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The Law of Unintended Consequences: Patents 304

An anonymous reader writes "Fortune has an interesting article about the relationship between patent law and innovation. It compares the biotech industry with the computer industry and discusses the effects of the Bayh-Dole amdendment, which has allowed universities to make a lot of cash. But in the process innovation and scientific collaboration seem to have been stifled."
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The Law of Unintended Consequences: Patents

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  • Of course patents help science and tech! If patents hadn't existed, The Great E could never have gotten a job at the patent office, and may never have ended up making his amazing findings, or maybe never publishing them.

    Where would we be then?
    • by halcyon1234 ( 834388 ) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @11:56PM (#13563587) Journal
      Of course patents help science and tech! If patents hadn't existed, The Great E could never have gotten a job at the patent office, and may never have ended up making his amazing findings, or maybe never publishing them.

      Where would we be then?

      Moving faster than the speed of light, that's where we'd be.

      • Ah yes, another good "let's bash patents" thread on Slashdot.

        The irony in this case is that the Bayh-Dole Act has almost nothing to do with patents. The overlap is essentially nil. Before the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, universities could patent inventions; after the Act, universities can still patent inventions, in exactly the same manner (foregoing the completely unrelated changes in patent law.)

        What the Bayh-Dole Act changed is who gets to commercialize federally-funded inventions.

        Before the Act, all in

        • by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:44AM (#13563796) Homepage

          As usual, you didn't read the article or get the point.

          While Bayh-Dole was about commercialization of products developed with federal funding by universities (not particularly onerous a concept if you accept the basic concept of the state in the first place), the "unintended consequence" was patent legal wars - which are a direct result of there being patents.

          And then you have the nerve to talk about pharma - which is exactly the point and example of the article.

          RTFA next time.

          And yes, you DO pay twice (or X or multiple times X) when the company is granted a monopoly on a drug invented by someone else. The issue - and the point of the problem the article has with Bayh-Dole - is that those with patent monopolies tend NOT to license or cross-license their products - which raises the cost of those products to monopoly rates and limits the spread of the IP - which is supposed to be the point of patents in the first place.

          Just because patents are supposed to grant you a monopoly, that monopoly is supposed to be limited in time and subject to the provision that the IP gets licensed to all comers, so invention and distribution are both served.

          Of course, it doesn't work that way. Monopoly is monopoly - I get it all, you get nothing. That's how humans work when they can use the coercive power of the state in their favor.

          In a TRUE free market, you take your chances and the only thing keeping you from bankruptcy is smarts and speed.

          And that's how it SHOULD be - raw evolution in action.

          You monkeys just can't handle that, however.
          • by tambo ( 310170 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:15AM (#13563922)
            RTFA next time.

            I did RTFA. Like all Fortune articles, it's ten pages long, comprising four pages of anecdotes, two pages of buzz-clip quotes, four pages of unsupported supposition, and zero pages of logical reasoning. Fortune caters to the C?O set, so it eschews attention-span-draining critical analysis for talking points.

            And yes, you DO pay twice (or X or multiple times X) when the company is granted a monopoly on a drug invented by someone else. The issue - and the point of the problem the article has with Bayh-Dole - is that those with patent monopolies tend NOT to license or cross-license their products - which raises the cost of those products to monopoly rates and limits the spread of the IP - which is supposed to be the point of patents in the first place.

            Of course they don't license their products. If you spent $5 billion developing and testing a new drug, would you let your competitors buy the rights to sell their own versions? And if you did, how quickly do you think your company's investors - the people who paid money to help build your company - would sell their stocks and run?

            Again, I'm not here to defend the pharmaceutical industry, which I view as undeniably corrupt. But their product strategy is simple reality, owing to the very simple fact that copying is easier than innovating. Isn't that why everyone (rightly) criticizes Microsoft - because it lets everyone else take the R&D risks, and then just copies their ideas? (Stacker/DoubleSpace, Netscape/IE, Eudora/Outlook, WordPerfect/Word, etc.)

            - David Stein

            • by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <<ChristianHGross> <at> <yahoo.ca>> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:40AM (#13564170)
              I personally think you skimmed the article.

              However, lets get to the reality of patents. First there is no NEED whatsoever to spend 5 billion to develop a test a drug! 5 billion is 5 billion! The argument that you need so much money to bring out a drug is bogus! The biotech industry can do with less, but because it is so easy to pump the clientel it is done!

              I detest patents because they don't promote innovation. Cars became popular because a Mr Henry Ford broke the car patent and mass produced a car! It is possible to earn money in an pure competition world.

              The reason why biotech is different is because it deals with the lives of humans, and that is why I don't agree with patenting of drugs. I like capitalism, but bio-tech is a vulture preying on the lives of humans. They say, "Oh you want to live? Well here is a drug, but guess what it is going to cost you!" That, my friend, is very scummy! Again not against those that want to earn money, but reasonable money like all other industries!

              I am glad that you mentioned Microsoft. First yeah sure Microsoft copies, but Netscape was not the original maker of the web browser, neither was Eudora, neither was WordPerfect. If you accurately check your history books before Netscape was what Tim Berners Lee wrote, before WordPerfect was Wordstart, and the list continues.

              In other words you have proved the argument that by copying we get a vibrant industry! You get real innovation! Because copying is evolution as multiple ideas are combined to create a new idea!

              • First there is no NEED whatsoever to spend 5 billion to develop a test a drug! 5 billion is 5 billion! The argument that you need so much money to bring out a drug is bogus! The biotech industry can do with less, but because it is so easy to pump the clientel it is done!

                Oh, come on.
                There is so much money in pharma, that everyone, at every level of the economy, from the FDA, to lobbyists, to insurance companies, to advertisers, to sharks, to doctors, to resorts hosting boondoggles is in on the act. Of cou

              • by tambo ( 310170 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @11:01AM (#13566546)
                The argument that you need so much money to bring out a drug is bogus! The biotech industry can do with less, but because it is so easy to pump the clientel it is done!

                Seriously. Do you do any kind of research before you make such ridiculous statements?

                Do you know anything about the path between licensing a drug concept from a university, and actually putting a drug on the market? In part, it involves:

                • Research into chemicals that can effectuate the idea licensed from the university.
                • Research into the potential side-effects of this drug in the human body in a wide variety of circumstances.
                • Research into potentially adverse interactions with every other drug on the market.
                • Research into drug formulation: assessing various chemical structures for maximum effectiveness, dosage and frequency tweaking, additives to prevent spoilage, and additives to reduce side effects (upset stomach, etc.)
                • All of the infrastructure for actually manufacturing the drug on a very large scale.
                • Costly experimentation of the drug in cell lines and animals to make sure it works as expected.
                • Phase I clinical trials: tests of low doses in a small group of humans to test for serious adverse events - stuff like, you know, death.
                • Phase II clinical trials: months or years of long-term testing on hundreds of patients, as a long-term efficacy test. And since these are double-blinded, they require a large control group of patients to receive placebos.
                • Phase III clinical trials: several years of testing on thousands of patients for more thorough testing and tweaking before the product goes on the market.
                • And, of course, the infrastructure to submit all of this data to the FDA and to push for approval of the drug for clinical use.

