US corporations fighting to keep poor countries from getting patent-free access to green tech

Discuss

33 Responses to “US corporations fighting to keep poor countries from getting patent-free access to green tech”

  1. GuidoDavid says:

    Even if China, India and Brazil would not be poor (with so many million people living in abject misery, it’s odd they are not poor), many other countries are indeed poor and cannot pay for those fees.

    You cannot have it both ways. Or we contaminate and screw everything to achieve a decent life standard, or you help us to not repeat your mistakes. Claiming that we must pay fees to fat cats while our people are hungry is…

    I have no words for what it is

    For many of us, screw the environment, they are hungry and sick. Once basic needs are covered, suddenly environmental concerns become much more important.

    Life is unfair? Indeed, is unfair, so I guess we must hail our new Global Warming Overlord.

  2. PFlint says:

    This goes to show you that technology alone will not save us (humanity) or our world. It takes more: an ethic akin to Love. (There, I said it.) Instead we have minimalist “business ethics”. (“Don’t rip off people. Much.”)

  3. zuzu says:

    This goes to show you that technology alone will not save us (humanity) or our world.

    How have you arrived at that conclusion?

    If anything this seems to support, at least, an increased appreciation by developing nations of technological determinism — an awe and respect that the USA has lost, culturally, since the 1980s and 1990s.

    The only difference here is that the BRIC nations are wise enough to want to avoid the extortion of rent-seekers (i.e. the USA and EU) whose best days are behind them.

    Technology will save us, so long as they are Tools for Conviviality.

    You can and must understand computers NOW!

  4. zuzu says:

    For many of us, screw the environment, they are hungry and sick. Once basic needs are covered, suddenly environmental concerns become much more important.

    c.f. Environmental Kuznets Curve

  5. GuidoDavid says:

    Antinous:
    I hope we can precipitate… the demise of such an idea.

  6. Takuan says:

    GuidoDavid?

  7. ill lich says:

    1. Money is the root of all evil.

    2. The way the world is going, eventually we are all going to be living in poor countries.

  8. zuzu says:

    1. Money is the root of all evil.

    Rather, “Love of money is the root of all evil.” (Timothy 6:10)

    2. The way the world is going, eventually we are all going to be living in poor countries.

    “As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address (January 17, 1961)

  9. zuzu says:

    “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” — Benjamin Franklin

  10. GuidoDavid says:

    Chagas diseases is not caused by money. Neither Ebola or drought.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The WTO needs another Seattle or two. If every meeting gets shut down, than maybe the WTO will close and we can one day have trade treaties based on labour rights and environmental protection, not corporate profits.

  12. Cory Doctorow says:

    One third of the world’s poor live in India.

  13. rmstallman says:

    I support the argument of this article, but the first sentence confuses the issue by referring to it as “the battle over intellectual property rights”. There can’t be one, because intellectual property” is a congeries of unrelated laws that have very little in common.
    (See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.html.)

    For instance, patent law and copyright law do totally different things. There is a big battle about copyright law, and several big battles over patent law, but they are different battles. Meanwhile, there is no big battle about trademark law, just controversies about some details. To talk about them in terms of “intellectual property” is to confuse them all. The way to understand these laws is _separately_.

    If the article said “the battle over patents”, it would be clear and precise.

  14. Stephen says:

    This article ignores the fact that without the WTO, the US wouldn’t need draconian IP treaties, it would just enforce it’s economic will on weaker countries.

  15. Anonymous says:

    FYI, india. china nor brazil are poor.

    It’s not a wasteland of poor outside of the US/UK as some bloggers seem to think.

    China and India can have the patent rights once they return some jobs, sound good?

  16. Anonymous says:

    It’s bizarre to read “poor countries” then see Brazil, China and India named as the only examples. Yes, large segments of their populations are poor, but the countries themselves are not. China steals technology and knowledge anywhere it can, so I don’t exactly feel sorry for them. It has been buying rights to natural resources all over the world, often in incredibly unfair deals (say, all of Africa).

    Do you think China gives a damn about the pollution that reaches our West Coast? Do you think China even cares about its own populace? Doubtful.

  17. zuzu says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRIC

    In economics, BRIC or BRICs is an acronym that refers to the fast growing developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. The acronym was first coined and prominently used by Goldman Sachs in 2001. Goldman Sachs argued that, since they are developing rapidly, by 2050 the combined economies of the BRICs could eclipse the combined economies of the current richest countries of the world.

