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April 20, 2010 7:57 AM   Subscribe

What If The Very Theory That Underlies Why We Need Patents Is Wrong? - This article discusses Modeling a Paradigm Shift: From Producer Innovation to User and Open Collaborative Innovation , a working paper by Carliss Y. Baldwin and Eric von Hippel, suggesting that some of the most basic theories on which the patent system is based are wrong, and because of that, the patent system might hinder innovation.

It looks at the putative theory that innovation comes from a direct profit motive of a single corporation looking to sell the good in market, and for that to work, the company needs to take the initial invention and get temporary monopoly protection to keep out competitors in order to recoup the cost of research and development.

But what caught my eye was this argument by the author evaluating the research paper,

...quite frequently innovation happens through a very different process: either individuals or companies directly trying to solve a problem they themselves have (i.e., the initial motive is not to profit directly from sales, but to help them in something they were doing) or through a much more collaborative process, whereby multiple parties all contribute to the process of innovation, somewhat openly, recognizing that as each contributes some, everyone benefits. As the report notes:

This result hinges on the fact that the innovative design itself is a non-rival good: each participant in a collaborative effort gets the value of the whole design, but incurs only a fraction of the design cost.

But, of course, patents are designed to make that sort of thing more difficult, because it assumes that the initial act of invention is the key point, rather than all the incremental innovations built on top of it that all parties can benefit from. In fact, the report points to numerous studies that show, when given the chance, many companies freely share their ideas with others, recognizing the direct benefit they get. This flies in the face of (unsubstantiated) claims by patent system supporters that the patent system is needed to disclose and share inventions. In fact, the evidence suggests that in many cases, firms will willingly share that information anyway (for a variety of reasons detailed in the report) without requiring the "prize" of a monopoly right to do so.
posted by infini (42 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Without patents the focus would be on "who can bring a product to market the fastest" and "who can keep the biggest secret", at the expense of all other considerations.

Neither of those sound appealing to me.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:07 AM on April 20, 2010


Without patents the focus would be on "who can bring a product to market the fastest" and "who can keep the biggest secret"

Isn't that exactly how it is now? Especially the "who can bring a product to market the fastest" part, I guess the only difference is that the race is "who can patent a product fastest." Also the secret keeping seems the same, you don't want a competitor to learn about what you are working on before you can get it patented.
posted by DoublePlus at 8:12 AM on April 20, 2010


Whoops, read that first sentence as What If The Very Theory That Underlies Why We Need Parents Is Wrong?
posted by jprind at 8:14 AM on April 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Startups don't have the branding, the marketing power or the manufacturing strength of major companies. If the big guys can spend their time searching for new products, reverse engineering them, cloning them and dominating the market before the little guy has a chance, why should the little guy bother? At least in the current system the little guy gets bought out and receives some reward. Without patents they would have nothing.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:16 AM on April 20, 2010


Without patents the focus would be on "who can bring a product to market the fastest" and "who can keep the biggest secret", at the expense of all other considerations.

This is essentially the patent system, but the current system adds needless regulatory costs and endless litigation.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:17 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


What If The Very Theory That Underlies Why We Need Patents Is Wrong?

That people are/should be motivated by profit? Yes. Look at 90% of the Internet. Created by love. And the 10% that was motivated by profit is the bottom decile.
posted by DU at 8:22 AM on April 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


If the big guys can spend their time searching for new products, reverse engineering them, cloning them and dominating the market before the little guy has a chance, why should the little guy bother? At least in the current system the little guy gets bought out and receives some reward.

Without patents they could just do the same thing back to the bigger players and wouldn't have to worry about being sued into oblivion.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:35 AM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


DU, I'm sorry to break it to you, but porno actors usually don't love one another.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:36 AM on April 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


ADR, blue_beetle, while both to-market-fastest and keep-big-secret would undoubtedly happen, neither are determinants of market success. Neither is the axiom "build a better mousetrap," the underlying theory in a nutshell of the Baldwin/Von Hippel paper necessarily a guarantee of a market winner. However, the collaborative incremental improvement approach seems like the kaizen production theory has begun to finally filter up to Harvard & MIT. Not that they are unaware, just that acknowledgment that it just might work seems like new ground for the B-schools at both of those places. Certainly, the computer sciences at MIT have embraced collaborative development and MIT as a whole has embraced open source to the extent that there are many MIT course documents available through open source sharing. (I have no connection with either school.)

