I remember behind-the-scenes KiteShip
frustration over SkySail's rampant kite patent
trolling. There are hardly any inventive leaps in their
bloated portfolio of junk patents. If only they had rested on
their admirable engineering. It was very disappointing how
SkySails promptly got into military cargo contracts. No friendly
FairIP/CoopIP license for them. Ignore these frivolous claims or
beat them in court by showing prior art. We have good
work-arounds for any particular detail proven inventive in
coming patent wars.
For counter-views of greedy IP culture see link & excerpt below-
NGOS, SCIENTISTS AND ACADEMICS CALL FOR MAJOR REFORM
OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY SYSTEM
Report by Martin Khor (TWN) of the Seminar on the Future of WIPO
(held in Geneva 13-14 September 2004).
The system of patents, copyright and other intellectual property rights are
coming under public attack, including from famous scientists and well known
law professors, who say that this system has gone too far in benefiting a
few people at the expense of the majority.
The critics are concerned and even angry that patents and copyright are
given (mainly to companies in developed countries) too freely and on terms
that unfairly penalize consumers, researchers and small producers.
The wide range of criticisms emerged at a conference on the Future of the
World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) organized by the
Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue earlier this month
Among the problems raised were that the IPR system is hampering the free
flow of information, raising the cost of computer software, hampering
scientists from advancing research, reducing the public's access to
information and raising the cost of medicines.
Among the participants were Sir John Sulston, Nobel Prize winner and leader
of the Cambridge-based scientific team that uncovered the human genome,
Richard Stallman , a pioneer of the free software movement (which led among
other things to the Linux operating system), and many academic professors
specializing in IPR law.
Sulston expressed concern that databases containing scientific information
are increasingly placed under copyright, making it difficult and costly for
researchers to have access, and thus impeding research.
He advocates that scientific data be placed in public databases
researchers can freely use. When he completed his work on mapping the human
genome, Suston's team quickly published the results in a scientific journal,
making it available to all.
"We put the details on a public database so everyone can have access and do
their own research," he said.
He spoke against the present practice of patenting of genes, which is an
buse of the patent system as the gene sequences are discoveries and not
inventions. He called the attempt by European governments to tighten
copyright on databases as "absolutely retrogade."
"We need ways to tame the market, and conduct research in ways that are not
puely market driven," he said. "We need to restore trust, because I am
afraid the human race will not survive if we don't restore trust between the
scientists and science."
Stallman, who is president of the Free Software Foundation,
said that IPRs
were a restriction on the public's access to information and essential
goods, and should not be termed as "rights".
"Patents granted for software only benefit very few, who are given the
chance to sue, whilst the rest are threatened with potential suits," he
said. "There are negative effects for software developers and computer
Librarians, scholars and students are also worried that higher copyright
regulations are preventing access to information.
Jukka Liedes of the Finland Education Ministry, who is in charge of the
country's library system and access to information policy, said that in the
past it was considered that "the less there was IP or copyright, the
However, at present consumers are constrained by copyright terms and access
to information has become a concern, he said. The copyright system has
on cultural diversity, cultural expressions and on the promotion of
For Volker Grassmuch of Humboldt University in Berlin, the digital
revolution (sparked by the personal computer and the internet) had made
information, editing and copying available to many.
However, there was now a "digital counter-revolution," through restrictions
placed on computer users, for instance on what they are allowed to download.
Moreover, he said,m copyright law mainly benefits not the authors or
musicians but the major industry owners. The consumers and small producers
pay the price.
Several speakers stressed that they were not against intellectual property
per se, but that there should be a balance between the monopoly privileges
given to the patent or copyright holders, and the rights and welfare of the
Their concern was that the balance had tilted
very much in favour of the IPR
holders, which are able to jack up prices of their products, affecting
consumers' access, whilst also preventing other producers from competing
Dr. R. Sothi, director of Consumers' International's Asian office (based in
Kuala Lumpur) said a study of copyright laws in five Asian countries had
shown that the IP system is making educational materials inaccessible to the
poor as it raised the cost and prevented copying. A one-size-fits-all
system is unsuitable to treat countries at different stages of development.
The health organization, Medicin Sans Frontier, showed data on how medicines
for AIDS patients had been maintained at high levels because of patents. It
also exposed the fact that 97% of patents worldwide are held in the
developed countries, whilst 80% of patents in the developing countries also
belong to residents of
the rich countries. Thus those who benefit from the
IP system are overwhelmingly from the developed countries.
The patent system in the United States is being distorted by recent
practices, according to several American academics. Brian Kahin of the
University of Michigan said the standards for granting patents had been
lowered, so many more patents are being granted.
He added that the range of products for which patents are granted has also
expanded to include, for example, life forms, software and business
methods.As a result, many patents that are given are of questionable
The seminar participants were worried that the US model, which is unsuitable
even for Americans, is now being exported to the developing countries, where
it is even more inappropriate and will cause more harm.
They were referring firstly to the agreement on
intellectual property in the
World Trade Organisation, and secondly to the attempts by the developed
countries to create new treaties in WIPO (such as the substantive patent law
treaty and the broadcasters' rights treaty) that would "harmonise" the
developing countries' IPR laws with the laws of the US and other developed
"This harmonization attempt is immoral and the last insulot to developing
countries," said Dr Graham Dutfield of Queen Mary's University in Britain.
"Japan would not have developed if it had these IPR laws, and the big
companies of Europe could not have taken off if they were disallowed from
"In the past the IP system allowed countries to catch up as it
differentiated among countries, but now the harmonization process will block
developing countries from catching up."
Well-known American academic Prof. Jerome Reichmann said that
new WIPO treaties "would transmit a dysfunctional US system of intellectual
property to the rest of the world. It is utterly unfeasible to do that, and
it is completely wrong."
"Why should the developing countries participate in a standard setting
exercise which would be bad for them and also bad for the US and EU," he
added. "How can any good come out of it and why should the developing
countrues accept it?" He called for a stop to such "harmonization"
attempts, and this was supported by other participants.
The seminar also discussed many ideas for reforming WIPO so that it would
not, as now, only promote IPRs but be able to consider IPRs within the
broader context of development. A declaration on the future of WIPO to that
effect is under preparation.