Diamonds Are Forever. Why Not a Drug Patent?
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to make these sorts of laws?
It seems that the origin of these limitations has to do with some notion of the public interest being served by making inventions freely available to the public after some period of time. Somehow, intellectual property is judged as being so important to the public good that society cannot allow it to be owned in perpetuity, like tangible property.
While the intent of this “public policy” probably seemed rational when instituted, the logic that underlies these arguments is both faulty and fails to serve the public good as originally intended.
In fact, the greatest public (and private) good would be created by allowing patents to protect intellectual property indefinitely.
I can hear the gears grinding in your heads right now. What is he talking about? Doing that would create monopolies! Monopolies are bad and unfairly burden society by extracting usurious prices for products that should serve the public good! Your outrage is almost palpable. But your conclusions are flawed.
Let’s take the specific case of a novel drug.
First, will a perpetual patent protecting that drug’s composition of matter create a monopoly? Clearly not. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples: cholesterol and blood pressure medications. The single best selling drug in the world is Pfizer’s atorvastatin (Lipitor), a member of a class of drugs called statins. Is it the only cholesterol lowering drug? No. Is it even the only statin for lowering cholesterol? No. There are at least seven other statins on the market (all also covered at some level by patents), including such well known drugs as rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor). The same is true in the area of blood pressure medications – even more so in fact. There are several classes of drugs for lowering blood pressure, including beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and angiotensin II inhibitors. Just within the ACE inhibitors, there are no fewer than nine marketed drugs all of which have or had patent protection, including drugs like fosinopril (Monopril) and quinapril (Accupril). Cholesterol and blood pressure are but two examples, and prove definitively that patents do not necessarily create monopolies or eliminate competition. If patents do not necessarily create monopolies, it follows that perpetual patents would go no further in the creation of monopolies. They would only preserve the right of an individual or entity not to be stripped of ownership of their own invention at the arbitrary whim of arcane laws.
Second, would a perpetual patent lead to artificially higher prices, and even “price gouging?” Absolutely not. … Next Page »