG

Summary: Stories of great failure to balance ethics and ownership of ideas

ABOUT a week ago we wrote about patents costing lives. Glyn Moody has just brought together two compelling examples of cases where patents are literally killing people. It’s gentle murder, by Intellectual Monopolies. To give one example:

If people with breast cancer genes are demonstrably suffering in this way, statistics tells us that some of them will be dying as a direct result of Myriad’s aggressive defence of its unwarranted intellectual monopolies.

The encouraging news is that, just as the EPO is already in a state of turmoil, the USPTO is almost grinding to a halt [1, 2, 3, 4] and the Copyright Office (for another form of intellectual monopolies) is suffering too.

Backlog At The Copyright Office Highlights Massive Problem With The System

[...]

As you hopefully know, you don’t need to register to get a copyright these days (and haven’t since 1976), but you can still register, and need to do so if you want to sue someone else for damages. So, professional creators still register copyright on pretty much everything they do — though the process is still a bit unclear even to the experts. At the recent copyright conference at Santa Clara University, one of the more amusing moments was when someone asked about registering blog posts and how that could/should be done — and a bunch of the world’s foremost experts in copyright law (including multiple representatives from the Copyright Office) effectively threw up their hands and said they had no clue what actually needed to be registered and how. It resulted in a lot of rather awkward laughter from folks in the room.

Is time for a rethink near?

“Since the birth of the Republic, the U.S. government has been in the business of handing out “exclusive rights” (a.k.a., monopolies) in order to “promote progress” or enable new markets of communication. Patents and copyrights accomplish the first goal; giving away slices of the airwaves serves the second. No one doubts that these monopolies are sometimes necessary to stimulate innovation. Hollywood could not survive without a copyright system; privately funded drug development won’t happen without patents. But if history has taught us anything, it is that special interests—the Disneys and Pfizers of the world—have become very good at clambering for more and more monopoly rights. Copyrights last almost a century now, and patents regulate “anything under the sun that is made by man,” as the Supreme Court has put it. This is the story of endless bloat, with each round of new monopolies met with a gluttonous demand for more.”

Lawrence Lessig

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