…I need own that for me being transparent is like being pregnant … one either is or is not … and Arizona and its government and its regulatory agencies are not transparent … but then again I am not a politician and I am not running for any office … so I can acknowledge my definition of transparent is likely more black and white than an Arizona politician or newspaper editorial board sees…
Things to Know About How Corporations Block Access to Everything from Miracle Drugs to Science Research
Our system of intellectual property rights is patently ridiculous.
Should a company be able to patent a breast cancer gene? What about a species of soybean? How about a tool for basic scientific research? Or even a patent for acquiring patents (see: Halliburton)?
Intellectual property rights are supposed to help inventors bring good things to life, but there’s increasing concern that they may be keeping us from getting the things we need.
In this wild and contested jungle of the law, which concerns things like patents and copyrights, questions about the implications of allowing limited monopolies on ideas are making headlines. Do they stifle innovation? Can they cause the public more harm than good? Trillions of dollars are at stake. Companies known as “patent trolls” are gobbling up patents, then going on lawsuit sprees and extracting fees against infringement. Corporations are using intellectual property law to squash competitors and block our access to things as vital as lifesaving drugs, to place restrictions on things as intimate as parts of the human body. Third World countries are kept from accessing essential public goods related to everything from food security to education.
Surely, the producers of new ideas should be able to profit from their creations. But furious debates over what should be protected and who should profit are calling attention to the many things that are going wrong in this area. For example, a recent front-page story in the New York Times detailed how diabetics are being held hostage in America by companies that follow Apple’s playbook to lock patients into buying expensive, patented products that quickly become obsolete. If you don’t buy the product, you don’t miss getting the new iPhone. You may die.
Intellectual property rights have come under intense scrutiny, a trend on display at a recent conference in Toronto on innovation and society, "Human After All", sponsored by the Institute for New Economist Thinking (INET) and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), where I moderated a panel on the topic. Let’s take a look at some of the burning questions and issues in play in this debate.
1. Why do we have intellectual property rights? ……….The notion of giving inventors exclusive rights for a limited time goes back to the medieval era. The first patent in America was granted in 1641 to one Samuel Winslow, who came up with a new way to make salt. Patents could cover both tangible objects and also intangible stuff like methods and ideas. The U.S. Constitution has something to say about patents, namely this:
“The Congress shall have power … To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries…”
Notice the reasoning: We the People, through our representatives, grant intellectual property rights so that we can move knowledge forward — not enrich a few people at the expense of everyone else.
The question of whether ideas themselves should be protected by patents troubled some of the Founders, who saw the potential for abuse. In an 1813 letter, Thomas Jefferson observed that unlike objects, ideas inherently want to be shared: “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”
Intellectual property rights have expanded quite a bit since Jefferson’s day. The Industrial Revolution saw brutal battles over inventions associated with things like the steam engine where the public good was often sacrificed to individual and corporate profits. In the early nineteen twenties, US patent law was revised to favor corporate interests. In 1930, the U.S. began to allow patents for living organisms with the Plant Patent Act. The Motion Picture Association of America, as it emerged, took a hard line on intellectual property and fought for broad protections. As new industries like biotechnology and nanotechnology popped up, companies and individuals sought additional protections for technology. The growth of the Internet set off a yet another wave of intellectual property rights related to patents and copyrights.
Today, what we have is a giant mess, a system plagued by bad actors and bad faith that has often become a means for corporations to smash competition and block human progress rather than advance knowledge. More time and energy is spent by companies coming up with new ways to sue each other than coming up with new ideas (think: Apple v. Samsung). The public purse is picked as taxpayer-funded investments in research are appropriated by profit-making companies. Our patent system fuels inequality by socializing the risk associated with research and discoveries while privatizing the gains. Meanwhile lawyers, as you might expect, are making out like bandits.
2. Patents have exploded since the 1980s. …………If you talk to some of the bright-eyed folks in Silicon Valley, America is on an innovation roll. Since the 1980s, the number of patents sought has soared, and the pace is accelerating. Over the last two decades, businesses have increasingly used patents to sue or threaten to sue other companies to get them to pay licensing fees. 2012 was quite a year for patents: the number of court cases increased 29 percent in that year alone, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Costs associated with the litigation come to billions per year.
