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Biotech Report Says IP Spurs Innovation

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the complicated-incentives-and-disincentives dept.

Biotech 126

ananyo writes "A report presented at the 2012 BIO International Convention in Boston, Massachusetts suggests that patents do not stifle progress when they occur at early phases of research, as some have suggested. Over the past decade, increases in patents have been matched by growth in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging economies. The strength of patent rights can be quantified in an index ranging from 0 (no patent rights) to 5 (very strong). Over time, the countries that U.S. biotech and pharmaceutical companies have invested in have moved up the IP barometer, the report (PDF) says."

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126 comments

IP? (4, Funny)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 years ago | (#40429127)

Internet Protocol Spurs Innovation

Re:IP? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40429205)

No, actually Transport Control Protocol spurs innovation.

Re:IP? (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 2 years ago | (#40430281)

"Over time, the countries that U.S. biotech and pharmaceutical companies have invested in have moved up the IP barometer"

Well, that's not surprising at all, that the US firms would get their local subsidiaries to lobby for stronger IP laws Generally under the guise of "we'll sell all the good pills here if you give us a long period of monopoly on them"

Re:IP? (1)

ewibble (1655195) | about 2 years ago | (#40430653)

Innovation Spurs Innovation, The more innovation other innovation can be based on it.

All that the graphs show is IP encourages people to file patients well Duh.

Lets Stick to Software Patents (5, Insightful)

utkonos (2104836) | about 2 years ago | (#40429141)

Let's all focus on software patents rather than all patents in general. The argument is much more cut and dry. If we focus all our energy on getting rid of software patents, I think it would be more beneficial than trying to reform all patent law. Once we've gotten rid of software patents, then we can move to reforming the patent law in regards to areas that are much more gray.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (5, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | about 2 years ago | (#40429249)

Singling out software patents would be selfish -- let's fix this for everyone.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 2 years ago | (#40429499)

It isn't necessarily broken for everyone. In general, the ability to be rewarded for something you invent is a good thing.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40429687)

Patents do not reward inventors, they reward bankers for exploiting the inventors.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 2 years ago | (#40430845)

Except for the fact that lots of inventors have and do profit from their patented inventions.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (2)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | about 2 years ago | (#40431571)

"Lots" in a 7.2 billion is easy. It isn't even close to "most", though. Usually people who invent work for big companies, who don't really have a need for patents anyway. Patents are supposed to give you some time to be the first to exploit your idea, thus avoiding some big corporation from leveraging their massive capital to beat you to the market. What happens is companies either employ the inventors, since they are the ones who have money for R&D, or buy the patents outright and them proceed to abuse them.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#40432143)

The argument is that those people are getting paid from a corporation, who takes the risk, and they wouldn't take that risk and provide laboratories if they didn't have patent protection.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | about a year ago | (#40433119)

Well, how would we know? Maybe farmers would. They now use those better* seeds for a reason - they are profitable. And the cost to develop is less than what they are being charged for them now, otherwise Monsanto would be broke. Would farmers mobilize and do it? I don't know. Possibly not. But lots of important political and economic justifications are built upon huge ifs, which I dislike because I agree too much with your signature. And given how much overhead those companies and executives (the ones that exist to profit from taking R&D risks) represent, I think experimenting with turning every market into a commodity market could be interesting.

*from a purely economic perspective here, not entering into health or environmental concerns.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#40433485)

The way you find out is run a bunch of experiments, run the economy with patents for a while, then without patents for a while. Do it back and forth for a while and then you will learn.

Of course, it's too dangerous to do that kind of experiment with a trillion dollar economy, making economic changes when you don't know what will happen is dangerous. So you can try meta-experiments, interview people who innovate, try other methods to figure out what might happen. It's not as reliable, but better than nothing.

In many cases, it seems intuitive that if the cost of manufacturing a generic drug is significantly lower than the cost of researching and developing it, then you won't be able to recoup profits on it. This report seems to confirm that, whereas other reports have suggested that the software industry would do better without software patents.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (3, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#40429635)

I don't think you could have typed that with a straight face, unless A: you simply don't understand copyright law and/or B: you have your own software patents.

Software patents should NEVER have been approved. The first one submitted should have been laughed out of the building. All software is covered by one or more copyrights. No software should be covered by patent. End of story.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

jhoegl (638955) | about 2 years ago | (#40429841)

Copyright is just as blindly ignorant as patents for software.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (0, Redundant)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 2 years ago | (#40430101)

Hmmm. Is it, really?

First, let us separate the concept of "copyright" from today's crazy hodgepodge of insane laws designed to line the pockets of people who have never done anything to earn honest money.

The concept that IF there is money to be made from an original idea, or work, then the author should be entitled to some of that money, is valid. And, I think it reasonable that such a law should apply for a decade, maybe a bit more. Possibly even 20 or 25 years.

What we have today is an entirely different animal. Today, high powered lawyers determine that a work is valuable, and that their client should be entitled to collect royalties for his lifetime plus 75 years, or something similar.

Now, I have little problem with any company - even Microsoft, or Oracle, or IBM - being allowed to skim some profits off of any original works they may come up with. It does take an appreciable investment to solve some of the problems that they have solved, over the years. They should be permitted to profit. So, give them the copyright protections that are suitable, and allow them to collect royalties and/or licensing fees for ten, fifteen, even twenty years.

