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Patents Government The Almighty Buck Politics

Violating A Patent As Moral Choice 967

Posted by Zonk
from the life-over-profit dept.
kuzmich writes "The Taiwanese government has announced that it will violate patent laws to manufacture a drug that can help fight bird flu virus. In doing so, they have spelled out their reasoning very clearly: 'We have tried our best to negotiate with Roche, it means we have shown our goodwill to Roche and we appreciate their patent. But to protect our people is the utmost important thing'. Not being in Taiwan, this makes me wonder how bad the situation would have to be for some of the other governments to follow a path of violating patent and copyright laws for the benefit of the general population. Are there precedents, procedures for doing so?"
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Violating A Patent As Moral Choice

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  • Not right! (Score:5, Funny)

    by GFLPraxis (745118) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @06:54PM (#13854620) Homepage Journal
    Patent laws are far more important than human lives; what gives them the right to do this?

    Just kidding, of course. Good for Taiwan. Patent laws should not cause the death of people.
    • Re:Not right! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pivo (11957) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:03PM (#13854686)
      One interesting question related to this seems to be, at what point does it become ethical for a country to ignore patent laws to save its citizenry? How many people have to be threatened to make it acceptable?

      Tiwan is acting in the face of a pandemic. What about less widespread, but equally fatal diseases? For example, why isn't it equally ethical for a country to ignore patent laws for cancer drugs? Why hasn't this already been done for AIDS drugs?

      I'm all for this, by the way. I hope this emboldens other countries to do the right thing for its citizens.
      • Re:Not right! (Score:5, Informative)

        by connect4 (209782) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:09PM (#13854724)
        India has tried, WTO wins again.

        http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=5459 [yale.edu]
      • Re:Not right! (Score:5, Informative)

        by aka.Daniel'Z (586849) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:10PM (#13854725)
        AFAIK Brazil ignores patents for AIDS drugs (or ignored in the past - not sure about what is being done now). Refer to Brazil to Ignore Patent on AIDS Drug [globalpolicy.org], Brazil to Ignore Patent on AIDS Drug [aegis.com]
        • Re:Not right! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Rik van Riel (4968) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @08:26PM (#13855150) Homepage
          AFAIK Brazil is not ignoring the patents for AIDS drugs. Instead, they have negotiated a deep discount with the patent holder. IIRC this is done using the (WTO?) rule - that patents can be ignored to save human lives in an epidemic - as a really big bargaining chip. Because of this heavy bargaining chip, the AIDS drug manufacturer sells their drugs really cheaply in Brazil. They still get a profit, probably a decent one too because the drugs are affordable enough that they're actually being sold...

          I believe that Taiwan is doing the right thing, since the manufacturer of the bird flu drugs did not want to sell them the drugs for a price they were able/willing to pay.

          I believe the rules for negotiating price are a bit different when one of the parties can write the law ;)
        • Re:Not right! (Score:5, Informative)

