India Uncut

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Patently absurd

Michael Crichton writes in the New York Times:
[T]he human genome exists in every one of us, and is therefore our shared heritage and an undoubted fact of nature. Nevertheless 20 percent of the genome is now privately owned. The gene for diabetes is owned, and its owner has something to say about any research you do, and what it will cost you. The entire genome of the hepatitis C virus is owned by a biotech company. Royalty costs now influence the direction of research in basic diseases, and often even the testing for diseases. Such barriers to medical testing and research are not in the public interest. Do you want to be told by your doctor, "Oh, nobody studies your disease any more because the owner of the gene/enzyme/correlation has made it too expensive to do research?"


Companies have patented their method of hiring, and real estate agents have patented the way they sell houses. Lawyers now advise athletes to patent their sports moves, and screenwriters to patent their movie plots. (My screenplay for "Jurassic Park" was cited as a good candidate.)

Where does all this lead?
Quite. I'm all for trademarks and copyrights and patents as a means of protecting intellectual property and incentivising creativity, but granting patents at such broad levels of abstraction, especially for "[b]asic truths of nature," as Crichton puts it, is absurd. Patently absurd.

And no, no one owns a patent on bad puns.
amit varma, 11:44 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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