Michele Boldrin and David Levine, authors of Against Intellectual Monopoly, have noted that in a single four-year period, from 1997 to 2001, patent applications leapt by 50 percent. Meanwhile, the number of lawyers working on intellectual property in America went from 5,500 to nearly 22,000.
But are we really getting so much more creative with all these patents? Boldrin and Levine don’t think so. It appears that the number of patents has grown not because there is more innovation, but simply because the number of things that could be patented grew.
As economists William Lazonick and Oner Tulum have pointed out, changes in the law have allowed certain parties, like venture capitalists, to grow rich on patents at the expense of the public. The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 made it easier for companies, particularly those in biotech, to profit from the results of government-backed research done in universities. Seen an ad for Botox lately? Lazonick and Tulum point out that Botox is a drug whose medical applications were developed in taxpayer-funded universities in the 1960s. In 1983, something known as the Orphan Drug Act allowed companies like Allergan, which got hold of Botox, to commercialize certain kinds of drugs that were developed for use in a small population when additional properties of the drugs were discovered. In 2013, Botox generated $1982 million in revenues for Allergan, of which 54 percent were for therapeutic uses that your doctor prescribes and 46 percent were for the cosmetic uses that the company advertises.
3. Intellectual property rights can block innovation. ……………..One of the biggest arguments in favor of robust intellectual property rights is that they are supposed to drive innovation, giving big rewards to those who come up with new ideas. But a growing list of experts, such as Boldrin and Levine, counter that this is nonsense. “Intellectual monopoly is not a cause of innovation,” they write, “but it is rather an unwelcome consequence of it.” They argue that in young, dynamic industries, intellectual monopoly doesn’t play a major role — it’s only when the ideas run out that companies become obsessed with having the government protect the old ways of doing business.
In other words, an explosion in patents could be a sign that a country is getting less innovative, not more.
Boldrin and Levine provide numerous examples in their book of how patents shut down innovation, from a steam engine patent that may have delayed the Industrial Revolution by a couple of decades to the Wright brothers American patent on the airplane which forced innovative work in the industry to move to France.
More recently, Heidi Williams examined work done in the area of human genome sequencing by the Human Genome Project (a public entity) and also by Celera (a private company). Williams concluded that Celera’s intellectual property rights claims resulted in a persistent 20-30 percent reduction in subsequent scientific research and product development.
Economist Petra Moser states that if you look at history, intellectual property laws have always had the potential to squelch progress:
"Overall, the weight of the existing historical evidence suggests that patent policies, which grant strong intellectual property rights to early generations of inventors, may discourage innovation. On the contrary, policies that encourage the diffusion of ideas and modify patent laws to facilitate entry and encourage competition may be an effective mechanism to encourage innovation.”
4. The public is getting harmed and cheated. ………….It’s increasingly clear that taxpayers are getting ripped off, particularly in areas like in pharmaceuticals. Through entities like the National Institutes of Health, the federal government pays for basic research that gets plundered by corporations that make tremendous profits (and then, of course, lobby to have their taxes reduced). Companies like Apple expect the U.S. government to protect their intellectual property rights all over the world, yet they assiduously avoid paying taxes. Considering the fact that iPhones, for example, would not exist without taxpayer-funded research in everything from touchscreen technology to GPS, this is especially maddening.
Battles between companies and sovereign countries are heating up. Eli Lilly and the Canadian government are gearing up for a showdown since the Canadians took away the company’s rights to two popular new drugs, one for attention-deficit disorder and another for psychotic illness. Despite the fact that countries are supposed to have the right to set their own domestic laws for rules of medicine patents, big corporations are increasingly able to get around them and effectively challenge national policy. Free trade pacts have become a prime vehicle for this. The much-debated Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade pact being negotiated between North American and Asian countries and backed by President Obama, has provoked outrage because it would enhance drug company profits by protecting patents on drugs and medical procedures while blocking less expensive generic drugs. The fear is that powerful corporations will blow right past the laws of individual countries and use patents in ways that pose serious human rights questions.
5. Things don’t have to be this way. ……………While we certainly want to promote new ideas and to reward creativity, many feel that intellectual property laws aren’t the best way to do this. As Levine has written:
“It is a long and dangerous jump from the assertion that innovators deserve compensation for their efforts to the conclusion that patents and copyrights, that is monopoly, are the best or the only way of providing that reward.”