          by Mark_in_Brazil (537925) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @11:45PM (#13855926)
          Just elaborating a bit for those too lazy to RTFAs linked from the parent post...
          José Serra, the Health Minister in the previous administration in Brazil (he unsuccessfully ran for president in 2002, losing in the runoff election to the current president, Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, and is now mayor of the city of São Paulo), was responsible for Brazil's AIDS policy, which has been very successful and is recognized as a model for government AIDS policies worldwide. One major part of the policy included making the best AIDS drugs available to patients free. The problem is that the drug companies were jacking up the prices, and Brazil's AIDS budget was not going to be large enough to be able to continue this critical part of the policy that had been so successful in controlling the spread of AIDS and the number of AIDS-related deaths.
          Serra tried to negotiate with the multinational pharmaceutical companies selling the AIDS drugs in Brazil, but they didn't want to negotiate. Serra showed them that he had the power, in the event of a national emergency, to make a declaration permitting Brazilian companies to break patents. He told them it would not be difficult to make the case of AIDS being a national emergency. One of the two companies decided to negotiate and rolled back some of its price increases. The other (Roche) balked, so Serra went ahead with the process of issuing the permission to break the patent.
          The pharmaceutical companies got the US government to complain to the WTO, but the complaint was eventually dropped. The pharmaceutical companies negotiated with the Brazilian government (the negotiations continued through the change of administrations and are still ongoing, nearly three years after the change) and the Brazilian government continues to buy the drugs.
          FWIW, Serra is very highly respected by health professionals in Brazil. In addition to standing up to the multinational pharmaceutical companies on the AIDS drugs, he also stood up to them on generic drugs. He helped push through a new policy permitting generic drugs in Brazil, greatly reducing the cost of medications for the Brazilian people. The pharmaceutical companies, for obvious (but shameful) reasons, opposed the introduction of generics in Brazil. Brave guy. Lula, the current president, is also man of exceptional bravery, having been one of the founders of Brazil's labor movement when the government of Brazil was a right-wing military dictatorship, but that's another story. In addition to the accomplishments mentioned above Serra was responsible for pushing through a modern organ donation law in Brazil.
      • Re:Not right! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:44PM (#13854950) Journal
        I think this falls under the legal concept of eminent domain, which makes it legal for the state to use property for the public good. Usually this applies to real property and construction projects that will benefit the greater public, but I don't see why it wouldn't apply here.
        • Re:Not right! (Score:5, Informative)

          by rgoldste (213339) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @08:15PM (#13855112)
          Actually, the U.S. government wouldn't have to invoke eminent domain if they wanted to do something like this. Most of the basic research that leads to these drugs, vaccines, etc. is paid for by the federal government. The gov't then licenses this technology to biotech and pharmaceutical companies to develop a practical application, like a drug. The private company keeps IP rights to the developed drug/vaccine/whatever.

          In these licensing agreements, however, is a clause that allows the government, in an emergency, to manufacture the drug/vaccine/whatever, or give a license to another manufacturer to increase supply of the product. So they're not invoking eminent domain to seize IP, they're availing themselves of a contractual provision. Among other things, this means the gov't doesn't have to compensate the IP holder.

          See, for example, section 5.04(b) of the Model PHS Patent License Aggreement--Exclusive, available here [nih.gov].
          • Re:Not right! (Score:3, Informative)

            by geekee (591277)
            "Actually, the U.S. government wouldn't have to invoke eminent domain if they wanted to do something like this. Most of the basic research that leads to these drugs, vaccines, etc. is paid for by the federal government."

            got any evidence to support this outrageous statement? Change "Most of the" to "Occasionally." If you don't think pharamceutical companies do basic research, you are crazy.
      • Nothing new here.... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by msauve (701917) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:45PM (#13854959)
        They're not violating any US Patent, as they'll presumably be producing in Taiwan. They're only "violating" the Taiwanese patent, if any. But then again, "they" are the Taiwanese government and people.

        It doesn't appear that Taiwan honors foreign patents via treaty: http://www.bpmlegal.com/pctco.html [bpmlegal.com] http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/plt/ [wipo.int] , but I may be wrong.

        The US has done basically the same thing with US patents which have "national security" implications. In the US, the Constitutional authority for patents lies in Congress, so Congress is perfectly free to decide whether patent protection should/is offered for such things. I don't profess to know such specifics about Taiwan.

        • by fishbowl (7759)
          >It doesn't appear that Taiwan honors foreign patents via treaty

          This is particularly sticky because some countries buy the Chinese party line that Taiwan is a province of the PRC, and others superficially (few officially) recognize Taiwan as sovreign. Taiwan didn't sign the Berne Convention on copyrights (not patents, I know the difference), and Taiwan isn't a WIPO member.

          Does Switzerland or the EU formally recognize Taiwan as distinct from the PRC?
      • Two Problems (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Agarax (864558)
        Drug research costs a lot of money. I know Drug companies can get greedy at times, but even if you were running at cost you would be spending tens of millions on research.

