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The Almighty Buck Biotech Science

Michael Crichton on Why Gene Patents Are Bad 367

Posted by Zonk
from the life-finds-a-way dept.
BayaWeaver writes "Michael Crichton, author of The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park has made a strong case against gene patents in an op-ed for the New York Times. Striking an emotional chord, he begins with 'You, or someone you love, may die because of a gene patent that should never have been granted in the first place. Sound far-fetched? Unfortunately, it's only too real.' From there, he moves on to use logic, statistics, and his way with words to make his point. Arguing against the high costs of gene therapies thanks to related patents, he eventually offers hope that one day legislation will de-incentivize the hoarding of scientific knowledge. As he points out: 'When SARS was spreading across the globe, medical researchers hesitated to study it — because of patent concerns. There is no clearer indication that gene patents block innovation, inhibit research and put us all at risk.'"
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Michael Crichton on Why Gene Patents Are Bad

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  • by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:40AM (#17997592) Journal
    Since his anti Global Warming book, he no longer appears to be as popular. In fact, I would guess that that little bit of political foley probably cost him dearly. Now, he comes up with something intelligent and I suspect that it will be easy for others to cast doubt on his arguments.
    • I've read a lot of Michael Crichton's works. I enjoyed them.

      What I do not enjoy, however, is his political commentary. The same can be said for Orson Scott Card [ornery.org]. Why is it that authors, singers, actors, etc feel the need to get political? Are we enveloped in a society where it is expected that if you have any leverage, you push your beliefs on other people?

      To quote a speech of Crichton [crichton-official.com]:

      First, we need an environmental movement, and such a movement is not very effective if it is conducted as a religion. We know from history that religions tend to kill people, and environmentalism has already killed somewhere between 10-30 million people since the 1970s. It's not a good record.
      Mr. Crichton, you're great at plot twists and you also happen to be great at political spin. Please keep to the former so I can remain a fan of yours. I like your position on this topic but you do not end your commentary well:

      Fortunately, two congressmen want to make the full benefit of the decoded genome available to us all. Last Friday, Xavier Becerra, a Democrat of California, and Dave Weldon, a Republican of Florida, sponsored the Genomic Research and Accessibility Act, to ban the practice of patenting genes found in nature. Mr. Becerra has been careful to say the bill does not hamper invention, but rather promotes it. He's right. This bill will fuel innovation, and return our common genetic heritage to us. It deserves our support.
      How will this bill fuel innovation? You wrote in Jurassic Park that it is better to invest billions in a dinosaur theme park than to find a cure for AIDS. Why? Because you can't charge people anything you want for a cure for AIDS, that would be immoral. What if it was acceptable to charge a million dollars for a single dose of a cure? The benefit of medical research would sky rocket and I'm sure more money would go into development. My question is simply, how do you ensure that forcing parts of research to be open to the public won't prevent companies from dumping money into that research? If a company discovers and goes through the painstaking research of finding "natural genes" then why shouldn't they be able to profit off that?

      I agree with you, but if you're going to comment on this, you must be prepared for the counter argument. "He's right." Simply won't suffice for me.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I'm sure more money would go into development.

        Or into advertisements of people screaming randomly assembled letters off of mountaintops while sitting in bathtubs. Your call.

        My question is simply, how do you ensure that forcing parts of research to be open to the public won't prevent companies from dumping money into that research?

        Because it didn't? As it was pointed out, countries where these things aren't patentable already have better genetic tests than the US does. This isn't some thought experiment,
      • by Luyseyal (3154) <swaters&luy,info> on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:57AM (#17997884) Homepage

        Why is it that authors, singers, actors, etc feel the need to get political? Are we enveloped in a society where it is expected that if you have any leverage, you push your beliefs on other people?

        Why does anyone? Why do Slashdot posters get all political trying to push their ideologies on other people?

        People are, by nature, "political animals" as Aristotle suggested 2300 years ago.
        -l

        • by danpsmith (922127) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @05:01PM (#18002948)

          Why is it that authors, singers, actors, etc feel the need to get political? Are we enveloped in a society where it is expected that if you have any leverage, you push your beliefs on other people?
          Why does anyone? Why do Slashdot posters get all political trying to push their ideologies on other people? People are, by nature, "political animals" as Aristotle suggested 2300 years ago. -l

          Not only that, but in my opinion politics were never designed to be a specialized field full of aristocrats. Politics, is, by its very nature the business of the people in a democracy. The press gives these people the magnitude they use in expressing their views, don't blame them for having one. Everyone earns their right to an opinion by being a citizen of this nation. If you don't like that, maybe you should try a communist country where the only people who get to have political views are those that are authorized to have them.

