X-Message-Number: 15793
From: "Michael LaTorra" <>
Subject: Re: [off topic] Luddites
Date: Sat, 3 Mar 2001 14:51:26 -0700

James Corbally <> wrote an excellent response to Joseph
Kehoe's post. The only point I would add is about gene patents, which James
chose not to deal with because he did not deem himself qualified.

The key point about patents is that they are like copyrights, which expire
after a certain number of years. In contrast to this time-limited form of
ownership, we can own our cars, homes and other property for as long as we
live, and then bequeath them to others in our wills. Not so with patents,
which expire in fewer years than a typical modern person in an
industrialized country is likely to live. (Copyrights, by the way, now last
much longer: they extend for the life of the author plus 50 years.)

The granting of patents is intended to encourage private companies to invest
money (often very large amounts) in the attempt to bring new technologies,
medicines, and other goods to market. In the pharmaceutical industry, the
process of developing, testing, and obtaining government approval for a new
drug is well over $100 million US. Then the patented drug will be sold for a
premium so that the company can earn back its money plus, we should all
hope, sufficient profit that the company is willing and able to take the
same risks on developing still newer and better drugs.

Eventually, however, the patent on that original drug will expire. Then any
company with the means to do so can manufacture and sell that drug for a
much lower price than was charged previously during the life of the patent.

Similarly, gene patents and their use in medicine and agriculture will be
private for a number of years, and then they will enter the public domain,
where any of us can use them without paying a fee.

Finally, I want to state my preference for having such developments in the
hands of those "faceless corporations" referred to by Joseph, rather than
putting them into the hands of equally faceless government bureaucrats whose
record in the area of technological development leaves much to be desired.


Michael LaTorra

Extropy Institute: www.extropy.org
Alcor Life Extension Foundation: www.alcor.org
Society for Technical Communication: www.stc.org

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=15793