                By necessity, this is a lengthy, complex, costly process. If you shortcut the process, you get, you know, thalidomide.

                I detest patents because they don't promote innovation. Cars became popular because a Mr Henry Ford broke the car patent and mass produced a car!

                Your example is not an example of a "patent-free world." It's an example of a deceptive patent system that lures a company to develop a product by a promise of monopoly that turns out to be illusory. And you're right - that works very well... until those developer companies realize that it's consistently illusory, and stop developing new products. Then you're screwed.

                I like capitalism, but bio-tech is a vulture preying on the lives of humans. They say, "Oh you want to live? Well here is a drug, but guess what it is going to cost you!"

                For most Americans, the answer is: very little. Usually it's like a $2 co-pay, thanks to the miracles of health insurance and Medicare prescription drug benefits.

                Of course, it's nowhere near this cheap. It's just that the costs are defrayed through other mechanisms. Those mechanisms absolutely need an overhaul - they're buckling under the weight of pharmaceutical company markups and other sleaziness - and we need to extend them to all Americans. But the drama you see in the sitution just doesn't exist for most Americans.

                In other words you have proved the argument that by copying we get a vibrant industry! You get real innovation!

                That's a more plausible argument in software, where the development costs are essentially nil. It's less persuasive in biotech because of the large initial costs.

                In fact, the field of pharmaceuticals proves your suggestion catastrophically wrong. Do you have any idea how many great ideas for drug targets are unpatented, unexploited, and ready to be tried? Many thousands - probably closer to a million. We have hundreds of ideas for drugs that would probably cure every disease on the planet. They're not patentable, so they can be freely used!

                In light of this fact, do smaller drug companies choose to develop new drugs based on them? No. They create knockoffs of Viagra and

            • The main idea behind patents was that companies don't hold the ideas secret so that other can build further inventions upon them. If you admit that companies don't licence their inventions to others than it means that you agree that patents dont support their reason d'etre. Perhaps it is not that all patents are wrong, perhaps we only should change the law so that companies can profit from licencing patents more than from keeping them for themselves.
            • by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @04:28AM (#13564554) Homepage
              "If you spent $5 billion developing and testing a new drug, would you let your competitors buy the rights to sell their own versions?"

              What part of LICENSING don't you understand?

              You license so you can partake of the profits of everybody else selling your invention as well or better than you can yourself.

              By not licensing, all you do is stimulate everyone else to come up with a better product - under a different patent - and put you out of business.

              Read my lips. Patents don't last. No form of IP lasts. Monopolies that are not coercively protected by the state do not last. If you rely on a patent to make you money, you will shortly go out of business or spend most of your monopoly profits fighting legal battles in court.
            • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @07:43AM (#13565159)
              "If you spent $5 billion developing and testing a new drug"

              The vast majority of the pharm money is not spent on R&D. It's wasted on marketing, administration and inefficient production.

              "But their product strategy is simple reality, owing to the very simple fact that copying is easier than innovating."

              The very simple fact is that once you have a monopoly, marketing, lobbying and litigating is easier than either copying or innovating.

              The very simple fact is that we're not getting even 20% efficiency out of the monopoly money we're paying.

              The very simple fact is that we'd get more than five times as much R&D done for the same money we're spending today if we simply got rid of the patents, paid for the R&D outright and let generic producers run a competetive industry instead.
          • by cyberon22 ( 456844 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:18AM (#13564096)
            Hear hear! Grandparent post has clearly not read the article, the basic logic of which is as follows:

            (1) Inventions are now patented which would not have been patented previously because researchers could not *automatically* get patents for federally-funded research. There was a complex process that wasn't invoked for relatively trivial or cumulative research.

            (2) The change in law led to a cash grab, and a research culture in which universities encouraged staff to patent any new developments, even those growing out of collaborative research. This led to commercial barriers being formed (licensing) which inhibited research and industrial application.

            (3) As a result of #2, the amount of research flowing back into the academic commons is being sharply reduced. This is also inhibiting research.

            (4) As a result of #2 and #3, there is a visible and statistically significant reduction in the amount of innovation in the drug industry since 1980, measured in terms of the amount of significant new drugs being made available to the public, and those which are significant enough to merit fast-tracked approval.

            So parent post is correct. You *do* pay twice, because you are paying licenses to use technology which was never previously patented because it grew out of the public domain and so there were greater barriers to patenting it because a bureaucratic approval process was required.

            The argument is that the law made it possible to commercialize things which were not commonly commercialized before.

            • by Vicissidude ( 878310 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:49AM (#13564434)
              You *do* pay twice, because you are paying licenses to use technology which was never previously patented because it grew out of the public domain and so there were greater barriers to patenting it because a bureaucratic approval process was required.

              To put it clearly, US taxpayers pay twice from the taxpayer money the government earmarks for drug research AND the money that the taxpayer then spends on drugs.

              What makes this even worse is that the drug companies then sell the drugs in countries such as Canada for less than what they sell it in the US. In that way, the US taxpayer is triple screwed over.
          • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:25AM (#13564111)
            but it's undeniable that they have created a host of useful drugs since the Bayh-Dole Act passed.

            This implies that none of these drugs would have been developed without the act. Pharma wasn't exactly hurting before the act, and it's defintely not hurting now. Who wins? The American consumer doesn't, as they are subject to inflated drug prices.
        • by soundofthemoon ( 623369 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:48AM (#13563813)
          First off, mod parent up. That was a wonderfully cogent explanation.

          However, I think there is still a case to be made that drug companies are getting something of a free ride at taxpayers' expense. Sure, they still have to invest money in bringing a drug to market, and paying for the trials to do that is expensive. But they do get a big break by the taxpayer footing the bill for much of the basic research. Perhaps drug companies that market medications based on publically funded research should have to pay back the cost of the research into the fund, so it can be used to pay for further research. That seems like a start at fair compensation for lowering their product development risk by several orders of magnitude.
          • I think there is still a case to be made that drug companies are getting something of a free ride at taxpayers' expense.

            In general, I agree with you. Like oil companies, pharmaceutical companies achieve annual net profits that can only be described as indefensible.

            I like your idea about channeling some big pharma profits back into basic research. But I think that's an indirect route to solving the core problem with big pharma: the complete lack of a normal capitalist buyer/seller market for prescriptio

            • No patient in America knows or cares how much drug companies actually get paid for their prescription, since they never pay the price directly; the costs are completely hidden by the impenetrable bureaucrasies of health insurance and federal healthcare payments

              As someone who has spent most of the last 10 years with either utterly shitty prescription coverage or no coverage at all, allow me to say this:

              Bullshit. Some of us know that Imitrex is $18/dose for a medication that seems to be about 40% effective (I
        • by tambo ( 310170 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:01AM (#13563870)
          ...and I'll follow up that post with some observations about the problems with academic research.

          Basic academic research is a phenomenally important beast - perhaps the most important component of our long-term economy and the long-term health of our nation. It's impossible to overstate this or to use enough hyperbole here.