          I'm so sick of the "what do they know?" argument. What does anyone know? Anyone who follows the news knows that politicians hardly know the subject matter of the bills they vote on and they are the ones that are voting. If a celebrity can come on record with a lot of media attention and shine light onto a subject such as this one, which is, honestly, worthy of attention, and garner popular support, perhaps the politicians responsible for addressing these issues will take a second look at them before throwing them in the circular file.

          Politicians often don't even read the bills they vote on. Just because someone isn't a full-time politician doesn't mean he knows nothing. In fact, it's probably the opposite.

      • by Monkeyboy4 (789832) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @12:10PM (#17998100)
        Have you read Card? Or Hienlien? OR Crichton closely?

        Almost all science fiction is really political and sociological story telling with a veneer of gadgets and aliens that allow the author to use well-crafted hyperbolic reality to avoid the ham-fisted arguments in a political text.

        Not saying you aren't right in being annoyed by the politicking of Scifi authors, but it is a pretty long-standing tradition
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
          Heinlein and Card attacked politics and ethics, which is perfectly within their see as writers.

          Crichton attacked science for political reasons. Politics and Science are not the same thing, and I pretty much find it unacceptable for anyone to attack science, not because they have some concrete reason to believe that a mistake is being made, but simply because they don't care for the truth.
          • by d3ac0n (715594) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @01:14PM (#17999108)
            Have you actually read the transcripts of his speeches or his books relating to Science? Chrichton wasn't atacking Science with Politics, he was attacking the Politics that has entered Science! Chrichton himself argues for a more pure scientific approach! Here is a relevant quote from Mr. Chrichton:

            Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results.


            You can find more quotes from him (including audio, when appropriate) Here: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Michael_Crichton [wikiquote.org]

            Chrichton's main point is one I have also argued: Environmental science has been invaded by politicians and people with a specific political agenda to push, and that has colored and damaged almost all scientific study in that field since then. It as gotten so bad that "consensus" (something antithetical to the scientific method) is now being pushed as a reason why we should all believe that man and man alone is responsible for Global warming!

            This is not science, it is politics. I, like Chrichton, am not interested in someone's political agenda when science is involved. I was science for science' sake. I realize that it isn't always possible, but it is something we should strive for. Chrichton merely pushes this, and as "nerds" we should be behind him on this point.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Rei (128717)
              Scientific concensus does not mean truth. However, when a layperson who doesn't understand the issue needs to, it is by far their best bet to go with where the overwhelming majority of scientific viewpoints lie. Otherwise, you'd have us invest in alchemy companies instead of gold mines to produce gold. You'd have us try to get a spacecraft to Mars with magic instead of physics. You'd have the people looking through telescopes funded only to get accurate positions for astrologers. You'd replace hospital
              • by d3ac0n (715594) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @04:03PM (#18001976)

                Scientific concensus does not mean truth. However, when a layperson who doesn't understand the issue needs to, it is by far their best bet to go with where the overwhelming majority of scientific viewpoints lie.


                Two issues with this, and the rest of your post, actually.

                One: Michael Chrichton is not exactly a lay person. He is a certified MD, and a medical scientist. He does not currently practice, but he IS a scientist, and more than capable of studying the data on his own and coming up with a trustworthy conclusion, or to make comments on what he perceives as misconduct in the scientific community.

                Two: You are jumping to some pretty ridiculous conclusions about what I would have our society become. As I stated, consensus in the scientific community is bad, especially when not all the data is there. Again, Science must be independently verifiable. Using magic to travel to Mars is not independently verifiable. Nor are ANY of the other ludicrous statements you make. I clearly stated this in my post above. Apparently it's much more fun to troll by making baseless accusations than actually READING WHAT I WROTE.

                Currently, the concept of "Solely Man-Made Global Warming" is not independently verifiable! The entire discussion smacks of politics, and that's what's got a bee in Mr. Chrichton's bonnet. This is NOT an outrageous request to make. We simply want All the data available, and have it put to a totally open, and independently verifiable test. Are you aware that Michael Mann, the scientist that came up with the famous "Hockey Stick" graph, has YET to release his data and methods for peer review? What kind of science is that? No review? Community consensus without discussion? THIS IS NOT SCIENCE, IT IS POLITICS. Clear and simple.