At which time, all that stuff reverts to the public domain. I believe that all versions of DOS up to MSDOS 5 would be in the public domain by now. (to lazy to check the dates, but it sounds right)

The next time you visit Disneyland, or Disneyworld, be sure to thank them for helping to pave the road to copyright hell. They were among the first influential people to begin lobbying congress for extended copyright laws, and other stupid shit. Thanks to them, and the likes of Sonny Boner, almost nothing written in my lifetime has entered the public domain - and I'm 56 fucking years old! Crazy, isn't it?

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (3, Insightful)

NormalVisual (565491) | about 2 years ago | (#40430225)

The next time you visit Disneyland, or Disneyworld, be sure to thank them for helping to pave the road to copyright hell. They were among the first influential people to begin lobbying congress for extended copyright laws, and other stupid shit.

And ironically, a substantial part of Disney's success owes itself to recycling material already in the public domain.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 2 years ago | (#40430813)

Hypocritical yes, ironic no. It's a perfectly rational and predictable position: look at all the profit we generated by reinterpreting public domain works - stands to reason our old works may have similar profit potential so lets do everything we can to keep that potential to ourselves.

Of course that does overlook the fact that they could be mining their competitors' works for inspiration as they fall into the public domain, but then again they're the historical powerhouse in their market, so their competitors would likely benefit far more than they would, and the media industry market is probably a fairly zero-sum game.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 2 years ago | (#40431003)

There doesn't even have to be any direct profit potential. Public domain works give potential competitors cheap building blocks, which would allow competition to spring up and hurt their profitability. Thus, Disney benefits even from locking up orphaned works that they had nothing to do with.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 years ago | (#40433753)

The next time you visit Disneyland, or Disneyworld, be sure to thank them for helping to pave the road to copyright hell. They were among the first influential people to begin lobbying congress for extended copyright laws, and other stupid shit.

And ironically, a substantial part of Disney's success owes itself to recycling material already in the public domain and then copyrighting the remake indeffinitely.

FTFY

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 2 years ago | (#40430443)

The concept that IF there is money to be made from an original idea, or work, then the author should be entitled to some of that money, is valid. And, I think it reasonable that such a law should apply for a decade, maybe a bit more. Possibly even 20 or 25 years.

That's not the concept at all. The concept is that, to the extent that society realizes a net benefit from granting authors limited monopolies, copyright is beneficial to society, and is thus a permissable curb on our freedoms. However, that depends upon a certain iteration of copyright giving that kind of benefit, when there isn't good evidence to support that notion, and there is evidence to the contrary.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about 2 years ago | (#40431735)

First, let us separate the concept of "copyright" from today's crazy hodgepodge of insane laws designed to line the pockets of people who have never done anything to earn honest money.

The concept that IF there is money to be made from an original idea, or work, then the author should be entitled to some of that money, is valid. And, I think it reasonable that such a law should apply for a decade, maybe a bit more. Possibly even 20 or 25 years.

Except that the concept you're describing has nothing to do with copyright. You don't need to prohibit copying in order to implement this concept. In fact, all the works can be freely available for use from day one BUT when you make money from using these works, you owe money to the author. If you don't have a contract specifying how much, the author can just come and take it all.

The concept of copyright is absurd. The difference between copyright and censorship is just one person.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#40430273)

Singling out software patents would be selfish -- let's fix this for everyone.

Patents as such represent singling out one particular entity of the human thought process.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40430393)

Singling out software patents would be selfish -- let's fix this for everyone.

I disagree. Software is fundamentally different.

The difference is that in 99.99% of cases, software patents are the result of very little research and development expenditures. When Amazon patented "one click purchase", there was essentially zero R&D expense to develop it -- it was basically one software engineer who made an obvious suggestion.

In the pharmaceutical industry, they spend millions of dollars in development and testing for each individual drug. There, patents are an essential motivator for them to invest the necessary capital up front.

The solution has always been obvious:

The patent protection must be proportional to the investment.

In other words: If you can prove (to an independent auditor) that you spent $X in relevant R&D expenses to develop a non-obvious innovation, then you should get patent protection up to $X * P in revenues. The day you clear $X * P in revenues from that innovation, the patent protection stops.

Drugs that fail clinical trials (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#40432161)

If you can prove (to an independent auditor) that you spent $X in relevant R&D expenses to develop a non-obvious innovation

Given how many drugs fail clinical trials for each drug that ends up marketed, how are you going to define relevance?

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

artor3 (1344997) | about 2 years ago | (#40430521)

Don't break what you don't understand. Patents are necessary in most fields. They get abused, yes, but destroying them would do incalculable harm to many industries. Your cavalier "let's fix this for everyone!" attitude is horrifying and represents the worst trends in activism.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (4, Interesting)

Znork (31774) | about 2 years ago | (#40431265)

Ignoring the monopoly right sleight of hand patents are just another transfer method. Like any tax and spend system, of course they're beneficial for the recepient and if the recipient was the only party to the equation we could just hike taxes and spend on everyone and everything.

But patents and taxes are not free. They already do harm to everyone else by the funds they transfer to the beneficiaries. So the question becomes, do we gain as a whole by taking from everyone else and giving to the patent holders? Do we gain more by giving monopoly rights than we would by outright state funding?