        If this was a one shot magic bullet cure for cancer, aids, ect I think few would object to the suspension of the normal rules.

        Unfortunatly, Aids gets resistant rapidly to the current generation of drugs, so you have to have a constant ammount of research going into it (more money).

        But if the drugs are outragiously expensive, people die.

        If
        • Re:Two Problems (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Max von H. (19283)
          Oh, come on, don't be so naive. Pharma companies such as Roche have developed drugs that are extremely efficient against many forms of cancer, yet those drugs don't exist on the market for the sole reason there's not enough profit to be made. Not that they'd lose money over it (ever seen big pharma posting losses?), just that the profit margin wouldn't be big enough. Instead, the molecules end up in veterinary drugs that improve productivity (the case for one of Roche's molecules primarily developed for a c
          • Re:Two Problems (Score:3, Insightful)

            by maxpublic (450413)
            Pharma companies such as Roche have developed drugs that are extremely efficient against many forms of cancer, yet those drugs don't exist on the market for the sole reason there's not enough profit to be made.

            Cites? Sources? Empirical studies published in accredited, peer-reviewed journals? Sounds like X-Files garbage to me.

            Thousands of people (obviously not enough) with multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease or AIDS are being left aside dying and/or suffering on the altar of profit and (I guess mostly) s
    • Re:Not right! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bladernr (683269) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:24PM (#13854824)
      Patent laws should not cause the death of people.

      Should a lack of patent laws cause the death of people? Imagine that the entire world declared that for "serious disease" no one had to respect patent laws. Let's say that AIDS was declared such a disease. Would any more private sector research money (by far the most research money spent) go into finding a cure or better treatment for AIDS? Would anyone be able to write a business case to get venture money to start a new bio-tech firm looking at AIDS treatment?

      The problem with patent-law violation reasoning is that it seems to be without regard to the future. It's the same logic that leads to other poor policies (who cares about the environment! It's not messed up today).

      If patent protection isn't required for drug development, where are the "open source" drugs? It only requires a few billion USD to develop drug lines... I'm sure there is plenty of non-profit, non-patent money to fund that, and so we can do away with the entire patent system.

      Oh, and addressing this specifically: if this stands, and other countries follow, no more advances may be made in bird flu research since all private-sector motivation is removed.

      • Re:Not right! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by netsharc (195805) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:41PM (#13854928)
        Actually, drugs for HIV are so expensive that most people in the poor countries can't afford them, and there's an AIDS epidemy in Africa! There's a doctor from Thailand (Krisana Kraisintu) who's mixed the three main ingredients for the HIV-pill, without paying attention to the patents of the big drugs companies. I've read a magazine article about her where she says she's gotten death threats telling her to stop producing her own version of the pill.

        Talk about being nice..
      • Re:Not right! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Waffle Iron (339739) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:45PM (#13854953)
        Oh, and addressing this specifically: if this stands, and other countries follow, no more advances may be made in bird flu research since all private-sector motivation is removed.

        There already is almost no motivation for private sector research into dealing with epidemics. The market for vaccines just isn't very lucrative compared to things like allergy treatments or impotency cures, and the market size is spotty and unpredictable. Without big profits to chase, major funding for significant advances in these areas will have to be driven by government funding anyway, so dropping the patent incentive would be no big loss.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        where are the "open source" drugs?
        I'm high on all of them
      • Re:Not right! (Score:3, Informative)

        by jcdick1 (254644)
        Actually, the vast majority of research - particularly in potential drug therapies - is done with public (NIH grants) and not-for-profit funds (think March of Dimes, Juvenile Diabetes, Jerry Lewis, William Gates Foundation, etc.) by universities and such. The drug companies then license the new potential product from the schools to manufacture and sell. Admittedly, the drug companies also share a good chunk of change to help in the research, but the majority of their money comes in later, funding FDA tria
      • Re:Not right! (Score:5, Informative)

        by am 2k (217885) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @08:03PM (#13855061) Homepage
        Would any more private sector research money [...] go into finding a cure or better treatment for AIDS?