          And contrary to the tiresome pop-culture tirades, America doesn't have a terrible shortage of scientists. We could use more, sure, but our labs are jam-packed with Ph.D.s and incoming students. In fact, we have a slight overabundance of them, which is reflected in their unappreciatively low salaries.

          When I talk to scientists about the factors holding back their research - which I do frequently, in fact, as part of my job - I get a pretty consistent answer.

          Grants are getting more competitive. While federal funding overall is growing, it hasn't kept pace with the explosion in life sciences research in labs across the country. Life sciences research complexity and data have experienced Moore's-Law-like rates of growth; just look at the sizes of GenBank and the Protein Data Bank over time. But because all universities are increasingly focusing on federal research dollars (in part because their academic rankings are based on it), it's becoming harder every year to get a grant funded. Scientists must show more data, and argue more convincingly that the research is useful.

          Contributing factors:

          The federal government has taken a stronger role in guiding research. A growing proportion of federal funds is earmarked for research on specific topics - e.g., AIDS or bioterrorism defenses. This necessarily diverts funds away from other areas of research.

          Also, the administrative oversight of federal grants has grown. Universities are now held to much stricter rules about how those federal funds are spent. If a grant proposal indicates that a scientist will commit 40% of his employment to a project, he must actually commit that 40%. Funds must be carefully tracked by university admins - no more "I want to buy a Light Cycler with my unrelated grant money" discretionary BS.

          These are real rules, and are strictly enforced. The penalties for violating them include paying the grant money back to the federal government, large penalty fines, and potentially getting barred from future federal funding. As a result, scientists and university admins have to spend tremendous time on administrative tasks - which detracts from research.

          Those are the factors that scientists most frequently cite. Surely there are others.

          - David Stein

          • by parvati ( 41221 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:08AM (#13564069)
            There are most definitely other problems, many of which are overlooked during all the hand-wringing of "we don't have enough (US) scientists".

            A) Over the past 5 years, there are a huge increase in federal funding for basic research. Unfortunately, most of the money went to fund a few large-scale projects run by well-investigators--we're talking about guys who are already at the peak of the funding heap and don't really have to worry about their salary and their entire labs' salary and jobs depending on whether the grant submission scores in the top 9% (probably be funded), or outside of the top 12-15% (probably not funded). What I'm saying, long-windedly, is that much of the recent increase in NIH money made a few large-scale, high-profile projects even larger, at the very same time that young invenstigators were seeing a precipituous drop in the percent of acceptance for the smaller new investigator grants.

            b) 6 years of grad school, a doctorate, and then you find out that you really aren't paid any better than losers straight from Party U--and THEY probably get health care. Raise your hand if you're ready to quit yet, since your first grant is going to be rejected anyway.

            c) it never fucking ends. You can be president of the school and a nobel prize winner and so important that they've decided to make you the first human cloned, and your grant STILL only has a 10-18% chance of being funded.

            So, um, I can't remember how this pertains to the patent thing. The key to remember, however, is that the Pharmas tend not to do the most productive basic research, so many of the potential drugs arise from federally-funded work a universities, where people are pursuing utterly novel stuff. It's good for the rest of us to provide a mechanism for the school to approach a biotech and offer that novel product in exchange for any possible royalties.

            The only bad patents are patents on genes or part of the genome. Those are fucking stupid and people should be beaten.
            • by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @04:17AM (#13564513)
              Hi,

              In fact, this:

              > c) it never fucking ends. You can be president of
              > the school and a nobel prize winner and so
              > important that they've decided to make you the
              > first human cloned, and your grant STILL only has
              > a 10-18% chance of being funded.

              this is good! Grants should be awarded on merit and not on who they are for.

               
        • But I think you're missing something-if that idea was developed using public money, mine and yours, isn't that idea publically owned, mine and yours? It'd be ridiculous for government funds to be used to build a road, and then the contractor who already received the money be allowed to set up toll booths to collect more from the taxpayers who drive on it. Can you explain to me how this is somehow different (tax money funding the initial product, then the private entity who -already- benefited from the tax m

          • I think you're missing something-if that idea was developed using public money, mine and yours, isn't that idea publically owned, mine and yours?

            That's what we had before the Bayh-Dole Act: such inventions were owned by the federal government on behalf of the people. It didn't work out too well. No company could afford to step up to the plate, take the idea off of the shelf, and develop it into a successful product - not without the ability to prevent competitors from immediately copying it. It was a comp

            • If your premise is correct, why were new drugs and treatments coming out before 1980? If your premise is correct that we'd be reduced to "a Wikipedia page" without this rampant patenting of everything, shouldn't that have been the state of things before it?

            • In essence, if you want to dispense with the monopoly-drug business model, you'll have to replace the entire second half of the development track for drugs. You'll have hundreds or thousands of raw, freely usable ideas for diagnosing and curing disease. It will be up to you to figure out how to use them. And good luck with that - it's usually a pretty hard technical problem, taking several man-decades of experimentation.

              You're right, that sounds like an utterly intractable problem. If only there were some o

        • by banana fiend ( 611664 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @04:35AM (#13564572)
          "but it's undeniable that they have created a host of useful drugs since the Bayh-Dole Act passed."

          Nonsense! Nothing stated without proof is undeniable. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite of that statement was made in the article - they state that these "useful" (new, better - esp. for cancer, not just rehashes) drugs are coming out at a SLOW rate, not in "hosts" . (honestly now, did you actually read it?).

          Where are you getting these figures from? You're going to have to do better than that. How about the NME's or high-priority drugs (If you don't know the term RTFA)? Granted, the article states that 2004 was a bonanza year (without stating how much so) - but the previous years?

          Let's get some figures from you.

        • As a result, the technologies and patents just got locked away inside the government and went unused.

          This is a crock. Government research into basic technologies for the space program, NASA, military (especially aviation) programs and the department of energy have delivered incredible advancements without 25 years of waiting for greedy bastards to loose their monopolistic attitude. The issue now isn't the patent. It's the fact that I can use patents to shelf a technology or prevent it's application, peri
    • I hope this was meant to be funny. I'm sure he'd have gotten a job elsewhere. Whether it allowed him the time to develop his theories is a different matter, but make no mistake someone would have developed them very soon thereafter because all the context was there waiting for an enquiring mind with a slightly quirky and rebelious way of looking at things to work out what was happening.
    • and if we let castro play baseball maybe I could vacation in sunny cuba.
  • Before waxing philosophical on economics, you could do yourself a service by skimming the academic literature on the subject. There are good, free services like econlit.org and scholar.google.com
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Wednesday September 14, 2005 @11:58PM (#13563602) Homepage Journal
    ... is actually a fundamental problem built into all IP law: the assumption that money is the prime motivator for creative endeavors. (And yes, science is a creative endeavor.) This is a myth successfully propagated by generations of moneymen, but a myth is all it is. Scientists, like artists, certainly want to make a living from their work, but the best ones pretty much always do what they do simply because they want to do it, not because they expect it to make them rich. If your primary concern is making money, OTOH, you don't have the time (or, probably, the brainpower; suits who think of themselves as intellectuals because they have an MBA simplye have no idea what goes into a serious scientific education) to become good at anything that constitutes real creative work.
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:24AM (#13563723)
      As I posted on another forum only a short time ago when someone suggested that science and art would come to halt if people didn't think they could get rich by it, I consider that suggestion insulting.