Say you get a product to market fastest, say it is a method of taking video tape from a high end, studio production only medium to a burgeoning home movie market. You've kept both the best secrets and reached the market first. Your product is Betamax. Sorry, the larger, less-splendid picture of VHS wipes you off the map. Why? Because you have restricted development only to your own vertical entity, while VHS has instead sacrificed quality for quantity and has licensed everyone in sight. Those other companies provide rapid improvements to VHS and at a lower cost to the consumer. Group development, hive mind, whatever you want to call it, wins the home video battle.

In my former life as a sales engineer, I was often called in to consult on production improvements by one of my biggest clients, who was also a competitor of mine in the marketplace. Either one of us could have--and I assume we both did--hold back on some key secrets. Still, it was in our mutual best interest to collaborate kaizen-style in trying to maximize production efficiencies. This often included engineers from the die or stamping machine manufacturers, and the collaboration among the team led to improvements in their products as well. All of us were able to protect the patents we held on our products while all benefiting from the collaboration--either in terms of improved products, increased sales, reducing waste, all leading to better relations with our end customers and improved vehicle quality and/or performance.

I understand the need for patents, so I wouldn't call to an end to them. But I think the that patent system in the US is dysfunctional at best.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:37 AM on April 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Additionally...

Without patents they would have nothing.

Patents benefit the individual alone. Without patents, the knowledge is open and free to be used by anyone. A world without patents would be far more beneficial to society in general, which, by the way, was the whole point of patents to begin with.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:39 AM on April 20, 2010


I'm sorry to break it to you, but porno actors usually don't love one another.

<Luke Skywalker> No. No. That's not true. That's impossible! NOOOOOOOO!!! </Luke Skywalker>
posted by kmz at 8:39 AM on April 20, 2010


The executives in my industry (pharma) are known for their big hearts and generosity. I'm sure they'd fund multi-million dollar research programs that are more than likely destined to fail even without the prospect of making huge profits if they beat the odds and actually get a drug to market. The years of R&D would result in new medical treatments, after all, so who cares if the Chinese make an identical compound hours after FDA approval and sell it for pennies?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 8:46 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look at 90% of the Internet. Created by love. And the 10% that was motivated by profit is the bottom decile.

Wellll...yes and no. Look beneath the internet and wonder about the underlying technology that made it possible...chip makers, routers, servers, computer manufacturers, the laying of phone lines, Ma Bell, Xerox, IBM, etc. etc.

There was a hell of a lot of for-profit heavy-lifting that had to happen before the Internet could even happen. The entire concept of how the internet could work was based on putting together existing hardware technology, built by for-profit entities. Technologies that were/are, by-and-large the result of patent protection. Try designing an honest thought experiment to determine if the internet would even exist without those patent protections.

I understand that there are some real problems with patents today, but I'm not sure scrapping the entire system is a workable answer.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:47 AM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm kinda with East Manitoba. Also this:
It looks at the putative theory that innovation comes from a direct profit motive of a single corporation looking to sell the good in market, and for that to work, the company needs to take the initial invention and get temporary monopoly protection to keep out competitors in order to recoup the cost of research and development.
I think they've set up a strawman there. Patents are claims to an invention. It's a legally binding document that says inventor X owns the rights to invention Y. The invention incentive is NOT profit motive, it's ownership. That may be a slight difference, but a very, very important one. Nothing in the patent system prevents the collaborative approach that the research paper points out. Patent owners can set whatever rights they want to on the invention, they can make it available for free if they want. What a patent does do is explicitly state who can set those rights.

Some issues that people often have with patents are that the patent should not have been granted due to its obviousness or other reason, that the patent holder has unreasonable terms for use of the patent, and/or the patent was initiated not to bring a product to market, but to prevent products from coming to market.

These issues arise from the *use* of the patent, not the ownership. In fact, I'm fairly certain that without patents an even larger legal morass will arise as entities will outline in contracts on a case by case basis who owns what and who owes what to who.

Furthermore, if better value is created when ideas are free (which is orthogonal to ownership), then more and more people will make their ideas free, as that will increase their value.

