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Plundering Patents
Alan Oxley, Wall Street Journal Europe, 2-1-06

Oxley points to a disturbing trend in international patent disputes, in which less-developed countries (like India) are claiming patent rights for natural products found within their borders in a crusade against something they call “biopiracy.”

The strategy has very radical consequences. The value of patents would be undermined if the patent holder had to defer to someone else about how the patented product would be used. No foreign investor -- be it in manufacturing, IT, biotech or other sectors -- would risk his money in a country that adopted such laws or international conventions. One would hope that the U.N. would want to be certain that biopiracy is a serious problem before going along with something with such a drastic impact.
Yet the U.N. has never undertaken such a review, even though a new private study by the APEC Center at Monash University in Australia highlights the need for one. The study finds no instances of forcible and illegal removal of genetic resources from foreign territory. Nor is there evidence that international companies are buying the rights to these resources for a song and then making billions -- fair contracts are in force in the search for these resources, also known as "bioprospecting." The pot of "green gold" is mythical, as is its exploitation.

The hostility of less-developed nations to intellectual property regimes represents a fundamental misunderstanding of economic incentives. Countries that inhibit the ability of investors and companies to patent new discoveries will drive out investment capital and undermine their international competitiveness.

Project FDA.
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