29 April 2010

The biotech crop case

One of the ongoing concerns of this blog is the question of intellectual property.

I have learned that those disputants who believe in the vigorous enforcement of patent rights, and who believe that the courts and legislators are overly soft on encroachers, are sometimes known as "patent hawks."

On the implicit analogy, I expect that I'm a patent dove. The courts err far too much at present on the side of enforcement, and the preservation of privilege it implies. Beyond a certain point -- hard to identify, but surely behind us -- the act of rewarding the previous generations' innovations becomes an impediment to the innovative work of the present and future, because innovators always have to build upon what has gone before.

It is wrong to stigmatize education as theft.

All this comes to mind today because on Tuesday of this week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on a groundbreaking biotech crop case. It isn't being litigated as a patent case at all, but as an application of the National Environmental Policy Act. Still, it does seem to show what we have gotten ourselves into as a country by allowing companies to patent living things.

Monsanto sells weed killer, Accordingly,. Monsanto now wants to sell a brand of alfafa seeds genetically designed to resist its own weed killer. Monsanto wants to be on both sides of an arms spiral of offense and defense.

Maybe this situation will compel the court to go back and revisit the IP issues.

You splice to-may-toes and I splice to-mah-toes.

Let's call the whole thing off.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.