                All I and Mr. Chrichton want is clean science. No consensus, no politics. Capice?
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by mrseth (69273)
                  "Currently, the concept of "Solely Man-Made Global Warming" is not independently verifiable! The entire discussion smacks of politics, and that's what's got a bee in Mr. Chrichton's bonnet. This is NOT an outrageous request to make. We simply want All the data available, and have it put to a totally open, and independently verifiable test. Are you aware that Michael Mann, the scientist that came up with the famous "Hockey Stick" graph, has YET to release his data and methods for peer review? What kind of sc
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by Rakishi (759894)
                  One: Michael Chrichton is not exactly a lay person. He is a certified MD, and a medical scientist. He does not currently practice, but he IS a scientist, and more than capable of studying the data on his own and coming up with a trustworthy conclusion, or to make comments on what he perceives as misconduct in the scientific community. ...being a scientists is worth about as much as shit unless the area is one you've studied. This is especially true for areas that are rapidly changing. For example a genetics
              • by ErikTheRed (162431) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @05:27PM (#18003420) Homepage
                Kinda surprised you wrote this, because overall I consider you to be one of Slashdot's better commentators.

                Scientific concensus does not mean truth. However, when a layperson who doesn't understand the issue needs to, it is by far their best bet to go with where the overwhelming majority of scientific viewpoints lie.
                Yeah, that worked out so well for the flat-earth types. The problem is that human beings have difficulty with uncertainty. It's 2007 and we want our answers, dammit! We want to know The Truth (whether or not we can handle The Truth is another issue). People would rather know The World Is Going To End than have to wonder about it (check any history book and most religions for that matter). The problem is that we don't have all of the answers. Some we won't know for a few years, some we won't know in our lifetimes, and some we may not know ever. The problem is that in order to fulfill popular demand, Big Science is marketing things like consensus (not to mention some pretty half-baked research) as The Truth. And if The "Truth" happens to coincide with certain political interests... you generate some pretty impressive hot air (rimshot, please). Most of Science has sold out, and to every side of every debate. It's almost impossible to know who to trust ... except when you go back to the good old Scientific Method and demand full disclosure and repeatable results.

                I don't know if the Global Warming crowd is right. The problem is that they don't have The Truth yet (verifiable, repeatable experiments that generate verifiable predictions), and they're not only screaming at the top of their lungs that they do, they're visciously attacking anyone who disagrees with them. And that, my friend, is where they cross over from being the heirs of the Age of Enlightenment to the heirs of The Spanish Inquisition. The main difference being that they generally draw the line at character assasination these days.

                The bottom line is that people need to learn to be ok with not knowing what we don't know. We need to be open to possibilities without the need to draw unwarranted conclusions - basically maintain the classical "liberal" mindset (before the word "liberal" became tainted with politics). We needs to discourage other from the siren song of clinging to certainties that might not be real. And we need to be respectful to those who have the strength to disagree with the status quo and strike out in new directions.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by mrchaotica (681592) *

              It as gotten so bad that "consensus" (something antithetical to the scientific method) is now being pushed as a reason why we should all believe that man and man alone is responsible for Global warming!

              This problem is inherent in the study of climate, because the scientific method is only really useful if you can devise an experiment to test your hypothesis. Obviously we can't actually do that with the climate because if the experiment fails we're all dead (and we don't have a spare planet to act as the co

      • I was curious about that claim, so I read the speech that's from. He doesn't back that figure up (imagine that!), but presumably he's referring to the 1972 ban on DDT and subsequent deaths from malaria in developing nations. This ignores the fact that DDT was only banned in the US and that it's efficacy had been diminishing since the 50's as mosquitoes became more resistant. Some good info here:
        http://info-pollution.com/ddtban.htm [info-pollution.com]
    • by eln (21727) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:49AM (#17997746) Homepage
      Of course it's easy to cast doubt on his arguments. If genes were not patentable, John Hammond would not have been able to patent all of that dinosaur DNA, and we would have had even more dinosaur-inhabited islands out there. There simply aren't enough cynical mathematicians out there to protect us against people building more of these parks. More people could have been senselessly killed in dinosaur attacks.

      Fact: Gene patents save lives.
      • by armb (5151)
        No, no. The problem was that not being able to patent it, he had to keep it all a secret. If he'd patented it, then published, a few cynical mathematicians could say "wouldn't it be better to have a power reset where the fast-moving carnivorous dinosaurs _can't_ get at it" from a safe distance on the mainland, there would be no need to have the entire security system relying on one greedy guy with no review system, and no-one would need to get eaten at all.
    • I wish he had written this instead of Next. That book is unreadable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
      Nothing like having someone who is proven to have no intellectual credibility take up a position that you agree with. This is an unfortunate one as well, because it directly affects drug and biotech firms, and they are all serious patent offenders with deep pockets. They'll tear him apart as a proven intellectual pimp, and it'll hurt the whole damn issue.

      Crichton's popularity or lack thereof has more to do with the abysmal crap he's been writing than with his ridiculous stance on global warming...Did you re
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by IflyRC (956454)
        Nothing like having someone who is proven to have no intellectual credibility take up a position that you agree with.

