[rescue] Distributed Folding - the Geeks team

Phil Stracchino alaric at caerllewys.net
Sat Dec 20 18:07:58 CST 2003

On Tue, Nov 18, 2003 at 05:13:05PM -0500, Sheldon T. Hall wrote:
>  Phil Stracchino says ...
> > Personally, I like the idea of patenting information in order to keep it
> > in the public domain, but despise the necessity.
> Seeing as how a number of recent medical advances, some of them patented,
> have kept me out of the hands of the funeral industry, I don't give a rat
> sandwich.
> I'll go further.  HP is a for-profit corporation, with no pretense of being
> anything else.  HP makes a tiny sonography tool.  I'm sure it's patented.

OK, let me make a distinction here.  You're talking about patenting a
device, a specific implementation of numerous possibly-patented
technical developments.  I have absolutely zero problem with things like
that being patented.

What I object to is vast blocks of basic information that should be
freely available to everyone, such as the human genome or proteome,
being locked up under patents that prevent anyone else from even
*studying* them without paying fees to license them first and agreeing
to pay royalties on anything developed using that data.  Just look at
the companies like Celera that filed blanket patents on vast chunks of
the human genome against the possibility that someone, somewhere, might
find a medical application for information gained from studying one of
the genes in that chunk.

What tends to happen is that when raw data like genome information is
patented, no-one studies the patented bits, because they know that if
they ever develop anything based on it, they're going to have to pay
royalties that may make their development uneconomic to pursue, making
the research that led to it a waste of time and money.  It'd suck to
miss out on, say, a cure for cancer because no-one wanted to pay money
to license the sequence of the key gene just on the offchance that it
might have medical value.

IMHO, basic data that already exists in nature, such as the human
genome, should not be patentable any more than an astronomer can patent
a new galaxy or a new and intriguing type of deep-space phenomenon.
Inventions DERIVED from that knowledge, or specific treatments or
techniques made possible by that knowledge, yes, absolutely, patent
them and be welcome.  But allowing the *raw data* to be patented is
madness.  It's like patenting the Pacific Ocean, or the coastline of
Argentina, or the weather records at McMurdo Station over the last
hundred years, or the set of integers.  The very idea, in a sane and
reasonable patent system, should spur bouts of derisive laughter.

To put it another way, it's my opinion that in order to be able to
patent something, you must INVENT it (be it a device, a technique, or a
non-trivial and non-obvious use of commonly-known data), not merely
DISCOVER it.  A gene sequence -- no.  A new anti-Alzheimers' drug
developed from study of that gene sequence -- sure.  Data on how a
protein folds -- no.  A new antibiotic derived from that data -- of
course.  The results of a study of how echinoderms and crustaceans
regrow lost limbs -- sorry, no.  A revolutionary medical technique
developed using that data which allows humans to regrow lost limbs --

> So, I'd offer my spare cycles to the HP guys if I thought they could use 'em
> to produce something else that would save someone else.  The fact that they
> might make a buck on it doesn't bother me at all.

Absolutely.  But would you give them those cycles in order to enable
them to be first to have access to basic information, in the knowledge
that once they had that information, they were going to charge to let
anyone else have access to it, and they weren't necessarily going to
ever do anything with the information themselves -- just sit on it
until someone else invented something, then hold out their hand for a
share of the profits?

 .*********  Fight Back!  It may not be just YOUR life at risk.  *********.
 : phil stracchino : unix ronin : renaissance man : mystic zen biker geek :
 :  alaric at caerllewys.net : alaric-ruthven at earthlink.net : phil at latt.net  :
 :   2000 CBR929RR, 1991 VFR750F3 (foully murdered), 1986 VF500F (sold)   :
 :    Linux Now!   ...Because friends don't let friends use Microsoft.    :

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