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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6887/patents-prescription-for-disaster/

Patents — Prescription for Disaster

July 22, 2007 by

As Medical Patents Surge, So Do Lawsuits reports that

A surge in patents that protect surgeries and other medical methods has triggered numerous lawsuits in recent years, with inventors fighting more vigorously than ever to protect their intellectual property rights. … Patent lawyers say doctors and scientists are suing to protect everything from laser eye surgery techniques to stent procedures to methods for declawing a cat. … The medical community is weary of the trend, noting that threats of patent infringement litigation could interfere with effective patient care.

In one recent case, “Dr. Gary Michelson … in 2005 received a $1.35 billion settlement after suing a medical device company over his patented spinal surgical technique that speeds recovery”. “About 100 medical-process patents are issued a month — double the amount in the 1980s.”

Naturally, patent attorneys don’t complain: “‘My business is booming,’ said patent lawyer Glen Belvis of Chicago’s Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, who credits technological advances for driving the medical-patent boom. ‘As a patent lawyer, I have a ton of great, innovative things that I can now protect.’” These guys can see the silver lining in anything: according to one patent attorney, medical device and process patents “provides something for other companies to work around. The patent is out there. It’s wide open. The whole world looks at it and thinks, ‘How do I get around it?’ That inspires more creativity and more development.” In other words, because you are prohibited from using a device or technique you want to use, you are forced to think of other (usually more costly or less effective) “workarounds”. Hey, that leads to more innovation!

But not everyone agrees: “”It’s not clear that providing a monopoly over a certain process promotes innovation in the field of patient care delivery,” said Aaron Kesselheim, a patent attorney and doctor who conducts health policy research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.” It is true that “a 1996 federal law prohibits method infringement lawsuits against doctors. But medical device makers can be sued for inducing infringement of a method by a doctor. And universities and companies are increasingly trying to impose restrictions on the use of their intellectual property.” (See also my article How to Operate Within the Law: Patents on Medical Procedures.)

{ 5 comments }

David C July 23, 2007 at 1:48 am

I have received a lot of insult/shunning over my insistence that patents are genocidal and am usually written off in the name of “Godwin’s Law”, but the truth is that they are. Their track record speaks for itself, like how they held back air-bags and anti-lock breaks in cars for over 20 years while millions died in auto accidents, like how they were responsible for lawsuits in the world court over the use of generic AIDS drugs in Africa as millions died from it. Their track record with pharmaceuticals in the US is just awful, and now there are medical patents. Every day, we are being tested as to how many millions of people we are willing to murder in their name, every day there is billions in waste from needlessly incompatible parts and components that are only that way to avoid patent restrictions.

In spite of all this, my real concern is not now, but in 20, 30, 40 years from now as things like nanotech and 3d printers move manufacturing out of the factory and back into the home. As the economy transitions from creation supply to invention services, the pressure to extract IP royalties from every last individual and every last home will be incredible and the potential for violence and coercion incredible too. A quick look at the RIAA shows very clearly how far they are willing to go to secure their “rights”. The difference being, it is very difficult to stop information with a tank or a gun. It is not so difficult when it comes to controlling how people use creations or inventions at their disposal.

IMHO, when people think about patents – they should not be thinking of “incentive” and “intellectual property”, but rather about just how many people they would personally choose to murder for the sake of patents.

Person July 23, 2007 at 12:23 pm

David_C: A lot of people die of starvation while there is food available. Does that make property rights evil?

Stephan_Kinsella: I’ve seen anti-IP people applauding how absence of IP rights forces innovators to [divert resources to] come up with creative ways to keep their work profitable in the face of copying. So, yeah, there’s dishonesty and self-serving bias on both sides. What else is new? (Not “Stephan calling me a gadfly for making a good argument against his position”, that’s for sure…)

nick gray July 23, 2007 at 8:15 pm

I am an as-yet unpublished author, and I would like to become as rich as Rowling. So I half-support copyright laws.
BUT- William Shakespeare lived in an age without copyright, and he still made a living as a playwright. I think he was Sir Shakespeare at the end of his life, and rich.
So we don’t need patents or copyright to be rich, but they do help. The Soviet Union was the only country to not have any patent and copyright system, and I don’t know if they made any books worth reading, in any way.
Does anyone else have real-world examples to support whatever case they are making?

David C July 24, 2007 at 9:46 am

“David_C: A lot of people die of starvation while there is food available. Does that make property rights evil?”

It does if they forbid people from growing their own *copy* of the food on their own land, and then fraudulently call that restriction a “property” right.

Person July 24, 2007 at 10:11 am

David_C: I don’t know if you’re intentionally being dense, but you missed the point of my question. You said that IP is wrong, on the level of genocide, because violating it prevents massive death. I pointed out that violating physical property rights would also prevent mass death and by your own standards is thus wrong on the level of genocide. I then asked you if you conclude that property rights are evil. Your answer was, yes, if it’s also an instance of IP. That’s non-responsive.

Now, try again, and this time, try to maintain ideological consistency.

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