Intellectual property is generally based on selfishness. Before the concept of patents came in, innovations were constantly taking shape; the age of enlightenment, the industrial revolution, the discovery of electricity and all things conveniently laid out in our science books.
Lets say that the life of a patent lasts for 20 years. Will we wait 20 years to build on the formula for a basic antibiotic just to create a cure for all the illnesses cropping up at this age?
Did Darwin, Pasteur, Faraday have any incentive (aka monetary reward) just to discover something useful? They didn't. And this is used by pharmaceutical companies to justify their sky high prices.
Faraday never took out a patent on electricity because he reasoned that it was a manifestation of God's power. Imagine how much electricity would cost if he started as early as his discovery to patent electricity. Then others who built on his discovery started patenting their electronic devices. I mean, isn't that unfair?
I hate IP especially as regards medicines. One basic principle in the development of modern science and engineering is "DO NOT REINVENT THE WHEEL."
However, because things of all sorts are patented, we wait 20 or so years to innovate on other people's inventions. Researchers always have to start from scratch and do it their own way, for two decades. It was only after the second world war that patents were allowed on medicines. The reason they were not patented before was because people were afraid that only certain persons/entities will monopolize the knowledge of potentially life saving information. That is where we are right now.
Before, science seemed so noble because people just wanted to "know" so they do all these observations and experiments, especially in the age of metaphysics. Now, what, we have to have millions of dollars in incentives to search for cures for illnesses that are killing a lot of people in this planet daily?
Aren't we glad the Chinese did not patent their noodles, or the Japanese their sushi, or all the older scientific inventions that radically made our lives today more convenient?
It is not right to stifle growth just to enrich a company that invested in R&D. As a student of business, i think these companies can easily recoup their investments in five or so years. Besides, governments (even the Philippines) allot a large part of the budget in subsidies for researches. This can be improved further.
To be continued... Im just taking a break from a marathon of final exams.
October 15, 2008