        Uhm, what incentive is there for a private company to find a cure for a disease? It's much more cost efficient when the patient has to buy the medication in regular intervals for the rest of his/her life (see diabetes, AIDS, asthma, etc etc).

        This is not a theoretical statement, but current practice. I've heard of research projects getting their commercial fundings withdrawn, because they were about to develop a permanent cure instead of a temporal one.

        • Re:Not right! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by biodork (25036)
          This is trotted out every time this discussion comes up...but no one can ever point to any specific "drug" or treatement that has had this happen. It is always this mystical unknown magic cure that is being with held so that the drug companies can make more money....

          Please. Stating this is current practice requires some level of "These guys are doing it with a treatment for disease X". Other wise this statement is no better than me saying I was kidnapped by aliens yesterday.
        • Re:Not right! (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Cylix (55374)
          Maybe once a virus or disease is labeled an epidemic then funding should come directly from the government for said development?

          If its a threat to a great many people, then perhaps those tax dollars we pay should go to funding a cure for the people.

          Maybe it is a crazy idea, but there should be some way to meet at the middle on this one. You have to balance endangering the industries profits versus the common wealth of the people.

      • Re:Not right! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mbaciarello (800433) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @08:13PM (#13855104)

        An editorial in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, possibly the most authoritative source in the field, pointed out how drug companies spend far more money in marketing than they do in research. Also, drug companies often outsource the pure R&D to little-known laboratories, or buy patents from them, just to re-brand the products. I've been involved in research on levosimendan, created by Finnish Orion Corp., only to be licensed as Simdax® by Abbott Laboratories, Inc.

        I figure that when push comes to shove, there's money to be made even from "open source" drugs. The so-called generic drugs, although not as profitable as your typical anti-depressant or branded statin, are a good, perfectly open source market for many companies.

        Personally, I do believe in using "force" on private companies when emergencies arise. This might entail paying a forfeitary fee (kinda like compulsory licensing [wikipedia.org] in music.)

        Force (of money) is what drug companies use to get (partially connivent) physicians to prescribe one expensive, proprietary drug over a generic one, even if the benefits of the former are unproven.

        Force of marketing (as in "ad bombing") is what drug companies use to get unwitting patients to ask their doctors for Plavix®, even though saving one life with Plavix® may cost millions of dollars which could be spent elsewhere more usefully. That is, especially in countries where resources are limited and the health care system is public, that money could save more lives if used for screening programs and promotion of healthy lifestyle, for example.

        Sheer force of money is also what gets people to buy Aleve (naproxene sodium) over, well... Naproxen sodium in its cheaper, unbranded, but otherwise perfectly equivalent form!

        So be it: fsck them for Greater Good. Granted, a better definition for "Greater Good" would be useful.

      • Proportion? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by coastwalker (307620)
        You mention the need for patents in order to protect "the future"

        I think you are underestimating the possibilities of this bird flu.

        it could wipe out world stock markets for a decade.

        Its in your interests for all governments to catch this one early and effectively, whatever methods they use.

        If it appears, then there will be desperate attempts to stop it, for example you can be sure that any country that has a pandemic and is isolateable will have anything that moves over its boarders terminated with extreme
  • I don't blame them. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @06:54PM (#13854624)
    They have their priorities straight. Stopping a potential pandemic is more important than not stepping on a businessman's toes.
  • A Simple Solution (Score:5, Informative)

    by MinutiaeMan (681498) * on Saturday October 22, 2005 @06:56PM (#13854633) Homepage
    It seems to me that in a case such as this, it would be perfectly acceptable to invoke the principle of Eminent Domain [wikipedia.org]. If this isn't a situation that involved the public's interest, I don't know what is!
    • by DoorFrame (22108) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:00PM (#13854668) Homepage
      Well, yeah, but with eminent domain you need pay the market value for what your taking. Since there's already a market value for the drug, one which Taiwan refused to pay, you'll need to come up with another justification.
      • That's inaccurate - there is a *monopoly* value for the drug, which Taiwan refused to pay.