There are strong indications that IP rights are far less efficient than even the absolutely worst run government programs in existence. For the money transferred to pharmaceuticals not even 20% are spent on actual R&D, while twice that falls under their marketing budgets. That suggests we'd get far more R&D if we junked patents and created research funds tied to actual research. Basically any system would beat patents. In any and all industries.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | about a year ago | (#40432867)

No, they aren't. Of course they are very good for whoever holds them, but they are by no means necessary to anything. As they are now, they basically enable cartels and racketeers. Without them, enterprise would be a lot freer. Yes, there would be lots of knock-offs, but if your product isn't better nor cheaper than the copies, why should anyone protect your greedy or incompetent ass?

One thing at a time (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 2 years ago | (#40430941)

Singling out software patents would be selfish -- let's fix this for everyone.

One thing at a time. The surest way to make sure nothing gets done is to try to do it all at once. The one thing I can agree on with agile programming is the idea that you do the work in discrete stages because it works better than doing it all at once. If you're any kind of a computer nerd, you'll see and use the analogy. If you are merely spouting a politically correct dogma because it is so kumbaya good to be all inclusive, then you are a lost cause already.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (3, Interesting)

Sun (104778) | about 2 years ago | (#40429919)

Let's keep it to patents that a reasonable engineer from the field cannot read. That is the situation with software. It is not, say, with pharmaceuticals. I don't know how it is with biotech.

The moment a "patent editor" starts to pile on the claims and to obfuscate the language, that is the point in which you know that patents made the transition from a tool design to protect an inventor to a tool designed to block out competition.

Shachar

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

jez9999 (618189) | about 2 years ago | (#40430117)

Let's all focus on software patents rather than all patents in general. The argument is much more cut and dry.

Is it? Care to explain why? The best it's been explained to me thus far is that software is just over of the "short" end of the "development lifecycle" spectrum, and so someone is much more likely to violate other patents that haven't yet expired when creating their new software. With hardware the same problem could in theory exist but because the development lifecycle is slower, you're less likely to violate a patent. Unless I'm fundamentally wrong there, that means the issue isn't cut and dry. One could argue that software patents are OK, or go in the other direction and argue that hardware patents aren't.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40430695)

The idea that software patents should not exist is based on the idea that all software is simply sets of algorithms. Therefore all software can be boiled down to mathematics: algorithms and formulas. According to commonly held ideas about patent law [legalmatch.com] : "You cannot patent a formula."

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (3, Informative)

utkonos (2104836) | about 2 years ago | (#40430709)

The idea that software patents should not exist is based on the idea that all software is simply sets of algorithms. Therefore all software can be boiled down to mathematics: algorithms and formulas. According to commonly held ideas about patent law [legalmatch.com] : "You cannot patent a formula."

Sorry, I posted this a sec ago as AC by accident.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | about 2 years ago | (#40430597)

There is no such thing as a "software patent". There are a few entirely unrelated classes of patent that are lazily bundled together under the rubric of "software patent". A business method patent or "...on the Internet" or "...on a computer" patent are very different beasts from fundamental machinery or algorithm patents. From a patent policy and theory standpoint, these different cases are essentially unrelated.

The lack of precision is part of the reason there is not a cohesive movement to reform patents in this area. A reasonable solution for one class may not be a reasonable solution for another yet many reform proponents are throwing all into the same bucket. To people with legitimate patent interests who are amenable to reform, the scorched earth of deeming everything remotely associated with computing as "non-patentable", whether people realize it or not, seems unreasonable and gets in the way of getting everyone to agree on reasonable reforms to the individual patent classes. Discussions of patent reform policy require more nuance than many people are willing to give it.

Re:Lets Stick to Software Patents (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 2 years ago | (#40430723)

Exactly : biomedical patents work more or less how they are supposed to work : a process is disclosed, a reasonable (but arguably a bit too long) exclusivity time is given to the filler. I wouldn't be against some enforced maximum margin on life-saving drugs, but well, I'm a heathen commie...

What is funny is that biomed patent works well because most drugs are NOT inventions through ingeniousness : they are usually the result of thousands (millions ?) of test-and-fail procedures. A huge quantity of molecules are tried at random and often when it is effective its mechanisms are not even understood. Copying a molecule, on the other hand, is usually easier. It makes sense to protect this discovery.

For software patents, however, the situation is more ridiculous because usually, obvious solutions are patented : give any two competent software developer the same requirement, and they will come up with similar solutions.

in related news (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#40429147)

people invested in a broken system have enough to lose to profess faith in the broken system

Re:in related news (3, Insightful)

Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) | about 2 years ago | (#40429193)

I like your sig. I would only add that intellectual property is incoherent with nature. Nature is the best example of how ideas are copied, improved and discarded when they don't work anymore. The entire concept of intellectual property is an attempt to disregard a billion years of evolution.

Re:in related news (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 2 years ago | (#40429895)

Another fact of nature is that restrictions are stifling. Each patent is a restriction on all humanity except the one who was granted exclusive ownership.

We're supposed to get something in exchange for that monster huge concession, something valuable enough to make it a good deal. What? Oh yeah, the idea. We receive an idea that at worst is not original and not great, in exchange for ... promising not to use that idea without permission for 17 years, for fear that might cheat great inventors out of one thin dime of all the profits to be had from every possible use of "their" ideas. It's like we didn't really receive the idea. But we wouldn't want them to sulk and refuse to do any more inventing!