      Beyond the basic necessities of life the primary reason I need money is to pay for science and art supplies. For instance, I've been offered a gig as a cello player, but I don't happen to have a cello. That likely means I'll have to borrow money to obtain one, and get paid to recoup the expense, but I'll play the thing for free. Because. . .well, it's fun. Far from requiring payment to produce art most artists pay to be allowed to do it, and will often pay themselves into poverty if need be.

      Likewise I did not study physics in college because it was the hot hiring field at the time. I did it because I "had to." I fully expected to have to patch the elbows on my tweed jackets out of economic necessity rather than fashion.

      Give me money and I'll just blow it on something stupid like a French Horn or an Oscilliscope, so I can "do my thing."

      I wrote a song awhile ago. It's a pretty good song. People request it and stuff. I didn't do it for money.

      You see, there is this woman. . .

      Aha! Now I think we're onto this motivational thing.

      KFG
      • by lahvak ( 69490 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:44AM (#13564183) Homepage Journal
        Just look at art and science in totalitarian countries. In all former communist countries, you definitely couldn't get rich by doing science, not even in relative comparison to general population. Yet they had a lot of excellent scientists, and produced huge amount of research.

        As far as art goes, not only you couldn't get rich, in many cases you could get yourself locked up. Still, all the Soviet block countries had very active unofficial art scenes.
    • by biodork ( 25036 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:29AM (#13563748)
      Problem : I work as a "suit" in a Biotech. I have a Ph.D. not an MBA.

      Yes - scientists (myself included) would do it for the love.

      Problem - in general a proect I work on or am involved with will burn $1 million before we have a good handle on whether it will work or not.

      For a million, you better have the commercial side locked up before you risk it.
      • I agree. A better way of putting it is that scientists have the following priorities:

        1. Make enough money to eat.
        2. Do what I love to do.
        3. Profit!

        When you're talking about millions of dollars, you'd better have the "eat" part worked out first.

      • For a million, you better have the commercial side locked up before you risk it.

        I disagree. For a million, or $10M or whatever, you better have the equivalent amount of money locked up before you risk it. But you do not need to have a guarantee of patent-protected commercial exploitability, or even patent-protected profitability in order to acquire that funding. Because of the environment you've been exposed to, that's what you see as the primary way to do business, but there are alternatives.
      • Or you might try to develop a way to predict the succesfullnes of your project with a lot less money. The fact that you spend it (or burn through it as you put it) does not mean that it is the only way to do a feasability study.
        If you have money you always need more, if you have not you devise other ways to acheive your goals.

        For when the revolution comes: you have approximately number (13/17)*10^6.5 (you openly admid to wearing a suit and work for an evil company).
    • No. The Bayh-Dole act was not trying to stimulate inventing. Bayh and Dole recognized that there was lots of great inventing going on before they introduced their bill.

      The problem they were trying to address was that lots of these patented inventions were not being produced and marketed because although inventors may invent things for free, companies will only produce and sell something if they can make money.

      The big problem Bayh-Dole attempts to address is that a pharmaceutical company is unlikely inve

      • The big problem Bayh-Dole attempts to address is that a pharmaceutical company is unlikely invest tens of millions of dollars on clinical trials to verify the safety and efficacy of a newly-invented drug if the company does not have exclusive patent rights.

        Ah yes, the big problem of big companies not willing to adopt a new product unless they can make obscene profits without doing any work. I'm so glad that Congress saw fit to solve this problem at the public's expense.

        If Congress _really_ wanted to do th

    • ...the assumption that money is the prime motivator for creative endeavors

      It's a fundamental problem with the Free Software community: the assumption that since money is not the prime motivator for creative endeavors, that money as a motivator must be eliminated. Have you ever thought that the lack of money is an extremely huge demotivator?
    • I don't agree that it's a fundamental mistake to assume that money is the prime motivator for creative endeavors. Money has the advantage of being the most convertible form of reward. The triumph of the free market economy, in which the pursuit of profits is seen as a key motivation, is undeniable. In my view, there's empirical evidence that money is the prime motivator.

      However, it's also true that any policy, be it in intellectual property or any other field, is bound to fail if it's based on the exclusi

    • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @08:03AM (#13565234)
      "... is actually a fundamental problem built into all IP law:"

      Actually, the even more fundamental problem is the assumption that a monopoly is an appropriate means to grant a return on investment.

      The IP monopolies have many consequences; they have the same effect as taxes on specific products, slowing the economy, they create a disincentive for the adoption of newer technology, the create a disincentive to combine and join different research, they create a strong risk and roi based incentive to waste money on marketing instead of R&D, thus increasing economic waste in society and diverting money from wealth creating activities. They increase costs for the consumers, making the citizens globally less competetive, they increase costs for companies, making them globally less competetive, they increase costs for the state, making it less competetive, etc.

      The larger the part of the economy that consists of monopoly powered industries, the more apparent the damage will become, leading to exactly the kind of consequences one can expect from the history of other monopoly-heavy economies.
  • by ReformedExCon ( 897248 ) <reformed.excon@gmail.com> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:04AM (#13563624)
    While there are certainly areas of crossover, like the algorithms to filter through the volumes of data that biotech firms have, the fundamental difference between bio companies and computer companies is that biotech produces *something*. Computer technology is basically ephemeral. But Biotech leads to medicines and other discoveries that are both difficult to discover and inherently valuable.

    It makes sense to cover biotech with patents, as it took significant effort to research and develop those things.

    Computer tech, on the other hand, is primarily focused on automating processes. Computers are inherently faster than humans at doing repetitive tasks, especially in regards to calculations. But it is difficult to find a program that implements a process that doesn't exist already in another form, or that isn't blatantly obvious to everyone. Something like developing "a secure mechanism by which encrypted media data is stored on a device and available for playback when read and decrypted by the client application" would probably be a good candidate for a patent. "Users can click once and purchase an item without having to load the shopping cart menu" is both obvious and not really that far removed from the systems that preceded it.

    That people get greedy and innovation slows down when companies are competing is just a small side-effect of the patent process.
    • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:09AM (#13563650) Homepage Journal
      There's a lot of software out there which was neither trivial nor obvious. Just because most computer "R&D" work (in quotes because most of it is almost entirely "D" without a whole lot of "R") offers only minor improvements on existing systems doesn't mean all of it is that way.

      That being said, neither algorithms nor genes should be patentable. Ever. By anyone.
      • Just because most computer "R&D" work (in quotes because most of it is almost entirely "D" without a whole lot of "R") offers only minor improvements on existing systems doesn't mean all of it is that way.

        Just because a particular bit of computer work is obvious and trivial (or at least very simple) doesn't mean it need not be written or that it lacks value. The world needs accounting programs as much as it needs FEA modellers.