I don't doubt the research, as it mirrors my experience as well, however, the premise that patents are bad in general does not follow from that research (in my opinion). Whether its an invention, music, literature or some other endeavor, the creators should have some rights to their creation, but it's perfectly reasonable to put some *well thought out* societal good boundaries around those rights.
posted by forforf at 8:56 AM on April 20, 2010


Smaller players don't have budgets marked "corporate espionage" so they can steal back off of the bigger players. Ed (of Ed's Research Park'n'Ride) has a jar full of change that, when it fills up a little, he uses to buy some gum, so he can savor the sweet flavor of revenge a bit before stuffing the chewed product in the locks of the SUVs of the guys next door who grabbed his one big idea. That flavor? Cinnamon.

The intellectual property laws, at inception, as opposed to their current, mutated form, were built with the recognition that intellectual property was not like physical property — once taken, it could never be reclaimed. You can't have the sheriff kick squatters off of your intellectual property. If you send your gunsel to wrest back your Maltese Falcon-shaped USB drive containing your code, you get the object back but that's it. And that's why we use copyright, patent, and trademark to secure content, process, and reputation. Without these, we're operating in Wild West mode, which means that the big corporations can prey even more upon the little guys, who haven't the resources to fight back.
posted by adipocere at 8:56 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Without patents the focus would be on "who can bring a product to market the fastest"...

Another point against this -- with exceedingly rare exceptions, the first product in a new market suffers from at least two serious penalties.

First, it has to define the market and create demand for this innovative new thing, all by itself. If you invent the Widget, before you can sell one you have to convince someone who has so far gone through life completely Widgetless that they really need to have a Widget now. The cost of creating this demand (and the costs of running your business and producing your widgets while you're waiting for demand to grow) will be borne entirely by you, because you're the only one out there selling Widgets. Eventually, some other company comes along, who has watched what you've done and waited for the Widget market to get a little more mature, and introduces the Wodget. They get all the benefit of your Widget marketing for free, and also they get the avoid your mistakes, which bring us to:

Second, the first product in a new market will make mistakes, will have some clunky elements, will be used awkwardly for things the inventor never expected, etc. In short, it's a 1.0. A competitor watching the reception of your Widget, looking into how people use it, often someone who was an early and enthusiastic adopter of your Widget, will start to think about how it could really be a lot better. Easier to use, more useful, longer-lasting, cheaper, whatever. While you're devloping Widget 2.0, they're designing the Wodget from scratch, to do what Widget does best but better than Widget does it. They probably won't have to infringe significantly on your patents, because the whole point of the Wodget is it's better, in some ways, and therefore different than Widget. Your entire product served as a Q&A and development testbed for them, and while you had to start entirely from scratch, they got to start with a whole raft of free marketing and research.

For the most part, the first-to-market thing is a myth. If anything, I think it's usually the opposite. The first to market gets to be hailed as an innovator, but later entrants make all the real money.
posted by rusty at 9:03 AM on April 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


The entire concept of how the internet could work was based on putting together existing hardware technology, built by for-profit entities.

Yes, it's all based on profit...info you go as deep as and no deeper than is necessary to find some for-profit item. Like chip-makers. Yes, chip-makers make chips for profit. Chips are based on? Electronics and logic. Was Faraday motivated by profit? George Boole?

Try designing an honest thought experiment to determine if the internet would even exist without those patent protections.

Try designing an honest thought experiment to determine how much earlier we would have had the internet, if technologies weren't deliberately obfuscated to prevent people from understanding or (re)implementing them.
posted by DU at 9:03 AM on April 20, 2010


It's an interesting theory, but it's empirically false. They cite free and open source software, for example, but it turns out that free and open source software is extremely bad at innovating [pdf]. The linked paper is a survey of the 500 most actively developed programs listed on sourceforge.net (admittedly as of 2005). It found that 87.2% were not innovative at all (i.e. copied an existing technology for an existing market).

I believe that open, collaborative models of innovation most often benefit established players for whom the technology in question is an input rather than a product. For example, IBM, Google, hardware manufacturers, and other tech companies working to develop Linux allows them all to share the cost of developing an OS, which is an input for them rather than a product that they sell. Thus, the free price and open source license is entirely beneficial to them, but a company that wanted to introduce a new competitor OS would find it very difficult to compete against the combined development effort of those large, established companies.
posted by jedicus at 9:15 AM on April 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm an IP attorney. I'm also an engineer. I think the patent system is hosed, and that the Open Source model is a great way of developing many things. However, as far as I can tell (after a brief scan of the paper), the authors overlook a key point about patents and inventions: some inventions are bigger than others. And it's for those big inventions that the patent system works best.

