29 December 2005

Open Beats Patent

One of the themes these postings hope to explore is the way in which openness, in all its forms, can function as an antidote to the worst excesses of the current system of intellectual property. In particular, freely-available knowledge is one way to mitigate the patent system, which has problems all around the world, but is in a particularly flawed state in the US.

As an example, BBC News has an interesting story about how India is creating a database of materials relating to traditional medicine in order to stymie attempts by companies (particularly US ones) to patent this age-old knowledge.

What is particularly galling is that patenting derives its name from the requirement to make a novel and undescribed invention "patent"; but in the case of knowledge that has been available to a society for centuries, the idea that someone (particularly an outsider to this society) who makes something already known "patent" in this way suddenly gains exclusive rights to a hitherto common good is profoundly offensive to anyone with any respect for ethics - or logic.

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