          Patents are market distortions - every bit as much as tariffs and trade barriers.

          More traditional exercise of emminent domain recognizes similar principles, by the way - the government gets to set the price, the owners of the property can't hold out for more than market value in the event that there is an emergency and sudden demand.
      • Re:A Simple Solution (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MinutiaeMan (681498) * on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:16PM (#13854765) Homepage
        Hmm... I'm not saying you're wrong, but can't the government effectively decide/dictate its own "fair" price when invoking eminent domain? I've read a few stories in the past about people whose houses have been condemned for some highway project, complaining that they weren't paid enough for their property. So they can provide some compensation, but not the "market" price (which, let's face it, is decided by the pharmaceutical cartels -- er, I mean, companies -- anyway?). Most medicines are so ridiculously overpriced it's not even funny. (Like my one month's prescription that would cost $480 without insurance...)

        At any rate, at the very least, the government can just take what it wants in the name of national security. It's what the US government did many times with new technologies that were needed for the war effort during World War II...
      • Since there's already a market value for the drug, one which Taiwan refused to pay, you'll need to come up with another justification.
        Market value with one seller? What drug are YOU on?
    • Re:A Simple Solution (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cshotton (46965)
      Patents are "nationalized" all the time in the defense/intelligence world. If you invent something that gives the US (for example) a technological edge (say a new rocket engine, a directed energy weapon, or some such), it is very likely that the US Government will exempt itself from any protections patent law may afford you. In fact, they may classify your patent and "disappear" it from the public record. This happens all the time. It just happens that in this case, Taiwan's national interests are being se
  • by Daedalus-Ubergeek (600951) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @06:58PM (#13854643)
    It has also now spread to Europe, with the latest possible case reported in an imported parrot in the UK.


    No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, isn't it, eh? Beautiful plumage!
  • Nothing new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @06:59PM (#13854657)
    This happened routinely during WWII in the US with patents and forced licensing agreements for technology deemed crucial to the war effort. Even my own great grandfather's manufacturing business (springs) was confiscated due to his ethnic background.
  • by cowbutt (21077) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:00PM (#13854667) Journal
    An Indian company has pledged to manufacture patent-busting Tamiflu, and generic HIV drugs are being made in Brazil in violation of patents.

    Good luck to 'em all, I say; saving lives trumps patents.

    • The government of Brazil manufactured generic AZT in the 90's and the United States was on the brink of an ugly lawsuit in protection of the rights of GlaxoSmithKline. (I believe) the rest of the world eventually put pressure on the US to back away and a compromise was reached.

      Given the current climate of fear with respect to the bird flu scare, I would imagine Taiwan will ultimately face little opposition for such a move.
  • Wikipedia sez... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mr.Progressive (812475) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:01PM (#13854673)
    Wikipedia sez [wikipedia.org]:

    ...an interpretive statement, the Doha Declaration, was issued in November 2001, which indicated that TRIPs should not prevent states from dealing with public health crises. Since then PhRMA, the United States and, to a lesser extent, other developed nations, have been working to minimise the effect of the declaration. TRIPs provides for "compulsory licencing", which allows a national government to issue a licence for the production of drugs without the consent of the patent owner as long as those drugs are primarily for the domestic market. A 2003 agreement loosened the domestic market requirement, and allows developing countries to export to other countries where there is a national health problem as long as drugs exported are not part of a commercial or industrial policy [1]. Drugs exported under such a regime may be packaged or colored differently to prevent them from prejudicing markets in the developed world.
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:01PM (#13854678) Homepage Journal
    First they make you spend tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in regulatory rescosts to pass their tests.

    Then they allow tort laws to get out of control, letting you get sued for billions.

    They make you wait a decade for approval (or not).