When someone opens a new front in technology (discovering or inventing, say, the transistor or acoustic steering of light in a substrate), you want her to tell everybody, and then you want everybody to use and improve the invention in ways that apply to their various fields. The first person gets a patent, because when the invention is made, it may not be clear how important the invention is (what will its applications be? What unforeseen things can you do with it? What other ideas might it spark?) The sooner you get that information out, the faster people can go to work on it.

On the other hand, if you grant a patent on everything that's built off the core idea, you quickly choke off the incentive to continue working on the idea -- even if you come up with some good use, you're unlikely to be able to do anything with it, so it no longer makes sense to invest effort there.

The problem is in distinguishing "big idea" from "modest / kaizen improvement of big idea." The obviousness standard in U.S. law is where that distinction could most rationally be made, but the PTO doesn't have the resources or talent to do it, nor do the courts have the technical understanding to provide adequate guidance. (I should say, it's not a failing of intellect; there are plenty of smart people at the PTO and on the bench, but they're simply not engineers and scientists, nor are the lawyers who advocate before them. They just don't know enough to make the right decisions, and conversely, engineers and scientists who do know enough, don't understand how law works well enough to help.)

It's a big problem, but the solution is not to abolish patents.
posted by spacewrench at 9:24 AM on April 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


The linked paper is a survey of the 500 most actively developed programs listed on sourceforge.net (admittedly as of 2005). It found that 87.2% were not innovative at all (i.e. copied an existing technology for an existing market).

You could hardly do a study more wrong if you tried.

First of all, obviously one of main projects in the open source world is going to be creating open versions of things that exist but are closed. This isn't because an FLOSS person is uncreative and can't think of anything else to do, it's because the FLOSS person needs a tool they can't get any other way.

Second, what's the control here? How many proprietary programs are "innovative"?

Third, which one is even the first in a category? Is OpenOffice a "copy" of Word or is Word a copy of emacs? Or is emacs a copy of ed? Is Visual Studio innovative?

Fourth, is "innovation" what we are looking for? Maybe we should be measuring utility or something. I think I'd rather have boring old tabbed browsing "copied" around to a bunch of projects than the innovative Clippy...

I had a fifth, but I don't remember it.
posted by DU at 9:34 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


First of all, obviously one of main projects in the open source world is going to be creating open versions of things that exist but are closed. This isn't because an FLOSS person is uncreative and can't think of anything else to do, it's because the FLOSS person needs a tool they can't get any other way.

Fair enough except that there are tons of open source projects that duplicate existing free and open source software or add only extremely limited functionality. Witness the infamous Linux Audio Chart, the proliferation of open source database programs, the dozens of window managers, the enormous duplicate effort that is Gnome & KDE, the dozens of text editors, the many media players, and the endless, endless language bindings.

Second, what's the control here? How many proprietary programs are "innovative"?

There isn't a control, but there doesn't need to be one because I'm not claiming that proprietary programs are innovative, merely that open source programs often aren't. The point is simply that open source produces very little innovation. The paper that is the subject of the FPP claims that open, collaborative development is the future of innovation. Given that open, collaborative development seems to fail to be particularly innovative, the theory espoused by the FPP appears to be false.

Third, which one is even the first in a category? Is OpenOffice a "copy" of Word or is Word a copy of emacs? Or is emacs a copy of ed? Is Visual Studio innovative?

The methodology is explained in the paper. "Only 64 projects (12.8%) were not direct imitations of existing solutions...Descriptions of the 436 remaining projects, classified as non-innovative, frequently use words such as "similar", "one of", "enhancement of/based on [another software]", "yet another", "replacement"."

Fourth, is "innovation" what we are looking for? Maybe we should be measuring utility or something. I think I'd rather have boring old tabbed browsing "copied" around to a bunch of projects than the innovative Clippy...

The subject of the FPP brought up innovation, so that's what I'm responding to.
posted by jedicus at 9:51 AM on April 20, 2010


Because we know for a fact that countries without strong patent laws have been massively innovative...
posted by MarshallPoe at 9:57 AM on April 20, 2010


Isn't that exactly how it is now? Especially the "who can bring a product to market the fastest" part, I guess the only difference is that the race is "who can patent a product fastest."