        Are we speaking on Michael Crichton or Al Gore?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
          Did Al Gore write Prey? I had no idea!

          You can always pick out the whackjob conservatives because, to them, Al Gore invented Global Warming. You can just feel the "I hate Al Gore" vibe.

          But that's just a bit dated now. W talked about Global Climate change in his State of the Union. More than a hundred countries world wide have acknowledged that there is something to the issue, and thousands of scientists have piled up mountains of data supporting the hypothesis that the climate is changing, and it is widely a
    • Science doesn't always go haywire like a Crichton novel. But I think its a useful exercise to image unintended side-effects.
    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)
      It wasn't that the attacked global warming. It's that he attacked global warming with a ridiculously stupid book full of straw men and inane moralizing. He's got this anti-environmentalist chip on his shoulder which is completely at odds with the "don't play god" theme prevalent in many of his other books.

      This is what I learned from State of Fear: mankind can't possibly be causing global warming, because nature is too good at achieving equilibrium for the whole of human industry to affect it. That's why a f
  • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:40AM (#17997608)
    I'm not sure I'm too keen on Michael Crichton after his comments [wikipedia.org] about global warming. I don't think gene patents are a swell idea, but I'm not sure I'd hold up Crichton as an authority on scientific matters.
    • by IflyRC (956454) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:46AM (#17997692)
      I'm personally glad he voiced his opinion on global warming. The sad fact that he is slowly being ostrasized for his differing viewpoint a black eye on the science community. Scientists should always question - if not, the world would still be flat.
      • by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:50AM (#17997770) Homepage
        Questioning is fine. He didn't question, he stated... and saying that global warming and other disasters are the cause of an evil environmentalist cabal isn't especially scientific.
        • by IflyRC (956454)
          Ok, just like Al Gore has "stated" that what he believes as fact. Both sides are guilty of stating their hypothesis as fact even to the point that Dr. Heidi Cullen at the weather channel believes those in disagreement with her should have their AMS certifications removed. Strong arm tactics don't you think?
        • by amabbi (570009) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @12:33PM (#17998484)

          Questioning is fine. He didn't question, he stated... and saying that global warming and other disasters are the cause of an evil environmentalist cabal isn't especially scientific.

          You clearly did not read State of Fear. Without editorializing my opinion on global warming, what Crichton does is offer a case that global warming is not a slam-dunk scientific case as the media makes it out to be. He fashions what he admits is a fantasy tale involving conspiracy around this idea, but never... EVER.. does he state that global warming is complete fiction and environmental catastrophe is part of a conspiracy of maniacs.

          He then states his opinion on global warming in the appendix, and provides references to support his beliefs. Some of it is compelling. The RealClimate people focus on one graph that he uses which utilizes an extrema of data points, and then justifies itself to complete bash the rest of his arguments. That certainly isn't scientific.

          And so is bashing a man's opinions without reading his work.

      • Black eye, my ear. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Valdrax (32670) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @12:24PM (#17998330)
        The sad fact that he is slowly being ostrasized for his differing viewpoint a black eye on the science community.

        Yeah, yeah, and it's real black eye on the scientific community that they aren't giving creationists and flat earthers a fair shake either.

        Crichton's argument relied entirely on already disputed or disproven data, and furthermore he made wild, libelous accusations about the professional and ethical motives of climate scientists. Why exactly should anyone take seriously the arguments of a man who didn't do his research and calls you a member of a global conspiracy to hide "the truth?"
        • by IflyRC (956454)
          So, the detractors of global warming are lumped into the same category as creationists eh? I think that hammers home my original point. Thanks!
          • by Valdrax (32670) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @12:53PM (#17998788)
            What? That they almost rely exclusively on stilted data generated by people with little formal training in the arena they're critiquing?

            Seeing as your point seems to be that we should treat all sides even handedly, even when one side repeatedly keeps going back to disproven theories and when that side frequently resorts to experiments with inadequate rigor, I'm glad to help you dig yourself deeper.
      • by ceejayoz (567949)
        He's ostracised because his opinion is backed up by long-since refuted arguments.

        Science has already questioned them and found them lacking. Unless you can point out errors or omissions in their refutations, why shouldn't they stand?
      • >Scientists should always question

        Have you ever seen a paper come back with comments from the referees?

        >The sad fact that he is slowly being ostrasized for his differing viewpoint a black eye on the science community

        Notice how the conclusions of climatologists are data-driven? Under a much more environmentalist US administration, they were still coming up with "we don't know yet but we know this is possible". With active hostility from funding sources, but with more field data, the state of the field
    • by paeanblack (191171) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:55AM (#17997852)
      I'm not sure I'm too keen on Michael Crichton after his comments about global warming. I don't think gene patents are a swell idea, but I'm not sure I'd hold up Crichton as an authority on scientific matters.