    They offer you a monopoly on your invention.

    Then they take it back so their friends and family in pharmaceuticals can make it with zero of your costs involved.
    • by danharan (714822) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:32PM (#13854868) Journal
      Oh, it's even more convoluted than that. They also subsidize research and buy most of your medicine. Push and pull at the same time. Government is schizoid, lavishly giving with one hand while taxing with the other.

      But you're confusing the Taiwanese government and the US. The above applies to the Americans- what the Taiwanese has done is perfectly understandable and akin to what people have said about AIDS drugs.

      Some profit is acceptable. At what point do you tell a company to just fuck off? How much higher profit can they have before you start thinking they're asking just too much? They're already making much better margins than many other industries.

      And morally/ethically: how much are you willing to give to a foreign company to potentially save your countrymen and women's lives?
    • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:34PM (#13854885)
      Yeah, with those burdens, the drug companies sure have been having a hard time making ends meet lately. Maybe we need to set up a relief fund for them.
  • by Speare (84249) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:14PM (#13854750) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I think that governments (including the USA) should be more ready to stake logical claims for the betterment of their populations over the betterment of the "owners" of intellectual property. This includes copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secrets.

    Now, the US Constitution guarantees reasonable compensation for seized property. This doesn't have to be cash. It can be some other equitable consideration.

    For example, if Disney would surrender almost all of their old television cartoons and theatrical movies into the public domain (where they should have lapsed years ago), the US could reciprocate and give a *permanent* protection for a few of their most prized revenue source characters: Mickey Mouse and Disney's Ariel (the Little Mermaid). The population could make whatever artistic mashup they wanted from the footage, but they couldn't claim the Mouse as theirs or claim the Mouse speaks for them. If I understand, this is somewhat like the protection Britain has given Peter Pan: it's a special cultural treasure and is handled different from other properties.

    Another example is for pharmaceuticals: break an effective AIDS drug patent, and we'll let you keep a certain lifestyle drug like Viagra for a longer period.

    Unfortunately, Disney and Pfizer have bought enough Senators to choke the Panama Canal, and so the trade in all of their products will be protected nearly forever anyway, even without surrendering the cultural feedstock and the life-saving inventions to society as a whole.

  • allowed by WTO/TRIPS (Score:5, Informative)

    by akb (39826) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:28PM (#13854848)
    The WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) allows compulsory license of medicines for public health reasons. The Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] gives a decent overview in the "access to essential medicines" section.

    This is a hot topic in the international trade community for developing countries, especially in relation to AIDS drugs.
  • by HighOrbit (631451) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @07:48PM (#13854970)
    A Patent is a grant of property from the Sovereign (i.e. the legal state, whether that be the "People" or the "Crown" or the "Republic"). Most people define "property" as having a set of legal (usually exclusive) rights to possess, enjoy, and dispose of some thing. All property flows from the Sovereign. The Sovereign either grants it directly (as in a patent for land or intellectual property) or he recognizes it through enacting laws. The "Real" in real estate does not mean true, but litteraly "Royal". You may like to think that its *your* property because of some moral reason (like you earned it or made it yourself), but legally it is only yours because the Sovereign says so through his laws.

    Since property and patents are at the pleasure of the Sovereign, the Sovereign is free to revoke it at any time. This is called escheat. In fact, if you die without an heir, your property automatically escheats to the Sovereign.

    So, a Soveriegn of a State, can legally revoke any patent of his own granting at any time. Other than because of a treaty obligation, a Sovereign State need not recognize or allow a Patent granted by another state.

    Here in the US, our Founders were well aware (and sometimes the personal victims) of the abuses and escheats at the hands of the British Sovereign. So all the above was modified by our constitution which says that property may not be seized except with "due process of law". The Congress has also set up horrible "patent and copyright" laws. Obviously, Taiwan has different laws.
  • by Jedi_Knyghte (763576) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @08:13PM (#13855102)
    Are there precedents, procedures for doing so?

