Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Name calling at Patentdocs

So I am being called a liar, for unspecified reasons, at patentdocs.com. I will have to elaborate here shortly on the whole "isolation and purification" line of argument, that really seems to have the true believers convinced. Meanwhile, I'm doing what I can to be civil and stick to the arguments as opposed to the name calling.

Here's an interesting article that might put it in perspective. Venter himself, in opposing gene patents, notes that the frenzy to patent genes enriched mostly the patent lawyers. Maybe this is why Noonan is frantically trying to reframe the debate, and call those who oppose him "liars."


Lex said...

As a rank amateur, I'm really reluctant to do this "publicly" but it did seem pretty clear pretty early on in the thread you refer to over at patentdocs.com that this was instantly a "religious" or "red/blue" debate (the sides were already cemented in based on some extraneous conviction) and that the rhetorical machinery based on knowledge of the law or science wasn't going to move it the slightest bit.

Generally, that means that the entire frame is what's at issue, as in Kuhn's outline of the structure of scientific revolutions. Is it ownership in general where the jig just might be up? Who gets to grant what? Carbon credits may be the proper model for issuing patents on genes, ironically enough. A free market approach, where the grant is made in public trust, against some overall and quantifiable public good; some measurement of the commons. Where there has to be some benefit to the general welfare up against, for instance, rampant disease which could be cured by emergency revocation of patent rights. Anybody heard of eminent domain?? Price, as we have so recently had proven and reproven, is not an automatic internalizer of all externalities. There has to be some regulation. There has to be some putting back in of costs born invisibly by the public.

drkoepsell said...


Thanks, yes, there is a religious-style set of convictions at work here, perhaps on both sides of the debate. I do believe, for instance, that IP is not ultimately necessary to encourage innovation, and that other models are proving successful. On the other hand, no one is going to eliminate patent as an institution any time soon (though other, grassroots alternatives might undermine it eventually) so we should at least apply IP consistently, logically, and in keeping with the principles of the Constitution. My arguments have been pretty clear, in the blog wars and in the book, that there are middle paths to reform, but the true-believers (on both sides) seem too tied to the ideologies to acknowledge this. It's a shame, and it is prevalent in so much discourse.

If there's going to be a paradigm shift, I am convinced, it will come from below, from the grassroots, and the institutions will ultimately be powerless to prevent it. They will need to accommodate. If they want to reform, adapt, and try middle paths, they might even forestall the paradigm shift. But as with many who have ideological convictions, they seem to hold ever more tightly to them, oblivious to the dangers to their world-views.