Sunday, November 20, 2005

U.S. Gets Taste of Own Patent Medicine

For many years now the United States has pushed other countries, especially developing ones, to strengthen their patent, copyright, and trademark laws. This is beneficial to some powerful U.S. companies, since they rely on IP-maximalism to extract royalties from product manufacturers. If other countries' industries labor under the the same rules, many foreign companies would need to begin paying a product tax to the U.S., in the form of patent royalties.

Now, it seems, a few Andean countries have turned the tables. Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru are demanding similar "protections for their native plants and the ways they are used, such as a rule requiring companies to inform indigenous tribes of any patent applications based on traditional knowledge and negotiate payment, according to Carlos Correa, a Buenos Aires-based consultant to those nations."

Renee Marlin-Bennett, chairwoman of the Global Intellectual Property Project at American University in Washington, says that such a fundamental change to the patent system would "redirect the rules to rectify some of the embedded imbalance" between rich and poor.

On the one hand, hoorah for these countries that are standing up to a system that puts them at a square disadvantage. On the other hand, yikes -- we're talking about broadening the definition of patentable ideas to those "taken from the wild or cultivated over generations," a development that would certainly further constrict innovation not only domestically in the U.S., but worldwide.

Let us hope that those involved in these negotiations, particularly those representing us in the U.S., see this for what it is: a de facto demonstration of how ridiculous our intellectual monopoly regime has become, and how insane our demands on the rest of the world's citizens are.


Blogger Colin Jensen said...

Call me a San Franciscan, but I didn't get this article at first since I didn't catch that paying natives for their cross-generational ideas would be ridiculous. I think it's ridiculous, but it's so much the way things happen that I didn't see it as a joke.

PS I won't tell you what patent I own... but I do.

7:20 AM  

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