      Yes, because science works like a democracy. A bunch of us get together and vote on the laws of nature, and nature obeys. If you step out of line and promote a theory opposing "the consensus of the scientific community", then we burn you at the stake _and_ revoke your funding.

      Trust us. It's better this way. Do you know how annoying it is when some uppity prick like Newton or Einstein comes along and claims that all the old theories are wrong? It really sucks when they manage to prove it, because the rest of us look like we're sitting there with our thumbs up our asses.

      Global Warming is a celebrity field right now, and it will keep alot of us employed for a very long time. You can understand why we are a little protective of our sacred consensus, right?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sique (173459)
        Thomas S. Kuhn called and wants his paradigm change back!

        Global Warming research will keep you employed, independent of your stated hypotheses. As if scientists critical of the thesis, Global Warming would be a) existant and b) influenced by Man weren't able to get any funding.

        Science at least from a social point of view works not as a democracy, but more like horse racing. You can bet on whatever you want, but only one horse will win, and there is more money to be made, but also more risk in picking outsid
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Wow! So:
        - Peer review and scientific consensus are forms of superstitious mass group-think
        - Or, if not, peer review and scientific consensus == new forms of hysterical politico/religious pogrom
        - A non-practicing MD novelist == Newton and Einstein
        - These thoughts are all +5 Insightful
        May I please have some shoyu with my Refried Straw Men?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
      The merit of gene patents depends primarily on economics and ethics, not the science of genetics. I know it sounds like a nitpick, but it's a serious error to think that, because e.g. you are intimately familiar with monkey genes, you are more qualified to say whether patents on monkey genes would promote innovation.
    • by DuBois (105200)
      I find it hilarious that the Slashdot "democracy" will support Crichton on the inadvisability of gene patents while casting aspersions on his scientific opinion regarding enviroreligiosity. [michaelcrichton.com] You can't have it both ways, guys and gals. Either the author of the TV ER series is a Hollywood kook, or he's a serious scientist and M.D. who has done his homework and knows what he's talking about.
      • by PingSpike (947548)
        Why not? I'll remind you that even a broken clock is right twice a day. Its often much easier to trash a person then their refute their position directly, hell thats pretty much how politics work...however that doesn't mean thats the correct way to make decisions.
  • In a State of Fear!
  • Compelling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by modemboy (233342) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:42AM (#17997630)
    The most compelling argument for me was this:
    "Countries that don't have gene patents actually offer better gene testing than we do, because when multiple labs are allowed to do testing, more mutations are discovered, leading to higher-quality tests."

    Making an economic argument, that other countries will gain an advantage over us, is the only way to convince the people who actually have the power to change the situation.
    • The question is, will labs in those other countries do that research? Gene patents are supposed to be an economic incentive to do the work. The US pharmaceutical industry is one of the strongest in the world, and perhaps that can be attributed to its enforcement of the intellectual property laws.

      So I'd like to see if other countries do in fact step up to the plate and make themselves rich. If that leads to a revamp of gene patent and other IP laws, so much the better.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by modemboy (233342)
        "The US pharmaceutical industry is one of the strongest in the world, and perhaps that can be attributed to its enforcement of the intellectual property laws."

        I would attribute it to the strength of our academic research facilities. I'm no expert but I've seen many times drugs developed most of the way by publicly funded universities and then industry buys the rights for a pittance and does the clinical trials. Also having everyone in this country convinced there are magic pills that will solve all of their
    • The most compelling argument for me was this: "Countries that don't have gene patents actually offer better gene testing than we do, because when multiple labs are allowed to do testing, more mutations are discovered, leading to higher-quality tests."

      Making an economic argument, that other countries will gain an advantage over us, is the only way to convince the people who actually have the power to change the situation.

      This is a specious argument. The countries offering great gene testing are not doi

  • by 0racle (667029) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:42AM (#17997640)
    Hey this is genetics, I know this!
  • ...and thereby saved me the tedium of having to read Next.
    • Wish he had written this months ago... ...and thereby saved me the tedium of having to read Next.