Several of the economists I spoke to at the INET/CIGI conference, such as Italian economist Giovanni Dosi and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, have suggested other ways of rewarding inventors, such as prizes. Stiglitz has pointed out that prizes, as opposed to patents, could help reward research that might not be commercially profitable, like developing a cure for AIDs, or other urgent global problems.
Clearly the notion of public benefit has to be vigorously defended in discussions of intellectual property rights. There are many ways the public good get a better deal. The government, for one, could claim rights to revenues for ideas and inventions that were funded with taxpayer money. Or it could force companies like Apple that benefit from such research to pay their share of taxes. So far, the government has not exercised its muscle because there is an imbalance of power between public and private sector.
We need to recognize that science and technology grow by accretion, each new creator building on the works of those who came before. Overprotection blocks exactly what it’s supposed to enhance: ideas that help us live better. The intellectual property system needs to be reevaluated so that social and economic progress aren’t hampered by laws that only reward the few, and the public good becomes a top priority.
Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of "Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture." She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU. She is the director of AlterNet’s New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.
Genetically Modified Organisms: Sobering Consequences
Part 2: Unintended GMO Health Risks ………“If manufacturers are so sure there is nothing wrong with genetically modified foods, pesticides and cloned meats, they should have no problems labeling them as such. “After all, cancer will kill one in every two men and one in every three women now alive,” reports Samuel Epstein, chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition. Like our ancestors, we act in ways that will bemuse future societies. The military-industrial complex lubricates the mass-agriculture system with fossil fuels. Tons of heavy metals and other hazardous waste is sprayed on American agricultural soil.” – Adam Leith Gollne, The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession
During WWII, chemical companies like Chevron manufactured Mustard gas to kill enemies by disrupting troops’ nervous systems. They changed their focus to continue their profits. They decided that crops growing in the fields of America needed poisons to stop the insects that nurtured them like bees, wasps and bats—all pollinators that make crops multiply and thrive.
They campaigned with “higher crop yields” and paid off a lot of U.S. Congressmen who “okayed” the poisons via legislation. Chevron and other companies amassed a fortune with DDT and other nerve gases that crippled mosquitoes, flies and gnats, but quickly killed birds, rodents, hawks, eagles and countless other species living on the ground floor of Earth.
Why did those companies do that? Answer: billions upon billions of dollars. You could call them financial terrorists because that’s how they must be defined. They kill anyone for a few billion bucks.
Today, every single American faces cancers affecting himself, herself or a friend. I lost four friends to cancer last year and two already this year with one more hanging on for another 30 days. A doctor cut cancer out of my sister (melanoma) and me 19 years ago. Terror gripped me until I cleared that drama. To this day, I eat only organic, only filtered water, only non-GMOs, live in the country and eat nothing in a can, package or box.
The fact remains: The American Cancer Society solicits funds to eradicate cancer, but they will not “touch” the fact that we poison our foods to such an extent that our bodies respond with aberrant cell behavior, i.e., cancers in all their forms.
Every fruit and vegetable suffers chemical sprays that become part of the produce that enters your stores and you buy it. And, you eat it.
Jeffrey Smith, http://www.organicconsumers.org, said, “Did you know GMO plants such as soybean, corn, cottonseed and canola have had foreign genes forced into their DNA. And the inserted genes come from species, such as bacteria and viruses that have never been in the human food supply.
“Did you know genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not safe? They have been linked to thousands of toxic and allergenic reactions, thousands of sick, sterile and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ and system studied in lab animals.”
Why isn’t the FDA protecting us? …………. NOTE …….. I interpret this as a rhetoric question the answer to which is … because from the outset is was never intended by the corporate sponsors of FDA this agency was fostered to protect you and me … FDA is designed to protect busine$$ … “In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration claimed that they had no information showing that GMO foods were substantially different from conventionally grown foods and therefore were safe to eat,” said Smith. “But internal memos made public by a lawsuit reveal that their position was staged by political appointees under orders from the White House to promote GMOs. FDA scientists, on the other hand, warned that GMOs can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems.