With the patent system we have the concept of prior art, including research papers and the like. Also, to put people on notice you wouldn't be concerned with the patent issuing so much as pushing out a patent application, which is pretty trivial and fast (especially a provisional app) compared to bringing a product to market. In my opinion, the problem isn't with the patent system in principle - it's with the underfunded, horrendously overworked, labyrinthine USPTO.
posted by naju at 9:57 AM on April 20, 2010


Initially I read the title as What If The Very Theory That Underlies Why We Need Pants Is Wrong?

It might have made more sense that way.
posted by casarkos at 10:06 AM on April 20, 2010


See now, I read it as What If The Very Theory That Underlies Why We Need Patients Is Wrong?

I though it was going to be about solipsist doctors.
posted by Splunge at 10:34 AM on April 20, 2010


There is nothing about the patent system that prevents open source or group innovation projects. Big pharma, a huge user of the patent system, is experimenting with group innovation right now. Drug development has become so expensive that they are forming consortias to develop new drugs with all members contributing and benefiting from the research effort.

Some areas of technology are moving too fast for the patent system to keep up. It has been opined that every new electronic device, especially those containing software, likely infringes multiple third party patents. Most new electronic devices, like an iPod, rely more on functionality rather than patents to protect market share. New drugs on the other hand have far fewer issues with third party patents but it would be hard to justify the research expense of launching a new drug if a third party could step immediately into the market with a competing product and without the overhead of the huge research expense. These two industries have been the biggest lobbyists in the battle over patent reform.
posted by caddis at 10:36 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


oops, forgot to add this link to a broader discussion of the current patent reform effort.
posted by caddis at 10:38 AM on April 20, 2010


Because we know for a fact that countries without strong patent laws have been massively innovative...

Well, until the 17th century or so, there were no countries with strong patent laws. (Possibly longer, depending on what you mean by "strong".) So basically the entire Renaissance happened without the aid of patents. So yeah.

And even if it's the case today that innovation strongly correlates with strong patent laws, that's not sufficient reason to believe that strong patent laws cause innovation. It could easily be the reverse: that strong patent laws only form in countries where there's already lots of innovation. Certainly there's not much motivation to create special regulatory bodies around controlling access to inventions if no one's making inventions.
posted by baf at 10:43 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


and in those days they kept their monopoly by keeping things secret. We still don't know for sure how Damascus steel was made. One advantage of the patent system is the publication of information on how to make and use inventions.
posted by caddis at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


jedicus: It's an interesting theory, but it's empirically false. They cite free and open source software, for example, but it turns out that free and open source software is extremely bad at innovating [pdf]. The linked paper is a survey of the 500 most actively developed programs listed on sourceforge.net (admittedly as of 2005). It found that 87.2% were not innovative at all (i.e. copied an existing technology for an existing market).
I think there are a lot of problems with this research approach (DU has pointed out some), but one obvious problem with the conclusion is that without a similar "percent innovative" figure for the most actively developed closed/commercial/proprietary software packages computed by the same criteria, the 87% number exists in a context-free limbo, where it can't mean anything.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:56 AM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Western Infidels: I responded to all of DU's criticisms, which include the one you made.
posted by jedicus at 10:59 AM on April 20, 2010


jedicus: There isn't a control, but there doesn't need to be one because I'm not claiming that proprietary programs are innovative, merely that open source programs often aren't. The point is simply that open source produces very little innovation.

Then you aren't making any point at all, because innovation is by definition a rare and special thing.

I don't know how rusty resisted the urge to call it the iWodget :)
(great comment though!)
posted by Chuckles at 11:23 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


jedicus: Western Infidels: I responded to all of DU's criticisms, which include the one you made.
I saw that, and I respectfully suggest that you haven't effectively addressed it:
I'm not claiming that proprietary programs are innovative, merely that open source programs often aren't.
Without similar figures for other modes of software development, you can't make the judgment that an 87% copy-cat rate is "often." If you discovered that proprietary software was 97% copy-cat stuff (leaving OSS 4x as innovative as proprietary), you surely wouldn't describe the situation this way:
The point is simply that open source produces very little innovation.
In a study like this, it seems to me, the difference between study groups is the result.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:33 AM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Then you aren't making any point at all, because innovation is by definition a rare and special thing.