    As for disregarding the USA hegemony of patent law; I say that’s a comparative advantage for non-IP nations:

    In economics, comparative advantage refers to the ability of a person or a country to produce a particular good at a lower marginal cost and opportunity cost than another person or country. It is the ability to produce a product most efficiently given all the other products that could be produced. Comparative advantage explains how trade can create value for both parties even when one can produce all goods with fewer resources than the other. The net benefits of such an outcome are called gains from trade.

    c.f. http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2009/Boldrinintellectualproperty.mp3

    Michele Boldrin of Washington University in St. Louis talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about intellectual property and Boldrin’s book, co-written with David Levine, Against Intellectual Property. Boldrin argues that copyright and patent are used by the politically powerful to maintain monopoly profits. He argues that the incentive effects that have been used to justify copyright and patents are exaggerated–few examples from history suggest that the temporary and not-so-temporary monopoly power from copyright and patents were necessary to induce innovation. Boldrin reviews some of that evidence and talks about the nature of competition.

  18. Ugly Canuck says:

    Patents are limited to 18 years or so, unlike the extreme length of time over which copyright can extend: provided that the term of protection is still less than 20 years, let them have their temporary monopoly.
    What’s 20 years to the nation of China, which sits on eternity?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oarfAYDpRJs

  19. zuzu says:

    In the sciences we often don’t claim that anything is proven or provabale, only unprovable. If you say IP hasn’t generated lots of wealth in the western world, then YOU need to prove it.

    No, the onus is not on me to disprove the necessity of IP. c.f. the celestial teapot

    The onus is on you (or whoever) to prove that a government-granted monopoly causes more good than harm (i.e. a net benefit). Such a proof is logically impossible. (i.e. The costs and benefits cannot be measured.)

    As for me, there’s no doubt that the kinds of high technology necessary to clean up this environmental mess is going to cost huge amounts in terms of R&D investment. A necesary component in justifying the capital will be the odds of recooping that capital. Intellectual property is certainly part-and-parcel, and is what allows the investment money to flow.

    There is no justification for why a government-granted monopoly should be the only business model that will fulfill this, and thus it requires that exercise in coercive force by the government to subsidize said business model.

    Again, the onus is on you to provide that justification. Not for me to disprove it.

  20. Ugly Canuck says:

    Clearer version of above song:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4sKHw_IX_g

    What did China get for sharing the compass and gunpowder?

    As an aside, considering China’s history concerning water clocks, Mr. Eno ought perhaps to sing of “clocks dripping slowly” rather than “clocks ticking slowly”.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Actually, neither Keeper of the Lantern nor Zuzu need to (dis)prove the the benefits of IP. Instead, they both need to __stop__ parading around assertions on the subject as fact. If you have facts to back up that IP protection aids/supresses innovation, then provide References, Please.

    Zuzu scores a 1/2-point for, at the very least, providing a decent logical argument in #28.

    But please, Reference your facts, don’t assert your opinion as fact. There’s far too much of the latter these days…

    –jpw

  22. Tdawwg says:

    Zuzu, the celestial teapot argument only works for unverifiable claims, as in, say, a religious argument, where the existence or nonexistence of a deity isn’t open to rational proof. If you think IP is bad, or whatever, it is indeed your burden to show why this is so: since there’s data admissible for both pro and contra arguments, you can’t exempt yourself from the debate. Wikipedia FAIL.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      the celestial teapot argument only works for unverifiable claims, as in, say, a religious argument

      Which would apply to IP. Economics is a philosophical discipline that sometimes includes data. It’s not a science. The idea that intellectual output could be considered property is a philosophical premise. You can’t find it in a linear accelerator, precipitate it in a test tube or express it mathematically. Unless you’re a member of the Second Foundation, in which case, I’m screwed.

  23. xenon says:

    re: IP and advancement

    i’m sure i read that they don’t have IP etc in Japan, hence why they overtook the west in cars/electronics etc in the 60s/70s. if you came up with smething new, it was show and tell time.

    this is another peice of profiteering from big business. remember – these guys are poluting lakes etc in your country right now for the sake of profit.

  24. Anonymous says:

    God Bless America!

  25. zuzu says:

    the celestial teapot argument only works for unverifiable claims, as in, say, a religious argument, where the existence or nonexistence of a deity isn’t open to rational proof. If you think IP is bad, or whatever, it is indeed your burden to show why this is so: since there’s data admissible for both pro and contra arguments, you can’t exempt yourself from the debate.

    That IP does more good than harm is an unverifiable claim. Did you not understand that from what I’ve already written?

    Such a proof is logically impossible. (i.e. The costs and benefits cannot be measured.)

    So there’s no rational basis for claiming that IP should exist in the first place.

    (It’s those who claim “the need for IP is obvious” who are actually exempting themselves from the debate.)

  26. Aloisius says:

    Boldrin argues that copyright and patent are used by the politically powerful to maintain monopoly profits.

    They are also used by individuals to protect themselves from large corporations stealing their creations.