      Personally, reading Sphere saved me the tedium of having to read Next (and pretty much all the other books he's written since the mid-90s).
  • it's simply absurd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:47AM (#17997706) Homepage Journal
    i don't think there is a better argument for prior art than that mother nature made it. but simply finding a gene in a fruit fly or an aneorbic bacterium is not ground to patent anything. and certainly simply finding a gene and elucidating its behavior in the human body is not grounds either. grounds for a nobel prize, but not grounds for exclusivity

    obviously, not according to law, but obviously according to simple common sense

    now, if in some future decade, scientists make a genetic sequence that has no similarity to anything in mother nature anywhere that is useful, i'd say they can patent that.... i said NO similiarity. it's not like you can change one base pair and claim you've done something novel right?

    but patenting what already exists? is there no better example of greed undermining common sense? is there no greater absurdity in the relentless march of intellectual property law into insanity and evil in the name of the almighty buck?

    ip law is important for rewarding creators and innovators. not researchers of what already exists. the reward for them is scientific, altruistic, academic, and intellectual. it's even rewarding financially, but not in the framework of patents

    • I agree.

      I also don't want to get cancer or have to pay $0.01 per cell replication in my body because some dumb fuck decided to allow a patent on P53

      I admit that's an extreme case, but it stands to reason if it's made all over the place, all the time, and has been for millenia, it shouldn't be patentable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rgriff59 (526951)
      I agree that it is absurd, but how about countering the absurd with absurdity?

      What if everyone with Hepatitis C were to sue the 'owner of the genome for Hepatitis C'? A patent would imply the invention, and the unauthorized infection would imply a failure to control and contain said invention adequately. If I 'own' a dog, and it bites someone, I am responsible. If you 'own' a disease and it infects someone, you are responsible. It doesn't sound like much of a leap, if the system allows such absurd ownersh

  • "fact of nature" (Score:5, Informative)

    by l2718 (514756) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:48AM (#17997712)
    Actually, 35 USC 102 [cornell.edu] already limits patents to a "process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter". Facts of nature (such as the sequence of a gene) are not patentable -- though Congress in its infinite wisdon has declined to specificially add this to the law (as done in some countries). All that remains is for the court (that is, the CAFC [wikipedia.org]) to actually care about the law.
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:48AM (#17997714) Homepage Journal
    Honestly, if you take this opinion further, you can see that all patents are bad -- when it comes to the general populace. Patents are a post-market solution to create scarcity of a supply of something. Scarcity is needed to increase the price per the supply/demand curve. By artificially making an item scarce, a higher demand will mean a higher price. Patents are uncompetitive, though, the absolute sole reason why certain monopolies exist.

    Some will say that inventors won't invent without patents, but this is untrue if you look at the vast number of modern inventions that we use every day that have 10,000 parts that have expired patents and maybe 10-20 that are still patented. Look at cell phones -- each phone has some obscure patent pending, but the vast majority of phones are fairly identical, and yet there is still a HUGE market for phones. Why do inventors keep creating new phones if the majority of their parts are unprotected?

    Some will say that drugs won't get invented, but if you look at the initial medical treatment market, we had doctors who actually wanted to help people by creating new drugs and allowing them to be manufacturered by others regardless of who invented it. Consider this: if you knew of 3 companies making the same new drug, who would you trust more? The company who spent years in clinical trials, showing you that their ingredients is safe, or the 2 companies who attempted to copy said drug through reverse engineering it -- possibly incorporating something unsafe? The same is true with any "invention" that isn't patented -- you decide what product you need based on the cost and the safety. Sometimes the less expensive product is less safe or less effective, something that isn't the case.

    Gene patents are also ridiculous -- why should an artificial State-enforced monopoly be placed on something that obviously can be utilized better by a market of competitors. If you want to be cautious about your competition "stealing" your research, just start your own clinics that don't share their research with the open market. Call it DRM of genetic research -- don't share it with others, and the chance that they'll steal it is slim. For most companies, it would be more advantageous for them to purchase the information outright than try to "steal" it through corporate espionage. They can also work to develop their own solutions if they realize that you found a solution -- but that development will cost money and time, of course. Still, it would seem to be better for the public and all the various markets to have a competitive market for genetic research rather than a monopolistic one that keeps only a few companies in the top tier and the rest out of the business.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *
      Why do inventors keep creating new phones if the majority of their parts are unprotected?

      Most if not all phones are created by large multi-national corporations who can deal with patent lawsuits, but mostly deal with cross-licensing deals upon potential violations. This works out fine as MAD among those companies, but the small-time inventor has no such legal team or portfolio. Oddly, though he's the one patents help the most, he might also be the one to suffer the most, depending on the situation. One t
      • by dada21 (163177) *
        You're right, and thanks for that insight. Yet we see that the multinational corporations are more powerful BECAUSE of their ability to utilize patents to the fullest -- not to protect themselves, but to destroy competition.