    Yes. St. Thomas Aquinas addresses this in ST II-II.66.7 [newadvent.org]. "It is not theft, properly speaking, to take secretly and use another's property in a case of extreme need: because that which he takes for the support of his life becomes his own property by reason of that need." Although this would not be a "secret" taking (it's in the headlines!), the principle still replies. IF (and I stress the "if" because I have no idea what the price tag was) Roche is truly being unreasonable in their demands, and IF (ditto) the need to act now is truly extreme, then the Taiwanese government does have the right to act in violation of the patent.

  • by indaba (32226) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @08:39PM (#13855198)
    You violate a person, you infringe a copyright or a patent

    That's the language all English speaking jurisdictions use. So why choose such an emotionally laden word like violation ??

    Australia
    PATENTS ACT 1990 (Cth)
    Chapter 11--Infringement
    http://www.scaleplus.law.gov.au/html/pasteact/1/54 5/top.htm [law.gov.au]

    USA
    CHAPTER 28--INFRINGEMENT OF PATENTS
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode35/us c_sup_01_35_10_III_20_28.html [cornell.edu]

    UK
    s60 - s71 Infringement
    http://www.jenkins-ip.com/patlaw/index.htm [jenkins-ip.com]

  • Eminent Domain? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by monk (1958) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @08:41PM (#13855207) Homepage
    IANAL, but this sounds like an appropriate use of eminent domain [wikipedia.org].
  • by call -151 (230520) * on Saturday October 22, 2005 @10:41PM (#13855673) Homepage
    Charles Schumer, the senior senator from NY, has been big on this in the last month (and has been big on affordable drug policies for years...) First he said it was inexusable that Roche was putting their profits ahead of widespread safety, and last week [pharmalive.com] said that Roche was being unreasonable in refusing to take steps to make the drug more widely available (not stepping up production, not meeting with other potential producers). Schumer threatened Congressional action to ignore the patent if there was no action from Roche in 30 days. Now it sounds like Roche relented [senate.gov], at least a little in the US market, and has agreed to step up production and at least talk with other potential producers about licensing.
  • by argoff (142580) on Saturday October 22, 2005 @11:13PM (#13855813)

    FYI, patents are a personal monopoly granted by the government, not a natural law property right. They are not anything like regular property that has natural physical limits in supply and demand and no expiration date. Properties are about controlling limited resources, not about controlling people. They are not a valad property right any more than slaves on the plantation in 1850, and considering all the people they kill by locking out cures for diseases, and life saving innovations that were likely to happen in natural progression of things anyhow, they are agruably worse.

    The most crazy part is that people say they promote R&D when patents really kill it. Patnets skew R&D so that researchers don't collaberate, and so that cheap inexpensive pratical cures to diseases are shuned and even attacked.

    Seriously, if you steal my car I think I would be very violated and deprived of my transportation, but if you make a copy of it - hell have 10! The notion that copying and immitation is a form of stealing is bullshit morality, and the people who impose it are really the ones who are immoral.

  • by DrCJM (827451) on Sunday October 23, 2005 @03:07AM (#13856604)

    What is particularly unfortunate is that many drugs (including tamiflu and the superior inhaled drug relenza) were invented by relatively small biotechs. (OK, Gilead isn't small any more, but Biota is *tiny*). Small biotechs are absolutely reliant on the fees and royalties they generate through licensing their inventions to Big Pharma, who have the money to get them through the FDA approval process and marketed.

    Break a patent for Roche or GSK, they'll be annoyed but hardly notice the change in cash-flow. The biotech, however, will lose its sole cash-flow life-line. Biota are collaborating with Japanese pharma Sankyo to produce a second-generation antiviral for influenza that looks like being needed once-weekly for both prophylaxis and treatment. Be a real pity to destroy promising biotech-level research like that by cutting profits at the Big Pharma end of town.

    Disclaimer: Yes I work for a biotech - own shares in them too.

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