    He argues that the incentive effects that have been used to justify copyright and patents are exaggerated–few examples from history suggest that the temporary and not-so-temporary monopoly power from copyright and patents were necessary to induce innovation.

    Unless of course you count the massive explosion of inventions and artistic works that happened to coincide with the creation and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

    I’ll argue all day long about how copyright has essentially become a eternal monopoly and should have its term significantly reduced. I’ll even argue that certain types of inventions should have much shorter patent terms. But intellectual property has brought significant benefits to our society.

  27. Ugly Canuck says:

    I point out that IMO the business model of the patent wall in its modern form was first perfected by George Eastman, a great American and the essential man in the birth of motion picture technology:

    http://www.eastmanhouse.org/inc/collections/ge-biography.php

  28. zuzu says:

    But intellectual property has brought significant benefits to our society.

    Prove it. (You can’t. No one can.)

    Unless of course you count the massive explosion of inventions and artistic works that happened to coincide with the creation and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

    Correlation != Causation.

  29. Keeper of the Lantern says:

    Zuzu:
    In the sciences we often don’t claim that anything is proven or provabale, only unprovable.

    If you say IP hasn’t generated lots of wealth in the western world, then YOU need to prove it.

    As for me, there’s no doubt that the kinds of high technology necessary to clean up this environmental mess is going to cost huge amounts in terms of R&D investment. A necesary component in justifying the capital will be the odds of recooping that capital. Intellectual property is certainly part-and-parcel, and is what allows the investment money to flow.

    In the case of “poor” nations, I don’t see that the companies in those poor nations won’t always be unable to afford to purchase the IP rights.

    Although economies of scale allow for technological trickle-down, we may not have enough time for this. The 3rd world aid currenty tied by first world countries to weapons purchases and other similar “aid” should instead be tied towards purchasing the eco-tech IP property rights.

  30. Tdawwg says:

    Perhaps not ultimately, but I’m not going to accept a link to some Austrian school website as the final verdict. Almost all arguments admit evidence pro and contra, so the idea that one can’t test the validity of the “IP creates wealth” hypothesis is absurd. You might never get to a final answer, but who cares? The very fact that rational actors claim IP is rational and should exist is enough of an argument for me, pace your quiver of weblinks.

    So it’s up to you to briefly argue why IP is bad.

  31. Keeper of the Lantern says:

    Zuzu:
    In the sciences we often don’t claim that anything is proven or provabale, only unprovable.

    If you say IP hasn’t generated lots of wealth in the western world, then YOU need to prove it.

    As for me, there’s no doubt that the kinds of high technology necessary to clean up this environmental mess is going to cost huge amounts in terms of R&D investment. A necesary component in justifying the capital will be the odds of recooping that capital. Intellectual property is certainly part-and-parcel, and is what allows the investment money to flow.

    In the case of “poor” nations, I don’t see that the companies in those poor nations won’t always be unable to afford to purchase the IP rights.

    Although economies of scale allow for technological trickle-down, we may not have enough time for this. The 3rd world aid currenty tied by first world countries to weapons purchases and other similar “aid” should instead be tied towards purchasing the eco-tech IP property rights.

  32. zuzu says:

    Tdawwg, you’re only appealing to authority. Who makes an argument is irrelevant (i.e. the genetic fallacy), only that the argument itself is logically sound (or not) is pertinent. Please address the argument, which is specifically that there is no possible means to discern that laws granting the monopolies of copyright and patent create more wealth than those monopolies inhibit or destroy. (How would you know if it works or not?) So what justification is there for creating those monopolies in the first place?

    Moreover…

    Real property (physical things that are currently constrained by excludability and rivalry) exists to allow distributed computation and prevent dispute over the best uses of those scarce resources. We can’t both drink the same cup of coffee, or drive the same car at the same time.

    But information (ideas, audio, video, pictures, schematics, source code, genetic code, and other forms of data) are neither excludible nor rivalrous. Information is infinitely reproducible. Information does not satisfy the logical reasons for the classification of property.

    If we had Star Trek replicators, property would no longer apply to many things it does today. Want a car like mine? Duplicate it with your replicator. Want the latest Apple laptop? Have the replicator materialize an additional copy of one for you.

    Currently we live in a world of replicators for bits — commonly called computers — but not for physical atoms. Extending the old familiar rules for “property” from atoms to bits embodies the warning of Maslow’s Hammer:

    The concept known as the law of the instrument, Maslow’s hammer, or a golden hammer is an over-reliance on a familiar tool; as Abraham Maslow said in 1962, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

    The problem isn’t that information is infinitely copyable; rather, the problem to solve is that material goods aren’t infinitely copyable yet. We still need Star Trek style replicators.

Leave a Reply