        How does the individual inventor find protection with a patent? Can the individual inventor afford to fight a multinational corporation if they "steal" his ideas? I doubt it. If you create something and I have more money and more legal power than you, how would you fight me? Chances
    • by WebHostingGuy (825421) * on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @12:11PM (#17998106) Homepage Journal
      >>>Consider this: if you knew of 3 companies making the same new drug, who would you trust more? The company who spent years in clinical trials, showing you that their ingredients is safe, or the 2 companies who attempted to copy said drug through reverse engineering it -- possibly incorporating something unsafe?

      This does not hold true. Today when a drug goes off patent the maker of the drug continues to sell the drug along with the generics (at close to the same price). Even though the generics do not have the same quality control as the maker of the drug generics are used instead because the cost is slightly lower. The cost is the only thing that matters to some HMOs and insurance plans. (And yes, there is a difference in manufacturing and quality control).

      There is no brand loyalty for drugs because of the outside influence exerted by the insurance companies and pharmacies. Did you ever wonder why there are laws that say pharmacies can substitute a generic drug for a brand one? The end cost most of the time is exactly the same, however, generics sell the generic brand to pharmacies for a lower price than the brand name. So, when a pharmacy substitutes a generic for a name brand they pocket the difference in price while they bill the insurance company nearly the same as the brand name. That's the outside influence. So why doesn't the brand name drug just lower the price to the pharmacies? They usually can't because their manufacturing costs are higher because they have the quality control issues that generics generally don't. This is not to say generics don't care about quality control, but there are large differences.

      Some patents are needed, period. Gene patents are not because I believe you should not be able to patent nature. It's a prior art thing. Just wait, someday God is going to come down and sue for his patents back.
      • by DuBois (105200)
        Quality control, schmality control. Both original and generic manufacturers have to follow the exact same insane requirements put down by the FDA. The FDA audits the generics just as rigorously as the originals. The "original" manufacturers just have much higher overhead (TV advertising, etc.). Competition works, even though the original manufacturers would prefer that it didn't.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rich0 (548339)
      Some will say that drugs won't get invented, but if you look at the initial medical treatment market, we had doctors who actually wanted to help people by creating new drugs and allowing them to be manufacturered by others regardless of who invented it.

      Well, drug R&D is a bit more expensive than cell phone engineering. It mostly is the result of having to pay doctors to run the clinical trials (if you have 10,000 subjects, every one of them has a doctor, and they ALL get paid). And there is a much hig
  • by robably (1044462) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:48AM (#17997722) Journal

    You, or someone you love, may die because of a gene patent that should never have been granted in the first place.
    On the other hand, it could be someone you really hate. It all evens out.
  • by tygerstripes (832644) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:49AM (#17997738)
    Genetic code is surely the biggest case of Prior Art going. Fine, you can patent a light-bulb, but you can't patent Electricity just because you discovered roughly what it was and how it worked!

    Genes are usually discovered, not invented. Most genetic treatment involves finding out what a gene is, how it works, and how it goes wrong. That's hardly a creative invention, is it?

    • If you experiment with an industrial process for months or years, spending money exploring blind alleys to find the one right combination of pressures and temperatures reaction times, you've done nothing "creative" but it's an investment that patents are meant to protect. Your work is a contribution to the "useful arts".

      Should discovery be treated the same way? The answer came out "yes" in the case of patents for plants [about.com], so there is at least precedent.

      The case against is that the government shouldn't grant
  • by Red Herring (47817) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:49AM (#17997762)
    This is largely based on his book "Next", a pretty darn good novel based on what can go wrong when bio-patenting is taken to an extreme. Good book.
    • by cephyn (461066)
      I dunno I didn't think it was that good. [cephyn.com] Jurassic Park was a good, fun book with a message buried in it. Next is a message with a fun book buried in it. I think Crichton has gotten more desperate over the years for people to listen to him.
  • I have liked Crichton's work for a long time but State of Fear was soo stupid
    I can never read him again. It all about dening global warming which is a bit nuts but
    the worst thing: it was a really silly story. The characters are so flat and their motivations
    make no sense. Then there is the guy who is obviously there to give Crichton point of view.
    And does he ever - about 99 times. OK, I get it! But then there is an afterword of "fact"
    which goes on about the very same points. Yes we heard you the first
  • A law stating that any genetic pattern found to exist in any natural organism cannot be patented. If the pattern is patented and then found in nature, it is immediately voided.

    I don't want to get hit for patent infringement because I decided to have kids and just happen to possess a genetic pattern someone claims to own...and don't think they wouldn't do it if they could.
    • by TheLink (130905)
      Our lawyers would like to discuss with you further on your unauthorized reproduction of our intellectual property.

      In the meantime please be aware that Augmented Genetics Technology Corp owns your first-born (and any of your future progeny).