Tabitha Babbitt [wikipedia.org] invented but did not patent the circular saw. The circular saw was put into immediate use. Recently, some inventors made a safety improvement they call SawStop [wikipedia.org] . No more fingers lost to accidents! This improvement is so rarely seen it may as well not exist. I have thought of getting one as a present for my father. He's old enough he may not be able to use a circular saw quite as safely as he once could. But I have never seen any portable saw with it. You'd think at least one of the major retailers of power tools and hardware would stock at least one saw with this feature, at least one major manufacturer would license the technology, but no. They couldn't come to an agreement. Worse, the establishment is trying to stifle it, as it is competition. While they fight, we must do without. That's not how the system is supposed to work!

Re:in related news (1)

kanweg (771128) | about 2 years ago | (#40430287)

"Each patent is a restriction on all humanity except the one who was granted exclusive ownership."

For each patent, the patentee PAID a significant amount of money to give YOU an accurate description (the patent) of exactly how the invention works, so you don't have to repeat the arduous work involved to do that all yourself.

In return he gets a monopoly yes, but it is limited in time, and he even has to pay to maintain the monopoly so it doesn't exist any longer than necessary. The monopoly is also limited to a territory (country), so you are 100% free to do it anywhere else without paying a dime.

The patent gets published after 18 months, even if the product isn't on the market) allowing anyone to learn from the invention and improve on it. That is promoting innovation, not stifling it.

In short, your remark is in good slashdot fashion when it comes to patents nonsense.

As to the circular saw, what you report on is opposition to make the stop mandatory without a FRAND. That link shows politics at work. Nothing to do with the patent system. Without patent system, I think there would have been cries about manufacturers leaching from Gass's idea. Gass could make the licensing terms more reasonable if he's concerned with the health of people. He would have made up a lower fee with numbers (imagine all the sales he's missing now, including the one to you because you obviously didn't buy one of his machines).

Bert

Re:in related news (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 2 years ago | (#40430551)

In return he gets a monopoly yes, but it is limited in time, and he even has to pay to maintain the monopoly so it doesn't exist any longer than necessary.

No, it simply ceases to exist if the value to the patent holder is less than the maintenance fees at 3.5, 7.5, or 11.5 years.

The monopoly is also limited to a territory (country), so you are 100% free to do it anywhere else without paying a dime.

Except for the fact that you can get a patent in other countries as well, so long as you apply.

That is promoting innovation, not stifling it.

Promoting and stifling innovations are terms whose meaning is relative. Patents promote innovation if the social benefits of disclosure and R&D funding outweigh the social costs of a legal monopoly, and stifle innovation is the costs are higher. You have in no way addressed that issue, and the costs and benefits would vary greatly from industry to industry, patent to patent, and even vary depending upon the patent holder. The given saw example appears to be the result of a patent holder being an idiot, and idiotic patent holders hold up the system even more. There are also entities that buy up patents for the sake of extortion of companies practicing in a certain field.

Re:in related news (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#40430675)

Tabitha Babbitt [wikipedia.org] invented but did not patent the circular saw. The circular saw was put into immediate use. Recently, some inventors made a safety improvement they call SawStop [wikipedia.org] . No more fingers lost to accidents! This improvement is so rarely seen it may as well not exist. I have thought of getting one as a present for my father. He's old enough he may not be able to use a circular saw quite as safely as he once could. But I have never seen any portable saw with it. You'd think at least one of the major retailers of power tools and hardware would stock at least one saw with this feature, at least one major manufacturer would license the technology, but no. They couldn't come to an agreement. Worse, the establishment is trying to stifle it, as it is competition. While they fight, we must do without. That's not how the system is supposed to work!

Unless you know of some failed negotiations that came down to licensing costs, I think you're jumping to conclusions. There may be valid business reasons why other manufacturers haven't jumped on board that have nothing to do with the licensing costs.

Since the consumable brake cartridge alone costs $70 retail, the whole system including control board, actuators, etc may add $100 or more to the retail cost of a saw, which is a significant bump even on a $1500 table saw. Other manufacturers may not think that customers are willing to pay that premium for this safety feature. Similarly, they may feel that customers don't want to have to buy a new blade and $70 brake cartridge every time they cut into some overly damp wood. And maybe deep pocketed manufacturers don't want to accept the liability if the safety feature fails and someone cuts off his fingers.

Since the Sawstop manufacturer hasn't come out with a portable saw themselves, it may not be feasible. Stopping a 3500rpm blade in a millsecond means that a lot of rotational inertia needs to be dissipated - an operator may not be able to hold onto the saw during the braking. Or, the braking mechanism may add too much weight to be feasible in a handheld saw. Or it might just be too expensive and not commercially viable. Some people may be willing to pay a high premium for more safety, but if a $100 saw becomes a $200 saw with the sawstop feature, it may not sell enough units to be worthwhile for a large manufacturer.

Re:in related news (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#40431045)

All good points, but it is worth noting that part of the high price is due to patents. Without patents, either SawStop would lower prices to compete or someone else would design a competing system that was cheaper to implement or that had less false triggers.

The general legal framework probably doesn't help either. I suspect a practical solution will be one where some injury occurs but the liklihood of a grievous injury goes way down. Consider, if the system brakes the blade 250 times slower, it becomes much easier to accomplish. In that time, you will likely do enough damage to need the ER for stitches but you're still much less likely to lose a finger than with a non-braking saw.

Alas, that would leave you open to every ambulance chaser who figures the injury shouldn't have happened at all.

Re:in related news (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#40431155)

All good points, but it is worth noting that part of the high price is due to patents. Without patents, either SawStop would lower prices to compete or someone else would design a competing system that was cheaper to implement or that had less false triggers.