    • I don't buy the quality of innovation argument, it sounds elitist in addition to being wrong. Computers innovation enabled biotech research. The reearch could have been done, but it would be very hard to do given the sheer mass of data involved.

      Computers get to market fast, biotech takes a long time. 20 years on computer technology is way too long, but as /.'ers have convinced me, for biotech it's not so easy. That's really the only difference, I haven't heard a good solution yet.

      • Nanotech will alter that equation. Nanotech will allow biotech research to be sped up by orders of magnitude. And combined with advances in computer hardware via nanotech, the vast amounts of data produced by nanotech-enabled biotech research will be processable.

        Some people have suggested that we won't make serious progress in understanding the human body and brain for the next 300 years. Wrong. Nanotech will in the next 20-50 years allow massively parallel embedded real-time investigation of body and brain
    • "Computer technology is basically ephemeral. But Biotech leads to medicines and other discoveries that are both difficult to discover and inherently valuable."

      Do you know the definition of ephemeral [m-w.com]?

      "Function: adjective
      Etymology: Greek ephEmeros lasting a day, daily, from epi- + hEmera day
      1 : lasting one day only
      2 : lasting a very short time
      synonym see TRANSIENT

      How do you come to term computer technology ephemeral?

      Computer technology encompasses concrete inventions and abstract inventions.

      Speaking

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:18AM (#13563693)
    Nothing will hurt innovation more than the Patent Reform Act of 2005.

    Why? Because it sets limits on damages for willful and even fraudulent patent infringement so that large corporations will find patents easy to ignore.

    Meanwhile, the limits are still big enough to remain a deterrant for small companies and independent inventors.

    In other words, if you are a big corporations, you might be able to knowingly ignore patents while startups and inventors don't have the same benefit.

    There are some good improvements in the Patent Reform Act of 2005 but this fundamental flaw is going to hurt innovation by making the patent system benefit a small percentage of companies at everyone else's expense.

    Please write to your representatives and respectfully ask them to fix the flaws before it becomes law.
    • by Halo1 ( 136547 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @04:16AM (#13564510)
      hy? Because it sets limits on damages for willful and even fraudulent patent infringement so that large corporations will find patents easy to ignore.
      They already do so today. The problem with the willful damages is that they kick in as soon as you read a patent, which means there's a huge disincentive to read any patents, reducing their potential value as knowledge source even further (yes, "even further", it's not like e.g. software patents are written to be understood by developers or scientists).
      In other words, if you are a big corporations, you might be able to knowingly ignore patents while startups and inventors don't have the same benefit.
      Large companies have always been able to do whatever they want thanks to their huge portfolios, see e.g. IBM vs Sun in the eighties [forbes.com].
      There are some good improvements in the Patent Reform Act of 2005 but this fundamental flaw is going to hurt innovation by making the patent system benefit a small percentage of companies at everyone else's expense.
      I doubt it. Afaik we don't have this willful infringement equals treble damages clause in Europe either, and the patent problem here is less bad than in the US for now. Less chance at a huge payoff may in fact reduce the number of court cases and thus benefit innovation, because more is invested in R&D and useful things, instead of in lawyers.
    • I think you are forgetting that the modern day patent trolls are the primary person that this section of the law are meant to stop. You have to realize that most large companies, including Microsoft do not see the point in going after the tiny companies making items because they aren't important enough, and more then likely don't make enough money to be worth the trouble. Most companies enforcing patents nowadays are companies in the case of Freedom Wireless v. BCGI. If you read this case and look at the
  • Too much grease (Score:5, Interesting)

    by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:21AM (#13563706)
    Grease keeps systems working smoothly. Lawyers, money speculators, used car salesman, and a zillion other occupations are society's grease. In a frozen static society, you could get rid of them once you had polished the system to the nth degree. But in a dynamic society, these greasers keep the various diverse parts all working together relatively smoothly.

    But too much grease in a gearbox bogs it down. That's what has happened with intellectual property in general. Those idiots in Washington listened to their corporate sponsors and believed what they said about the more the merrier.

    At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, business and politicians will notice what the true innovators and researchers have long since learned the hard way, and cut back on the flow of grease. In the meantime, the rest of us are stuck with completely counterpdocutive IP legal wrangling getting in our way. It may take a long time to notice the drop in innovation and productivity, but I sure hope not.
  • by FlorianMueller ( 801981 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:24AM (#13563722) Homepage
    The difference between life science patents and patents on programming logic is fundamental:

    • A patent on a medical agent is, generally speaking, like a recipe that anyone in that industry can use to produce something useful. That's why such a patent advances knowledge in the field, and potentially has some value after its expiration.
    • Patents on programming logic are, again generally speaking, just some extended descriptions of the task at hand, of the problem that is to be solved. They outline a rather general approach to solving the problem, but if you read such a patent document, you're not really closer to a functional solution than if you don't. Most of the work is still ahead of you: the actual implementation.
    • Also, if someone wants to question the patent system in biotech, then what's the alternative? Patents have, despite a few cases of misuse, been proven to be the suitable intellectual property rights regime in that field. In contrast, today's leading software companies like Microsoft, Oracle and SAP needed no patents at all during the first 10+ years of their existence. SAP only had a total of four patents a few years ago. It would be too simplistic to say that copyright law alone protects software because it's actually a combination of copyright, trade secrets, complexity, trade marks, and the possibility of converting a technological lead into sustainable economic value (by selling products, acquiring customers, building the brand identity of an innovator). That form of protection is much more dynamic than patents because it requires someone to actually market a product, as opposed to just sitting on a patent and waiting for others to unwillingly and unknowingly "infringe" upon it.

      The other issue is who should own the outcome of the research work that is performed with tax money. I don't think it's reasonable to let the public pay twice for the same work, upfront by employing many such scientists for decades in each case (the fewest of which ever come up with something that can be commercialized on a large scale) and subsequently through patent royalties.

    • by top_down ( 137496 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:35AM (#13564144)
      The difference between life science patents and programming logic is not fundamental. The final products of life science might be more tangible but from an economic point of view they both produce products that have high sunk cost and low marginal cost.


      Also, if someone wants to question the patent system in biotech, then what's the alternative?


      Patents are government backed monopolies, so the alternative would be a free market. Research would
      be payed for by the government. The government would be financed by taxing the products in the free market. Another option would be allowing patents but forbidding exclusive licenses.


      Patents have, despite a few cases of misuse, been proven to be the suitable intellectual property rights regime in that field.


      The main point of the article is that it been a disaster. Did you read it? In fact the article is still pretty mild, it doesn't mention the many thousands of people that have died and are dying because of the high prices for drugs that can be cheaply produced (after the research has done).

      The results of this 'suitable intellectual property rights regime' are at least as bad as those of Katrina. They just happen over a longer period of time and most of the dying is in far away places.

