Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Gene patents inquiry, rubbery submission dates, and overseas interest

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-03-26

Going through the submissions to the Inquiry into Gene Patents, I was struck by a couple of things:

Rubbery Closing Dates

This first point is troubling, even though I’m supportive of the majority of those late documents.  If I’d known that there would not be a hard-edged closing date (the Pfizer one was written a week after the initial closing and even dated after the extended closing date!), then I would not have been so rushed and my submission so full of typos, and it would thus have been more persuasive.

Perhaps if the period submissions are open is too short (under a week), then a working day’s grace is reasonable, but when acceptance dates are rubbery and changes are unpublished, there is:

  • The possibility of rushed submissions by those who do try do get them in by the published closing date
  • The possibility of arbitrarily defining the closing date post hoc to rule out submissions unwelcome by the politicians
  • The possibility that politicians might encourage late submissions from favored parties if the vast bulk of on-time submissions argue against the position of the politicians.

This needs to be cleaned up.

Overview of submissions

It comes as no surprise that biotech companies (mainly overseas-owned) and legal firms specializing in intellectual property work were in favor of the patenting of discoveries.  A common thread was that extraction from an organism can turn a discovery into an invention.  (Maybe I can patent the use of hairs that have been pulled out and trimmed as threads or wigs!).

There is even an amazing non sequitur from Pfizer:

"Banning patents on derivatives could see the withdrawal of some medicines from Australia.  All insulin used in Australia, for example, is based on recombinant gene technology."

I cannot see a company wanting to stop selling a product that is already on the market, even if competition comes along that lowers the opportunity for price gouging, unless the company’s manufacturing processes are unreasonably inefficient compared to the emerging competition!

Individuals, those who provide health care, patients advocacy groups and those lawyers that are independent of a revenue stream from intellectual property work all spoke with one voice: patent processes are not quarantined from ethical concerns, and the patenting of discoveries must stop.

Overseas Non-Corporate Interest

I’ve seen many overseas-headquartered companies make submissions, and much less frequently, individuals or non-profits from overseas making submissions (such as in favor of the Democrats anti-cluster-mine bill), so the number of non-commercial submissions from overseas on this issue is significant, and mirrors an emphasis I included in my section "International Considerations":

Changes in the scope of what is patentable, and the specificity of patents, cannot be done effectively outside the context of international agreements.

The EU and the US are starting to tighten up on "trolls", discoveries, and claims for "business processes".

For "minor powers" in intellectual property such as Australia, strengthening the power of international conventions and the WIPO to reject unjust intellectual property claims is our only practical way forward. This should not be difficult as almost all nationstates are recognizing that the patents system is being rorted, and can be
manipulated to prevent innovation by others or increase costs to societies overall.

Let’s hope the government does the right thing domestically and internationally, stopping us being sick, overcharged, and putting an end to the rorts and philosophical ugliness of those who patent discoveries.

Patenting discoveries is an affront to all those with human welfare at heart, and even the non-theists among them would probably agree that it was appropriate for non-theist me to start my section on "Discovery versus Invention" with a quote from Christian scripture:

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s – Matthew 22:21


One Response to “Gene patents inquiry, rubbery submission dates, and overseas interest”

  1. […] "Gene Patents Inquiry – rubbery submission dates and overseas interest" (2009-03-26) reviews some of the submissions. […]

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