The general legal framework probably doesn't help either. I suspect a practical solution will be one where some injury occurs but the liklihood of a grievous injury goes way down. Consider, if the system brakes the blade 250 times slower, it becomes much easier to accomplish. In that time, you will likely do enough damage to need the ER for stitches but you're still much less likely to lose a finger than with a non-braking saw.

Alas, that would leave you open to every ambulance chaser who figures the injury shouldn't have happened at all.

Or, without patents, Mr Sawstop may never have been able to bring his product to market at all, since no one would invest thousands of dollars in R&D if the company down the street could just copy it for free. And since that other company hadn't spent all of the money developing prototypes and refining the design, they could undercut Sawstop's pricing.

So not having patents becomes a disincentive to bringing products to market - you come up with the idea, spend lots of money making it into a commercial product, and then your competitors profit off of it without having spent any of the R&D money.

Re:in related news (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#40431497)

Given the practical lack of SawStop on the market, I hardly see where it would have made a difference. Perhaps he's allowed the whole patent thing to lead him down a blind alley.

Re:in related news (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 2 years ago | (#40431127)

You may be right that SawStop may be too expensive to be worthwhile, or not feasible for hand saws. There may be better ways to prevent accidental finger amputations.

But we should take patents out of the equation. We don't know if the main reason this innovation is not available to the public is the expense, or failed patent licensing negotiations, or something else. If patents didn't exist, didn't add so much friction to the process of bringing an invention to the public, didn't raise the barriers even higher, we'd know that was not the reason. As it is, we can only guess.

I picked on SawStop because that is exactly the kind of invention that patents were meant to help. It's not software, not a business method, not overly broad, and not blindingly obvious. They had a working prototype, and now working devices, though of extremely limited choice and availability. And yet we see that patents aren't doing even an invention like this any favors.

If it is the expense, it may be possible to improve this invention to the point it is worthwhile. There may be dozens of ideas. Maybe it could be made reusable. But no one can try anything without the blessing of the patent holder.

Re:in related news (5, Informative)

ATMAvatar (648864) | about 2 years ago | (#40429261)

The entire premise of the article is that patents == innovation, and thus, more patents indicate more innovation. As an example, the article mentions that:

Similarly, after Taiwan instituted a rule about IP based on government-funded findings, the Bayh-Dole Act, university patenting increased by 354% between 2004 and 2009.

Clearly, the increase was due to an acceleration of innovative research and not because of an act that made previously un-patentable research now available for patents.

Re:in related news (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about 2 years ago | (#40430423)

Why are you so sure that it's a broken system? The huge explosion of innovation and new technology during the patent era (ditto for art under copyright era) is not enough for you?

Re:in related news (1)

darjen (879890) | about 2 years ago | (#40430609)

How are you so sure we wouldn't have ended up with better technology than we have today without patents?

Your post is just another variation of Bastiat's "seen and unseen."

Re:in related news (1)

sirlark (1676276) | about a year ago | (#40432625)

Patents in some form or another have existed for centuries. In the middle ages, they were called guilds, and they did anything BUT increase innovation. Also, you ignore two very important confounding variables: widespread minimum levels of public education, and a general increase in inflation adjusted terms of worldwide wealth. Artistic output hasn't increased because of copyrights, it's increased because more people can afford to patronize artists, and more artists can make a living. It wouldn't matter if copyright had existed 300 years earliler if no one could afford the work anyway. With technological innovation, the higher wealth levels have allowed society to invest more in innovation, as opposed to subsistence. Yes there is a chicken and egg problem here, in that technology was the cause of the improvements in civilisation's situation. But it's been an incremental system, with technology improving society, and society improving technology in turn. That system doesn't rely on patents or intellectual property. I'm not saying it isn't affected by IP laws, but I'm really not sure they improve the situation. So, no! An ass backwards correlation is not enough for me.

Patents don't support invention (in the sense of single inventor); If there were no patents individual inventors will still inovate to improve their own lot regardless of their lack of ability to profit. They profit from the invention itself. As in the old adage, necessity is the mother or invention. And my own addtion: Laziness is the father of invention. Both of these things will lead to innovation without IP. There are however some projects to big for an individual to work on, or evena group of individuals to work on within a single lifetime. This is where patents drive innovation. Patents encourage companies to work on the big problems over the long term, becasue they translate the benefits of innovation from social benefit to monetary benefit to shareholders. Society does not benefit nearly as much from the end results, precisely becasue they can't be copied/produced/improved on freely, and most of the time, the maximum benefit to society is delayed until patent expiration. Until then, the profit motive generally makes the ultimate product available only to those with a certain degree of wealth.

American companies insist on rights (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40429189)

American companies insist on having rights! The fact that they are getting those rights does not mean the rights are doing anyone any good. In fact the pharmaceutical industry is in trouble because they've been leaning on their patents instead of doing basic research. Now the patents are expiring and the companies have nothing else to offer. In that light, the patent system is doing tremendous harm.

Gene patents have stifled innovation (2)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 2 years ago | (#40429221)

My understanding is that patents covering genes themselves have stifled innovation. For example BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes for breast cancer patented by Myriad. Technically Myriad patented the method for discovering these genes; however, they have been using this patent to stifle genetic research.

Re:Gene patents have stifled innovation (3, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#40429547)

I call BS.

Myriad's patents do not claim the gene per se, rather an isolated form of the gene.

In fact there are no patents of "genes" unless they involve isolated genetic material and describe specific functionality of the isolated material, as does the Myriad patent.