  • by biodork ( 25036 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:27AM (#13563736)
    From the article.
    " A 1979 audit of government-held patents showed that fewer than 5% of some 28,000 discoveries--all of them made with the help of taxpayer money--had been developed, because no company was willing to risk the capital to commercialize them without owning title"

    To all those in this thread that argue "scientists will do it for the love" or any of that crap. That sentence above says it all. Scientists might do it for the love, but companies won't pay to develop it. I work at a biotech company - we won't do stuff that won't make us money. We have to pay our salaries. If we do something that we DON'T have patent coverage on, our competition will just copy it at no cost to them... oh yeah - we will have spent A LOT of money to do the development. If we can't get an exclusive license, then for the most part we won't touch it. It WONT make financial sense to do so.

    You can preach about "greater good of man" and all that. At the end of the day I just want to send my daughter to college and be able to go surfing. To do that, we have to make tools that help people, and I enjoy being part of that. I love solving the problems. I enjoy working on the projects. BUT - I have to eat and the company has to make money.

    • I work at a biotech company - we won't do stuff that won't make us money. We have to pay our salaries. If we do something that we DON'T have patent coverage on, our competition will just copy it at no cost to them... oh yeah - we will have spent A LOT of money to do the development. If we can't get an exclusive license, then for the most part we won't touch it. It WONT make financial sense to do so.


      So essentially what you are saying is the your company can not make a profit if it does not have a legal monop
      • Whatever happened to making things better, faster, and cheaper to get a leg up on the competition?
        They still do that. Just replace "things" with "lawyers".
    • Ummm... Article argues against itself

      From the article.
      " A 1979 audit of government-held patents showed that fewer than 5% of some 28,000 discoveries--all of them made with the help of taxpayer money--had been developed, because no company was willing to risk the capital to commercialize them without owning title"

      Word of advice - don't just read the opening paragraph of an article and then claim it argues against itself BECAUSE IT THEN GOES INTO DETAIL WHY THINGS AREN'T SO CUT AND DRY.

      The author already sa

    • by xiaomonkey ( 872442 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:32AM (#13564132)
      I'm surprised the parent was modded +5 insightful, since I'm not sure the poster actually took the time to read the article. Anyhow...

      Technically, the Bayh-Dole law that the article talks about doesn't really say too much about companies being able/unable to patent the results of research that's been privately funded.

      Even prior to the law, if you want to spend your money on research, you of course had the rights to patent the results. However, Bayh-Dole made it so that your company could spend tax-payer(read 'our') money to do research and development and then still be assured of your company owning the resulting intellectual property. So, the whole thing really seems like a big corporate well fair racket, whereby companies have been essentially gifted valuable IP by the American tax-payers.

      Maybe the NIH or NSF should start acting a little bit like a VC firm in these cases. That is, if companies and/or universities want to profit by patenting the results of publicly funded research, then maybe the funding federal agency should get a proportion of the proceeds. That money could then be funded into other new and interesting research projects.
    • by PetoskeyGuy ( 648788 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:45AM (#13564189)
      Amendments could still be useful. If the data suggested by the article is true, then they've identified a problem, and a possible solution that didn't work.

      In today's terms you could say the problem is trying to help the US GOV to better leverage it's patent portfolio. We have the technology now to handle so much more information that it should be possible to amend the law to say that the US does own patents on research it funds, then it could have an aution of patent rights. The whole problem was businesses were hesitent to create prodcuts without patent protection.

      The current system instead GIVES AWAY ALL PATENTS that were previously owned by the governemtn and says we'll pay you to do the work, if you discover something good for you, keep the patent and make your millions. Imagine instead if the government kept the patent ownership but auctioned off potentially profitable patents for AT LEAST the cost of the funding, and split part of the profit with the scientists. Extermely useful or critical patents could be kept instead of being sold off if deemed necessary.

      Suddenly scientists are back doing science, businesses get ownership of already completed research with patent protection, scientists get a nice bonus check every once in a while, and the fed actually makes money on scientific research getting potential profit from the sale of the patent instead of sitting on the patents rights until they expire.

      Instead you create a new feedback loop where investing in science generates new discoveries that can be sold to businesses for at least the cost of the discoveries and you could turn that money into more funding for schools and more discoveries.

      Then maybe we could move away from the current USPTO cash cow that creates such worthless patents lately.
  • by goodminton ( 825605 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:44AM (#13563797)
    First of all, this article is well-researched but poorly written and the author fails to achieve a coherent voice and statement. IMHO, this was a waste of 10 pages. Secondly, I have worked in the biotech industry for last 6 years, 2 years of which have been with THE largest biotech company and the remaining 4 years with various start-ups. From this insider's perspective, I can tell you that the number one challenge of innovating in the biotech industry has less to do with IP law and more to do with the lack of management experience amongst life scientists. When you have industry where start-ups can get $90 million in venture capital and ballon to 150 employees without have a commercial product, that's not an IP issue... it's business 101 issue... think 1990's dot.com reduex
  • Patenting programs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fragmer ( 900198 ) <fragmer@gmai l . c om> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:54AM (#13563840)
    The problem with patenting algorythms and functions is in the very concept and purpose of computers. Programming languages are basically tools for expressing thoughts. As human toungues are used for expressing speakable words, programming languages are used to implement thinking processes of the mind. Data is non-material, and computers merely receive, process and output data, as human nervous system does. Algorythms are same as thoughts - they are ways of analyzing and processing data.

    Patenting physical devices (ever computer hardware) is fine by me, but patenting algorythms is comparable to patenting and restricting ways of thinking. Imagine what would happen if a law ordered people to think (or avoid thinking) in a certain way...

    I am not saying that everything on the computer must be completely patent-free. I believe that only unique, sophisticated and unparalleled applications should be allowed to be patented by the US Patent Bureau, for a limited time.

    - Matvei M.S
  • by ShatteredDream ( 636520 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:54AM (#13563842) Homepage
    Is human nature. Greed is a vice, not a virture, for a reason. Greed causes people to do evil and harmfull things and should not be confused with ambition. The ambitious man wants to build a business that is rich and successful, the greedy man wants to build an empire that will rule the economy with an iron fist and drain every last drop of wealth out of it that it can.

    One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is how accurate Judao-Christian scripture is about teaching about human nature. We see the result of greed in the dotcom bubble burst and we see the natural lack of general altruism all around us from the greedy bastards like Andrew Fastow that tanked Enron to the people now trying to scam FEMA and Red Cross by claiming to be refugees. Human nature toward economics is greed, not altruism and not enlightened self-interest. That is why both pure Capitalism and essentially all forms of Socialism have utterly failed.

    The problem I have with long patents is that they subject the economy to the control of lazy, greedy men and women. I and other fiction bloggers are proof that you don't need a long monopoly on your ideas to want to produce literature, music and discover new ideas. I have probably about 25-30 pages worth of just fiction material up for free for the other Christian sci-fi fans that read it, yet I don't really care right now about making money off of it. My muse is Christ, what is your muse?