“They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored. The FDA does not require any safety evaluations for GMOs. Instead, biotech companies, who have been found guilty of hiding toxic effects of their chemical products, are now in charge of determining whether their GMO foods are safe.” (The FDA official in charge of creating this policy was Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney and later their vice president.)
From everything I have studied, the worst men of humanity run Monsanto and ADM. They create synthetic sugars like Aspartame, High Fructose Corn Syrup and other chemicals that you see in “Diet Coke” and in your sugar packets at every lunch counter and restaurant in America. Top scientists implicated Aspartame as a precursor to Lupus and Fibromyalgia along with a growing list of deleterious human conditions.
Same with the tobacco barons: do you think they care that 450,000 Americans die of tobacco-induced lung cancer annually for the past 50 years? Answer: they laugh during their golf games.
While GMO barons live in luxury, Lear jets and country mansions, Americans suffer diseases by the millions. And, we die for it by the millions.
Widespread, unpredictable changes of GMOs
During GMO “Frankensteinization”, natural genes suffer deletion or become permanently turned on or off, and hundreds may change their levels of expression.
In addition:*The inserted gene is often rearranged.
*It may transfer from the food into our body’s cells or into the DNA of bacteria inside us
*The GMO protein produced by the gene may have unintended properties or effects.
Why do they do it? ………The primary reason companies genetically engineer plants: to make them tolerant to their brand of herbicide. The four major GMO plants, soy, corn, canola, and cotton, are designed to survive an otherwise deadly dose of weed killer like Round-up or Weed-B-Gone. The second GM trait: built-in pesticide.
In other words, kill the insects that allow the world to thrive. It becomes more insane the more I research this series.
GM food supplement caused deadly epidemic …….In the 1980s, a contaminated brand of a food supplement called L-tryptophan killed about 100 Americans and caused sickness and disability in another 5,000-10,000 people. If GMO foods on the market cause common diseases or if their effects appear only after long-term exposure, we may not be able to identify the source of the problem for decades. No one monitors GMO-related problems and no long-term animal studies. Heavily invested biotech corporations gamble away the health of our nation for profit.
Go to http://www.responsibletechnology.org to get involved and learn how to avoid GMOs. Look for Non-GMO Shopping Guide.
Start buying non-GMO today.
Help stop the genetic engineering of our food supply.
You may become involved:
By mail: Institute For Responsible Technology, P.O. Box 469, Fairfield, IA 52556 Online: http://www.responsibletechnology.org by phone: (641) 209-1765
Read the book—Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risk of Genetically Engineered Foods by Jeffrey M. Smith
…Congre$$ … $lu$h fund … Inve$tigate$ … punch line to a joke, right…?
Congress Investigates “Slush Fund” At USAID Used To Get Lawmakers To Pass Reforms ……04-16-2014 • Jonathan Turley ………Our government has long seemed to be descending into a type of Orwellian universe of double speak. The Libyan War was not a war but a “time-limited, scope-limited military action” under Obama. …..<http://www.FreedomsPhoenix.com/News/154022-2014-04-16-congress-investigates-slush-fund-at-usaid-used-to-get-lawmakers.htm?From=News>
… And he had a killer punch line IF you can recall the Rev. Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre…?
Matt Taibbi: The SuperRich in America Have Become ‘Untouchables’ Who Don’t Go to Prison <http://act.alternet.org/go/45675?t=5&akid=11729.23062.bx05Sk>
Amy Goodman, Matt Taibbi, Democracy Now!
Taibbi discusses his new book, "The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap."
…What, are you insinuating that “bank$ter$” would lie, cheat, steal … OMG … is this supposed to be news…?
Banking Industry Shamelessly Fleeces Even the Paltry Savings of Ex-Prisoners
Mark Karlin, BuzzFlash at Truthout: After incarceration, prisoners often have a small savings account that has accrued from work – and money provided by family and friends. Now, in some states, they are being forced to accept a fee-gouging debit card to access their funds upon release.
…While not an absolute I venture to note Vega$ is giving odd$ it’s most likely in the cards…
How a Comcast-Time Warner Merger Will Make Your Cable and Internet Worse and More Expensive <http://act.alternet.org/go/45652?t=2&akid=11727.23062.rtjxPq>
Zaid Jilani, AlterNet ……….A closer look at TWC-Comcast reveals their claim of "substantial public interest benefits" is anything but.