Re:Gene patents have stifled innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40431085)

A fact which means that if you do PCR or molecular cloning (or any other form of mass copying) on the gene you have violated there patent. PCR is one of the most basic techniques in biological research, it is the process used to produce thousands of copies of a specific stretch of interesting DNA. Molecular cloning is it's predecessor and does the same thing in a more complex manner, but uses living systems such as bacteria to do the copying.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymerase_chain_reaction
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecular_cloning
PCR or some other mass copping mechanism is required for almost any form of diagnostic because you need a visible number of copies to diagnose with. It is also required for sequencing eg to look for cancer specific variations and any form of genetic manipulation of this gene either in humans or animal models. It is IMPOSSIBLE to do any form of research on a gene without making isolated genetic material containing that gene and then describing some of its properties, and equally impossible to make any diagnostic tool that does not do this.

Re:Gene patents have stifled innovation (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#40431409)

> A fact which means that if you do PCR or molecular cloning (or any other form of mass copying) on the gene you have violated there patent.

Since you are familiar with the field I'm sure that you are aware that patents on isolated genes like this one are working their way through the legal system, and are currently before the Supreme Court.

http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/Legal/News/ViewNews.aspx?id=50297 [thomsonreuters.com]

It will be a very interesting decision.

Re:Gene patents have stifled innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40429681)

Anecdotal stories are unpersuasive.

Correlation is not causation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40429287)

End of post!

NO WAY MAN !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40429319)

We need to share the land !! Share the crops !! Share the WOMEN !! Peace !!

Sponsored by Biotech Industry Organization (4, Informative)

wisebabo (638845) | about 2 years ago | (#40429339)

I kid you not (I read TFA). At least the have a good acronym (BIO).

Re:Sponsored by Biotech Industry Organization (1)

Idbar (1034346) | about 2 years ago | (#40430255)

Wait... so you are telling what? What's next? The RIAA or MPAA supporting a study on how copyright has spured artists' creativity? Oh wait ....

IP doesn't spur innovation (1)

eulernet (1132389) | about 2 years ago | (#40429383)

IP just spurs IP.
Maybe innovation spurs IP, but the inverse is a lie.

When the finality of a system becomes the system itself, there is something wrong.
It's like bureaucracy, which leads to more bureaucracy.

How can we simplify the whole IP system ?

Progress... Right... (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 2 years ago | (#40429391)

"patents do not stifle progress when they occur at early phases of research,"

especially when they are derived from materials discovered by aboriginals in their own land thousands of years prior to the invention of the notion of intellectual property, and can then be "propertised" through the application of the rapacious maw of industrialism. "Progress" continues while profits are made, wealth is extracted, and the biosphere erased. Yes, progress. It smells like victory.

Always write white papers for your sponsors... (4, Informative)

gavron (1300111) | about 2 years ago | (#40429425)

This pro-ACTA pro-IP organization writes lots of so-called white-papers.
This is one more of the same.

Think of them as a lobbyist organization for the pro-IP side of the world
including Big Pharma and Microsoft: http://www.pugatch-consilium.com/?page_id=580 [pugatch-consilium.com]

Here's their list of publications which includes pro-ACTA stuff:
http://www.pugatch-consilium.com/?page_id=590 [pugatch-consilium.com]

This isn't news. It's more astroturfing by the "IP is Awesome" side of the world."
There's a reason that Microsoft and Big Pharma pays these guys. This paper is one such.

E

They got it backwards (2)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#40429457)

Over time, the countries that U.S. biotech and pharmaceutical companies have invested in have moved up the IP barometer

So it's not patents that help the growth of biomedical research, but American biotech companies help the growth of patents (either by lobbying or US pressure).

Confessions of an Econmic Hitman (3, Insightful)

transporter_ii (986545) | about 2 years ago | (#40429779)

by John Perkins. If you haven't seen it, it is worth seeing (or reading, because there is a book). We go to them and make them an offer they can't refuse: in this pocket, there is enough money to make you and your family wealthy; in this pocket there is a gun...what's it going to be?

For some reason, America has a strong desire to make the rest of the world "like us." Our foreign policy mirrors that. First we attempt to buy them off. If that doesn't work, we shoot them.

True freedom means that people are free to make their own choices, for better or for worse. Luckily, the US will step in to make sure everyone makes the right choice...and you better bet your life the right choice is that everyone ends up looking just like us.

What they do not say (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40429485)

"patents do not stifle progress when they occur at early phases of research"

Implies that they do stifle progress later on.
Perception is at play here.
Investors simply want to know that they will control the market; no competition, easy profit.
This is the ONLY thing patents do if you speak of progress.
But once entrenched, those interests will do whatever it takes to dominate and control.
Patents either need to go away completely or be very limited.
But unfortunately the destructive power of greed will not allow people to "limit" patents.
So what is the solution?

Confusing leading vs. lagging indicators (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40429497)

Specifically, Torstensson says that over the past decade, increases in patents have been matched by growth in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging economies (see ‘Number of biotechnology patents filed under PCT, 1977–2009).

Number of patent filings is a lagging indicator of sector growth. It does not necessarily aid growth itself, but rather is a consequence, like higher pollution emissions in industrializing regions.

Re:Confusing leading vs. lagging indicators (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about a year ago | (#40432061)

I don't know how one could spin things more.