    Shorter monopolies will light a fire under the asses of these people and force them to create new things. I hate to break it to the laissez faire purists, but the security afforded by these long monopolies breeds **sloth**, not creativity. Too many seem to have forgotten that old saying: necessity is the mother of all invention.
    • by Phroggy ( 441 ) * <slashdot3@phr[ ]y.com ['ogg' in gap]> on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:56AM (#13564450) Homepage
      You're forgetting that greed is the reason the patent system was created in the first place. By awarding a temporary monopoly to the inventor of some new bit of technology in exchange for publishing their designs, greedy people are encouraged to invent new bits of technology and publish their designs, so that when the patent expires, the rest of society benefits.

      Software patents lack a critical part of this deal: reading the patent doesn't make it any easier to reimplement the idea. It's trivially easy to violate Amazon's One-Click patent without reading the patent, or even using Amazon's implementation - just saying "hey, wouldn't it be nice if customer billing information were stored so they could make a new purchase without re-entering anything?" should not be patentable, but currently, just about anything that satisfies that idea will probably violate the patent. The public gains nothing by being able to read the patent. With traditional patents, reading the patent tells you what you would need to know to reproduce the invention.

      Sorry if that was a little incoherent; I'm tired.
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @12:54AM (#13563845) Homepage Journal
    One fascinating phenomenon is how long it takes for the rough consensus of the "innovation community" (much of which is represented by many Slashdotters), that patents interfere with innovation, to begin to be reported in the "finance community" which depends on the innovators. That such reporting happens at all is really a testament to the relative freedom of the press - relative to all human history, that is. That such reporting will have little to no effect on patent interference with innovation is a testament to the relative slavery of politics, which controls the patent system, to corporations, which care solely about property, and not at all about "innovation" (so long as it's not necessary to profits). Perhaps relative to human history our politics is not so bad, but "not as bad as thousands of years of tyranny" isn't good enough.
  • by Nutty_Irishman ( 729030 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @01:57AM (#13564040)
    From TFA


    Universities have evolved from public trusts into something closer to venture capital firms. What used to be a scientific community of free and open debate now often seems like a litigious scrum of data-hoarding and suspicion. And what's more, Americans are paying for it through the nose.


    And who's to blame for that? Yup, the good old American system.

    The fact of the matter is, America doesn't care about science. We worship things like actors and singers and sports figures and then snub our nose at scientists in academia and pay them crap. Business is the most popular major, not because it provides the most to society, but rather it is the most profitable. In other countries, scientists are looked up to and admired (for example, India).

    In the US, the budgets have been cut drastically for academia (most grants are getting a 8% cut straight across the board this past year). Adjusting for inflation, the NIH and NSF budget's have actually shrunk over the past 10 years-- which is ridiculous considering the massive amounts of improvement in technology that have occured. With such a drastic decrease in available funds, researchers need to tighten their projects, search for alternative funding, and be wary of who they tell people what they are doing. Sharing data with someone you aren't collaborating with or on unpublished work is a sure way to find yourself out the door in academia. This is further being complicated by the fact that tenure reviews are starting to shift from the old paradigm of how many papers you published, to a newer paradigm of how much grant money you bring in (while this is usually correllated, it is not always the case).

    It's not the scientists that have created the environment, it's the environment that has created the scientists. There's a reason why College Professors were listed as one of the top 5 undervalued professions in America. Patents are the one bone that academia gets and the writer seems to think that scientists are exploiting America. Academia is already losing a lot of great talent (and henceforth, progress) as it is in America due to lack of funding-- how do you think it would be if patents didn't exists?
    • but I am sure it ain't right. Check the historical budget tables at www.omb.gov. NIH and NSF are doing just fine, thank you very much. Unfortunately, most of the data is not adjusted for inflation but the increases are so large that it is obvious that it is greater than inflation (around 2-3% year, or 25% over ten).

      Also, how precisely are you measuring "provision to society"? If you are making claims about it, you should have a good answer.
  • by PetoskeyGuy ( 648788 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:15AM (#13564086)
    I wonder if these numbers are adjusted for infation?
    From Page 8, Paragraph 2
    Whatever the answer, it's clear who pays for it. You do. You pay in the form of vastly higher drug prices and health-care insurance. Americans spent $179 billion on prescription drugs in 2003. That's up from ... wait for it ... $12 billion in 1980. That's a 13% hike, year after year, for two decades.
    Assuming they already adjusted for inflation, 12 Billion in 1980 to 179 billion in 2003 would be about 12.5%

    Assuming those numbers are NOT adjusted for inflation, then 12 billion 1980 dollars = about 29 billion in 2003 dollars. Growing 29 billion to 179 billion is an 8% increase per year.

    I also wonder if this is a linear increase or if there was something sudden jump at some point. Taking two data points and trying to make some sort of comparison other then "this one is bigger" seems rather dumb.

    In 1980 I was single, but in 2003 I had a family of four. That doesn't mean I was reproducing at a rate of 6.2% per year.

    Can someone point to a data source that has amount spent on drugs each year? I searched the web, but so far I don't see any sources I would trust, mostly stories similar to this.

    • I wonder if these numbers are adjusted for infation?

      From Page 8, Paragraph 2
      Whatever the answer, it's clear who pays for it. You do. You pay in the form of vastly higher drug prices and health-care insurance. Americans spent $179 billion on prescription drugs in 2003. That's up from ... wait for it ... $12 billion in 1980. That's a 13% hike, year after year, for two decades.