The definition of innovation used in the paper is actually a pretty low bar. The author basically defined true innovation as offering new features on a new platform or for a new market. He even let the projects self-define themselves as either new or not; he didn't exhaustively search the world for predecessors or competitors to each project. Even with that low bar open source development didn't produce much innovation.

I can't offer empirical evidence that proprietary software produces more innovation, but I can offer a theory as to why it might. A commercial software company must sell software to maintain its existence. Selling software that simply copies existing features for an existing market or platform does not distinguish the company in the market. Furthermore, software is a durable good (i.e., it doesn't wear out with use), so the addition of new features is necessary to keep selling copies once the market is saturated. Consequently, a company that merely copies the innovations of others will always be one step behind and undistinguished in the market, which is a recipe for failure.

Contrast that with open source development, where at least in theory development does not rely on a profit motive. An open source developer can continue pouring effort into redundant software solely to stroke his or her own ego or provide features that only a tiny minority of users care about, whereas a commercial company that did that would be run into the ground, assuming the CEO wasn't fired first. The innovate-or-die mechanic of the marketplace helps to insure that companies will, in general, produce innovations that are rewarded by the marketplace.
posted by jedicus at 11:35 AM on April 20, 2010


And not to beat a dead, horse, but honestly, comparing OSS development with non-OSS development isn't really getting to the heart of this patent matter anyway. It's not the case that all OSS software is strictly a labor of love, and it's not the case that all (or even most) closed-source software is developed with the intent to patent. I don't thnk measuring the relative innovativeness of these groups is likely to tell you anything about the usefulness of patents.

I can see the logic of the point you make about open development benefiting established players disproportionately, but I think your point would have been stronger without this silly paper.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:44 AM on April 20, 2010


I don't know how rusty resisted the urge to call it the iWodget :)

It was written at an insufficient level of caffeination, so the urge did not strike, which I now deeply regret.
posted by rusty at 11:55 AM on April 20, 2010


innovation does not come with citations
posted by infini at 12:02 PM on April 20, 2010


Hah!

I'll try and write a more elaborate response later, but Eric von Hippel was one of my mentors for my PhD, and I know Carliss as well, so its great to see them cited. For a more detailed argument, Eric has made his book Democratizing Innovation freely available (natch) on his website.
posted by blahblahblah at 1:44 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Patents just don't understand.
posted by mr.marx at 1:52 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Selling software that simply copies existing features for an existing market or platform does not distinguish the company in the market.

But not having features that your competitors do have does distinguish you in the market, though negatively. So for commercial software, the incentive is to implement features your competitors already have which you don't. Preferably in a way which is slightly incompatible.

I'm sure they'd fund multi-million dollar research programs that are more than likely destined to fail even without the prospect of making huge profits if they beat the odds and actually get a drug to market.

Then maybe they should consider cutting their marketing budgets.
posted by robertc at 2:35 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]



GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty on Friday announced a plan to reduce the prices of several of its patented medications in 50 of the lowest-income countries worldwide and invest 20% of its profits from low-income countries into health clinics and other infrastructure, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Under the plan, GSK will reduce the price of its patented medications for some diseases -- including asthma, hepatitis B and malaria -- to no more than 25% of the price of such medications in developed countries.
[...]
Witty also proposed the creation of a voluntary patent pool to fuel development of new treatments for neglected diseases and said that GSK would contribute its patents that could lead to the development of new treatments for malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases. He called on other pharmaceutical companies to make patents available to third-party researchers working on treatments for neglected diseases. According to Reuters, GSK did not include its HIV/AIDS research in the patent pool. Witty said the intent of the patent pool is to focus on diseases that do not have treatments and that other efforts are addressing the need for antiretrovirals (Richwine, Reuters, 2/13).
Via
posted by infini at 3:38 PM on April 20, 2010


I'd argue that the patent system is a force for evil in the world. Poverty-stricken countries suffering from an epidemic of AIDS wanted to break drug patents purely for life-saving, humanitarian reasons, and the pharma industry lobbied ferociously to prevent them from doing it.

These were of course the same companies which were spending more on advertising and marketing than on R&D. Fuck 'em.
posted by mullingitover at 4:50 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


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