After Brazil equalized its pharmaceutical patents to the international standards (by the 90's) all brazilian pharmaceutical companies that had exclusive products got broken and were sold to multinationals. The research increased in volume because those multinational spend more, but the results are clearly lacking.

Also, the only pharmaceutical industries that grow here nowadays are the ones producing generics, framing that as a victory of patents is, well, absurd doesn't go as far, it is evil. It is something that only a persong paid to destroy a public good would do.

slavery promotes cotton (3, Insightful)

Afecks (899057) | about 2 years ago | (#40429617)

There are two separate questions:

1. Is intellectual property justified?

2. Does intellectual property promote creative works?

Regardless of the answer to the second question, the answer to the first question is "no". Threatening to imprison or kill individuals, which is what all laws ultimately are, is unjustified. No, we don't deserve everything for free. Yes, it's immoral to derive value from someone's hard work without compensation. But immoral does not equal illegal. The government should, at most, be using its monopoly on violence to protect people and their property. Using violence, locking people in cages, destroying their lives, killing them, just to promote something that would exist anyways, is asinine and barbaric.

Re:slavery promotes cotton (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40429997)

Exception to the above:

When someone takes something another person has created, and then markets it as his own without paying the original creator.

Re:slavery promotes cotton (2)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#40431433)

Alas, patents are as likely to aid in doing that as prevent it. Very few inventions actually happen in a vacuum where one and only one person has a flash of inspiration, in spite of the hype.

Far more often, several people see the same new thing or discovery and have similar inspirations. They then work quite hard for a few years to reduce that inspiration to practice. One of them gets to the patent office first and so can get the courts to actively conspire with him to steal the sweat of the other inventor's brows. They worked no less hard, and they may not have even known about the others' work at all. Their invention is just as much their own effort as the first guy's and is just as deserving of reward.

That at least suggests a need to alter the form of patents.

On the other end, we seriously need to re-evaluate the duration of patents. At one time it could take most of the duration of a patent just to get the product to the market. The patent would easily expire while the market was still growing. These days, the invention is often obsolete before the patent expires.

The third issue is the patent minefield. We have allowed the threshold for patenting to creep low enough that any reasonably competent engineer risks stepping on a landmine even when doing work that doesn't seem particularly innovative.

The fourth issue, compounding the third is that patents really do seem designed more to obfuscate the invention than to describe it. Enough so that a reasonably competent engineer may not even recognize the patent as being related, much less be able to use it to implement the invention.

Fifth up is the cost of patent litigation. It's ruinous. For quite some time now, legal wrangling has ceased to be about the perceived validity of the patent and all about how much cheaper it is to pay extortion than it is to litigate.

Compounding the fifth point, increasingly the patent office has become a rubber stamp, explicitly refusing to do it's job and letting the courts work it out at a much higher cost.

Balanced against all of that, we have the risk of the copycat coming out with the me too product without any original work of their own. That is the one case where I could support patent protections as long as the points above are fully addressed.

Re:slavery promotes cotton (3, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#40430009)

I guess you don't understand the differences between civil and criminal law very well.

Re:slavery promotes cotton (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40430113)

I guess you don't understand the differences between civil and criminal law very well.

So those FBI warnings at the beginning of DVD's are just a threat to sue the pants off me?

Haha, jokes on them! I'm not wearing pants.

Of course (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#40429637)

Of course it spurs innovation.

It's attracted many billions of dollars of private investment into R&D on biotech all over the world. Without the ability to recover that investment because of protection of the results of the research there would be no biotech industry to speak of.

Re:Of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40430315)

Without the ability to recover that investment because of protection of the results of the research there would be no biotech industry to speak of.

That's complete bullshit. Americans alone donate something like $300 BILLION dollars a year to charity. The only difference would be that things are cheaper since competition wouldn't be artificially crippled. No, of course, when I can charge whatever I want and nobody can compete with me, I make sure not to charge and arm and a leg for prosthetics.

Shocking turn of events... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40429869)

So a report commissioned by a convention that is sponsored by some of the largest biotech corps finds that rules which favor biotech corps' ability to lock in revenue streams without reinvesting and restricts smaller researchers ability to advance existing work to a new level are good? That sees so unlikely to happen, I'm shocked.

Easily worked around (1)

Trevin (570491) | about 2 years ago | (#40429949)

The problem with claiming "innovation" in the pharmaceutical industry is that they can easily bypass existing patents simply by tweaking the processes or non-essential ingredients in creating a drug to make it just different enough to claim it as a different product. That doesn't really help society at all. The rate of discoveries of "high social value" has not risen significantly in the presence of patents. See Boldrin & Levine: "Against Intellectual Monopoly", Chapter 9.

Re:Easily worked around (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40430347)

Almost all such claim language will include "comprises of" or something similar. Consequently, all claims with non-active ingredients will most likely to be rejected based on 35 USC 102.

The causal mistake (1)

Post-O-Matron (1273882) | about 2 years ago | (#40429975)

Over the past decade, increases in patents have been matched by growth in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging economies.

In other words:
1. Over the past decade growth in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors has been observed in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging economies.
2. Over the past decade increases in patents in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging economies.

I would guess these new companies that grew over the past decade in the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors in India, Brazil, Singapore and other countries with emerging economies *for various reasons*, have also secured their achievements with patents as in this days not doing so is suicidal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation [wikipedia.org]

Re:The causal mistake (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#40430849)

other than that, they're counting success as number of patents - not by illnesses cured, not by access to cures being spread to more people.

and the growth we would have if there were no patents isn't considered at all. if we didn't have patents, all the research would be useful - now it's only "useful" if someone else didn't yet patent it.

