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Against Monopoly

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Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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A Small (And Tentative) Victory Against Patent Overreach In Stem Cell Research

A group of Wisconsin researchers have tried to claim that they own broad patents relating to embryonic stem cell research. To grant a monopoly in that key area of research would be catastrophic for scientific and health related advancements. Fortunately, the Patent office has rejected the claim. However, don't give the Patent office too much credit here. This was only done after some public interest groups took the trouble to jump through the bureaucratic hoops and raise a stink about it. (Kudos to the Public Patent Foundation!)

The issue can still be appealed by the Wisconsin group, so be sure to follow this important case closely. The question remains if it will have broader ramifications over the stem cell patent cottage industry.

I seem to recall certain celebrities speaking out against politicians with a restrictive stance on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (Michael J. Fox, the late Christopher Reeve, etc.). This site is not the proper forum for that particular underlying debate. However, it is notable that like-minded celebrities have never spoken out publicly against overly broad patent restrictions - even though that issue will likely impede progress in scientific medical research more than the position of any politician with regards to the federal funding issue. If these people are truly interested in medical progress (and I presume that they are), they might want to consider speaking up on the issue of patent reform.

Some cynics have accused Fox, Reeve and others of using the stem cell issue as merely a way to score cheap partisan points against Republicans. I never doubted their sincerity on the stem cell issue, but here is a perfect opportunity to prove the cynics wrong. I would respectfully suggest that they start by targeting the current Governor of Wisconsin.

[Michael Perelman previously wrote about another group involved in the Wisconsin patent challenge when it was first filed. Be sure to check it out.]

[Here's an idea for you sci-fi writers out there to explore: What if our current patent system had been in place during the discovery of fire? It would be interesting to try and project the ramifications for today's world.]


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