      Assuming they already adjusted for inflation, 12 Billion in 1980 to 1
  • by OutOfFocus ( 802396 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @02:16AM (#13564088)
    "Photon Bounce -- Breaking the laws of physics, but not that of probability & statistic," by, 'Photon Vu' (This entire article copyrighted 9/14th/2005 by Mr. Photon Vu ). This application for patent is applied for by Mr. Photon Vu, dated September 14th, 2005 (11pm, Indianapolis Time, EST) for the design and use of the Photon Bounce and for the design and use of the uniformly distributed electron cloud whose statistical probability is at 0.5 throughout the layer and whose thickness is defined to be width of one electron whose statistical probability is at 0.5. [Begin of target description of patent concept] Patent is for the configuration and use of photon per the non-classical physic bounce to accomplish simultaneous computation via a statistical presence of data formed beneath an electron cloud with statistically uniform region whose probability is of 0.5 to achieve consolidated probability of 1.0 which designates simultaneously solved solutions and consolidated probability of 0.0 which designates unsolved solutions ( which represents region of theoretically-proven unsolvable problems as posed by the data that parameterize the simultaneous equations to be solved ). Details of this configuration are described below from item 1 through item 4: Item 1. Photon have no mass, thus can not cause a physical deflection in physical media, so the phenomenon being used is a statistical bounce in which a photon whose statistical probability is at 1.0 is directed at a region whose statistical probability is uniformly distributed throughout and whose statistical probability is at 0.5 . Item 2. A 'bounce' is defined as the statistical influence of the photon whose statistical probability is 1.0 on the region whose statistical probability is at 0.5 such that when there is a presence of a data point, representing one of the parameter of the simultaneous equation to be solved, all simultaneous computation occur for all data points represented in the computational region, formed by the evenly distributed layer of electrons whose probability was stable at 0.5 at the moment prior to the impact of the photon against it. Item 3. Multiple photons whose statistical probability of 1.0 can be used simultaneously against the uniform layer of electrons whose statistical probability is at 0.5 through the layer, with the requirement that not more than one photon can occupy the same space/time within the uniform layer of electrons. Item 4. Data points are represented by beams of photons of varying energy levels (frequencies) directed at the electron cloud. [End of target description of patent concept] Page 1 of 1 and only 1 page, final. BTW3. the key is not in the document above. It's something that every little kid already know, 'things that glow in the dark'. a.k.a (read below) [ i prefer the kid's version and wording ;))))) ] Energy levels in stable electron clouds are at specific energy 'rungs' which dance with bypassing photons. That's classical physics. In non-classical physics, the electron is a statistical entity whose distribution goes to infinity in space/time. However, even photons have statistical significance, of 1.0. So, when a photon that exist in physical space as a quanta hits an electron (which is really a statistical entity) it converts onto a wavelet, a statistical distribution that we can control. Thus, the statistical significance of an electron whose energy level is quantized already; and thus, a statistically significant computation event occur (not a physical event). Data of a simultaneous equations can be parameterized by electrons that are 'pumped' to a specific set of rungs ( yet again by photons, prior to the computation event ). If you layer this data set with a layer of electrons whose statistical probability is at 0.5 and whose thickness is exactly 1 electron (whose statistical probability is 0.5), you get a region of time/space that can convert the bounce of photons above it into an instantaneous computing event of all simultaneous equations, using the presence of the electron
  • by joneshenry ( 9497 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @03:34AM (#13564389)
    Wrong root cause--the blame lies with the left and their reaction to the Vietnam War, with their one permanent reform the destruction of basic research in United States universities through the Mansfield Amendment [wikipedia.org]. Just go to the musty bookshelves of one's university to the mathematics section and look for books before 1970. Many of them will have an acknowledgement of funding through some agency such as the Office of Navel Research.

    The Mansfield Amendment deliberately destroyed the relationship between the United States military and university basic research, so that instead of getting crumbs from a gargantuan Department of Defense budget, which meant the crumbs were quite substantial, basic research had to rely on the politically castrated National Science Foundation with no important constituency to push for funding.

    Faced with the prospect of basic research almost completely disappearing, the only alternative was something similar to Bayh-Dole, because there was no way anymore to politically push through explicit funding. What an irony that now what were once considered public goods are now the property of the largest corporations and the rich only get richer. Now that is the true unintended consequence considering who initiated the Mansfield Amendment.

  • by el_womble ( 779715 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @04:42AM (#13564587) Homepage
    This is all about the spirit of free enterprise. We need research and development in order to progress as a society, but like all good things R&D involves time and resources and both thoses things cost money.

    Where does that money come from?

    Democrats/Librals believe that if the people pay for it, the people own it the benefit to this is that scientists are free to access the real pay dirt - information.

    Republicans/Red-Necks believe that a grant is just that, a gift of money and that scientists should be free to profit from their innovation - the benefit of this is that you attract brighter minds and the industry can run itself relieving the tax burden of a constant stream of grants.

    The question really is what is more important, a free market or a freedom of information?

    Thats not an easy question to answer. People would say that Russia was a perfect example of why the Republicans are right. Others might say that America is a perfect example of why the Democrats are right. I say the truth is that both sides have fudged the system to a point where neither can be right.

    I would have more sympathy for big R&D companies if I thought for one second that they had stopped asking for research grants or tax cuts to support their work. I would have more sympathy for big R&D companies if they could be trusted to return their products back into the public domain where it belongs. I would have more sympathy for R&D companies if they could be trusted to act with compassion where the bottom line must be second to the saving of lives and removal of people from absolute poverty. The one thing these companies can be trusted to do is protect their investors money, but thats about the only thing they are obligated to do by law.
  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @05:08AM (#13564657)
    Well, not quite, perhaps, but...

    I think the debate about whether patents are stifling innovation or not misses an important point: that most inventions don't happen because an inventor suddenly invents a brilliant new gadget. The real way most things are invented is when somebody has a problem and solves it; and most often the person doesn't even think of it as anything special, because it isn't in that situation - it's just a handy solution to a problem, so he/she could get on with the job at hand. Later, perhaps, somebody combines a number of these solutions and it turns out to be a great idea.

    I think people who are just 'inventors' are likely to be some sort of pathological phenomenon; a kind of obsessive tinkerers, perhaps.

    As for patents - they certainly make it difficult for others to make money from their good ideas, and I have no doubt that at some point it will become too cumbersome; then it will change. But since people will always run in to new problems and look for solutions, innovation will happen.

    Perhaps when it becomes clear enough that the patent system, with all the mindlessly stupid patents for trivial non-inventions, simply doesn't work, perhaps then will people begin to 'anti-patent' their inventions by immediately laying them out in the public domain; that way you at least ensure that nobody else can shut you out from making a fair earning from your good ideas.
  • Without Patents there would be no requirement for an individual to disclose an invention. What would happen under such a system is not open innovation; however, it would turn into an immense system of lawsuits and constant battles of "me first" arguments (though this can still happen under the patent system it isn't as bad).

    There are two scenarios in reality:
    Scenario 1: Company A doesn't invent anything for fear of the second that it is released Company B will clone invention of Company A and then Compa
  • Simple question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mostly a lurker ( 634878 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @07:18AM (#13565072)
    When company A has an exclusive patent on enzyme 1 and company B has an exclusive patent on enzyme 2, how do you achieve the life saving drug based on the combination of enzymes 1 and 2?

    The argument that only granting exclusive use of some specific piece of knowledge can make commercialising products based on the idea viable financially is unconvincing. (Leaving aside that this does not eliminate risk because competitive products based on other ideas may still appear.) If necessary, have a system where the government compensates organisations for development in certain cases (perhaps with tax breaks) to give an advantage to the original developer. But do not prevent others from making improvements.

    The patent system adds huge costs for ephemeral benefits. Creativity and invention prosper in an atmosphere of freedom, not one of bureaucratic control.

  • If Bio Tech (Score:3, Funny)

    by Martin Spamer ( 244245 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @08:54AM (#13565522) Homepage Journal
    ... had made the same progress as IT, we would all live to be 100,000 year old and be as smaller as an amoeba.
  • by netwiz ( 33291 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @09:21AM (#13565691) Homepage
    ha! lessee, we gave the keys to our minds and souls to corporate America, and now we're surprised that a collection of "individuals" possessing all the qualities of a paranoid schizophreniac with a single-minded focus on profit had the wherewithall to screw us over.

    will wonders never cease.
  • by Temkin ( 112574 ) on Thursday September 15, 2005 @09:57AM (#13565953)


    The odd thing about this sad state of affairs.... If I'm reading this right, the Federal Government retains royalty free rights to virtually all the research it has funded. Which means, at least in theory, it could seriously leverage its position to purchase drugs for the medicare prescription benefits. Something that has apparently not occured...

    Which just goes to show who the politicians really represent.

It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats.

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