      You should have read the EULA before you got that "super enhancer" DNA treatment.

      You swear you never went for that treatment? Yeah right, you must have gone to some Pirate clinic for illegal treatment.

      You claim it must have been some viral infection you caught that someho
  • The article summary should have at least mentioned his M.D. Some background info on him from Wikipedia:
    He attended Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts as an undergraduate, graduating summa cum laude in 1964. Crichton was also initiated into the honors organization Phi Beta Kappa. He went on to become the Henry Russell Shaw Travelling Fellow, 1964-65 and Visiting Lecturer in Anthropology at Cambridge University, England, 1965. He graduated at Harvard Medical School, gaining an M.D. in 1969 and did post-doctoral fellowship study at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California, in 1969-1970.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by geoffspear (692508)
      That's nice. If I can find someone else who graduated from Harvard Medical School who disagrees with him on any given point, will that make the Universe implode in a logical paradox, since they've come up with some sort of way to make all of their graduates completely infallible?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by theripper (123078)
        No, but it would lend him a bit more credibility then if he were just some fiction writer.
  • So most gene patents involve finding a gene that is already out there and patenting it.

    Um, was that gene not already in existance, and already performing its function.

    It is not a new invention. It is not a new application.

    In many cases there are thousands, millions or even billions of people/things with that gene in billions of cells eash cell using it every day for the function in which it was patented.

    How do these things qualify for patents?

    To me it is like patenting gravity. Then applying it to moving wa
    • Plant patents work the same way. If you discover a new plant in an uncultivated state and asexually reproduce it, you can get exclusive rights to it for 20 years. Is this completely ridiculous? Sure. But it's the law in the US.
  • Open source your gene research, or else someone might steal your dinosaur embryos and ruin Jurassic Park.
  • sadfase (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zyl0x (987342) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @11:55AM (#17997842)
    Sadly, we're living in the kind of society where celebrities need to tell us these sorts of things are bad.
  • by R2.0 (532027) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @12:08PM (#17998040)
    When Michael Crichton writes a novel on global warming, he's an ignorant sensationalist.

    When Michael Crichton writes an op-ed piece on gene patents, he's insightful and informed.

    Just checking.
    • by Garse Janacek (554329) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @12:49PM (#17998712)

      Yeah, I know, it's crazy. It's almost as if someone's opinions in disparate subjects might be of different legitimacy! This is just like those stupid professors when I was in school... when I wrote a thoroughly researched paper that presented a clear and accurate picture of something, I'd get a good grade -- but then when I wrote a poorly researched paper that ignored major sources and was mostly a personal diatribe, I'd get a bad grade!

      Let's have a little consistency, people.

      • or... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Comboman (895500) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @02:51PM (#18000740)
        Yeah, I know, it's crazy. It's almost as if someone's opinions in disparate subjects might be of different legitimacy!

        ...or (and this one will sound really crazy to politically polarized Americans) just maybe it's possible for people to have a combination of opinions that don't line up with the dogma of either the left or the right wing.

    • by cephyn (461066) on Tuesday February 13, 2007 @12:49PM (#17998726) Homepage
      Uh, yes - Crichton has a medical degree background, so he is to be considered versed in subjects relating to that.

      He is not a climatologist.

      Why is that hard to understand? You'd trust a mechanic to talk about cars but if he says that vaccines don't work - why should you believe him?
  • Michael is a gifted writer. However this needs to be see in a light that includes :

    (1) he has a new book out about it, so this is prolly a junket piece
    (2) he wrote "State of Fear" as a novel and further believes it reflects a sensible attitude
    (3) he wrote this: http://www.michaelcrichton.net/features/spoonbendi ng.html [michaelcrichton.net] and believes it.

    Interestingly according to WHO, there were 4000+ SARS cases, 252 died, 2000+ recovered, apparently ~1500 fell off the planet.
  • If binoculars had never been invented I would say patenting them is fine, but given binoculars it seems absurd to be able to patent everything seen through them for the first time.
  • FTFA:

    why should people or companies own a disease in the first place? They didn't invent it.

    I'll sue the bastards who 'own' the disease for the effect it had on civilization.
  • /. Help Needed... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LeDopore (898286)
    At the danger of being modded O/T, I'm going to post some of the research I did regarding medical patents in general.

    I'm against patents for medical technology, because the incentives to the drug companies barely match the desires of the patients. As I recently showed in my blog [blogspot.com], only 14% of drug revenue goes towards R & D, half of this 14% is wasted by looking for new drugs which don't treat diseases better than old ones (but are patentable, hence profitable), and the remaining 7% funds research ske
  • I was totally expecting to find out that Michael Crichton had asserted that gene patents have tiny penises and rape children.

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