Re:The causal mistake (1)

arose (644256) | about 2 years ago | (#40431103)

The biotech industry confirms that the biotech industry currently engages in best practices as clearly evidenced by growth in growing economies! Stay are best practices tuned for out next segment where Monsanto has a stunning announcement about the ecological impact of Roundup.

patents are good IF... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40429983)

...if we make them expire in 6 months.

then, let people patent all new things.

6 moths assure you a big headstart for your company, and does not hinder everyone else.

didn't the japanese do something like that after ww2?, and endeed up getting huge advancements?

Pols. don't even respond to peer review objections (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#40429995)

Good for this study!

Every law is a theory. Would that more receive scientific study. That it works in you mind when you rub your chin is worse than piss-poor effort.

Mosanto says Monsanto good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40430107)

Color me astroturf colored. Some news...

BORING. Fix the laws, not the philosophy. (1)

Theovon (109752) | about 2 years ago | (#40430151)

We all know that patents, in their original spirit, would be great for innovation. They help encourage inventors to invest significant up-front time, money, and other resources into development, because they know that the legal system provides them an imporant aid to getting a positive return on their investment. And so the fact that some report says that some patents in certain fields have aided innovation is redundant.

The problem that we're all on about is that the patent SYSTEM is rife with ABUSE, because there are flaws in the way patents are acquired and litigated. It is not the general concept of patents that is problematic but the stifling dark side that has arisen in the over-loaded, under-funded USPTO.

Saying that patents need to be abolished because companies abuse the system is analogous to saying that science should be abolished because there are lots of idiots out there calling themselves scientists but falsifying results and/or just doing generally poor excuses for science.

Re:BORING. Fix the laws, not the philosophy. (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 2 years ago | (#40430399)

Unless of course you think that patents are a fundamentally flawed idea. To develop a system that would encourage innovation, you would need to have a strong grasp on psychology, economics, game theory, and a number of other fields to understand the complexities of the various effects such a system would have. We are probably at least decades away from even hoping to be able to create such a system, and the patent system as we pretty much know it today predated anything remotely modern in those fields. Hell, the true 'original spirit' of letters patent was to collect tax revenue without a visible tax, and the origins of the modern patent system were in limiting those clearly harmful monopolies to a subset that was less clearly harmful. That was a good decision, but they should have continued in that direction and eventually rid ourselves of those monopolies entirely.

For early startups, IP is essential (1)

Pigeon451 (958201) | about 2 years ago | (#40430445)

I'm involved in an very early stage startup. Having protected IP is almost an essential component of a startup in the medical industry for two reasons:

1) Funding -- many investors (angel and VC) won't fund projects that don't have patents (submitted or otherwise).
2) Competitive edge -- A big name company could see what you're doing, take the idea and invest huge resources to make it faster than you could. Then you're done.

For an established company, protected IP is not really a big deal. But for a small startup, it can make a huge difference in making it, and making it as a startup is quite difficult as it is.

Re:For early startups, IP is essential (1)

king neckbeard (1801738) | about 2 years ago | (#40430657)

You are saying that within industries the patent system affects, having patents is important, not that the patent system itself is important.

1) Funding -- many investors (angel and VC) won't fund projects that don't have patents (submitted or otherwise).

A major component of that is that patents are useful for countersuits. If you don't have patents, you may be sued. However, if nobody has patents, then that is not an issue

2) Competitive edge -- A big name company could see what you're doing, take the idea and invest huge resources to make it faster than you could. Then you're done.

However, the big name companies would not be as big without a massive patent portfolio. Patents generally lead to relative consolidation of an industry, so they are solving a problem created by the patent system.

Against-Intellectual-Property (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40430795)

By definition IP restricts innovation. I found this a rather compelling argument.

http://mises.org/document/3582/Against-Intellectual-Property

Against Intellectual Property (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40431199)

Kinsella: Against Intellectual Property [mises.org] , pages 19 - 21:

"Advocates of IP often justify it on utilitarian grounds. Utilitarians hold that the “end” of encouraging more innovation and creativity justifies the seemingly immoral “means” of restricting the freedom of individuals to use their physical property as they see fit. But there are three fundamental problems with justifying any right or law on strictly utilitarian grounds."

"First, let us suppose that wealth or utility could be maximized by adopting certain legal rules; the “size of the pie” is increased. Even then, this does not show that these rules are justified."

"In addition to ethical problems, utilitarianism is not coherent."

"Finally, even if we set aside the problems of interpersonal utility comparisons and the justice of redistribution and we plow ahead, employing standard utilitarian measurement techniques, it is not at all clear that IP laws lead to any change—either an increase or a decrease—in overall wealth."

Broken system (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40431321)

You need patents as imaginary assets against onslaughts from bigger companies.

Therefore you will patent anything even remotely plausible to increase the size of your portfolio.,

As you file the 30th bogus patent, the "IP barometers" will be screaming hot with "innovation".

Sad.

Correlation is not causation (1)

jouassou (1854178) | about a year ago | (#40432583)

Instead of "patents spurs innovation", the conclusion might be that within the current system "innovation spurs patents" and "patents spurs more patent laws".

Growth in other countries from American patents (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#40433021)

Don't India and other not-fully-co-operating-with-American-IP-law countries use American medical patents to produce cheap knock-offs? India still has getting on a billion potential customers without exporting
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