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According to 18.37.3 and 4, microorganisms cannot be excluded from patentability. I assume this is to allow patenting of things like probiotics. However, all humans rely their skin, mouth, and gut floras to be healthy. If the bacteria and yeast in that flora can't be excluded from patentability, are they considered not a part of the human animal? I understand that probiotics should be protected, but I wonder if someone could take advantage of this and claim patent on any naturally occurring microorganism by just isolating it and showing that it has some use.

Something else not specified in this section are viruses. Viruses are not strictly microorganisms, and no mention is made of them, but yet they can be manufactured and used for treatments- recently even for cancer:

http://www.mayo.edu/research/departments-divisions/departmen...

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/02/fda-approval-...

If viruses could be excluded from patentability since they aren't mentioned, then any research or manufacturing done would not be patentable, and therefore some companies may hesitate to invest too heavily in research.




I think the spirit of this to allow for drastically modified yeast that produce, say, anti-cancer drug X to be patented. To make the biological equivalent of an industrial methods patent. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to protect your IP even though significant effort has gone into creating a chimeric yeast, because its just a collection of natural products (natural product's are currently not patentable).

Still, seems a little odd / slippery slope-y to me. On the one hand, I understand and, to some extent, agree with the need to protect / profit off what you've developed. On the otherhand, USPTO is pretty bad at biological patent screening and I can see a huge landrush to patent bacteria for no good reason.

(Full disclosure, I am in the process of patenting a modified natural product made by a bacteria)


I've never understood why people patent organisms. That's not an ethical thing --- I understand why people want IP protection.

It just seems like the wrong mechanism. Isn't the goal of restricting copying of your engineered organism better suited to the copyright system, rather than the patent system? Patents are for processes, right? But an organism is a thing, not a process. Isn't making an illegal copy of that thing a copyright violation?


Patenting an organism that you've tweaked, tuned and bent to your will is, in the end, no different than patenting a unique alloying mix or manufacturing machine.

They aren't patenting the organism per se, they're patenting the processes they've developed that make use of the organisms as the scaffold/factory. In the case I outlined previously of a yeast making a drug, you would want the patent on the cellular machinery that you've built to make the drug, which is the process.


No, they're patenting the organism, or the end result. If you come up with an entirely different process to tweak the same organism by happenstance it's still covered by the patent.

This is pretty much the definition of how patents differ from copyright law, if I word-for-word write come up with the same work as you and I can prove that I didn't copy yours, it's not covered by copyright law.

With patents it doesn't matter that I came up with it on my own, you own the rights to the end result.


That's an argument against patents existing at all. It's not really relevant to a discussion of what counts as patentable, because such a discussion assumes that patents are a valid mechanism.


Patents aim to trade a temporary bad result (monopoly) for a permanent good result (incentives to invent stuff).

Discussing exactly how bad the temporary bad result is informs discussion of when that trade-off is worthwhile. And this is true whether or not your conclusion is that patents are never OK or only sometimes OK.


When discussing whether X should be patented, it is appropriate to discuss the trade-offs specific to X.

It is a poor time to discuss trade-off generic to all patents. Focusing on them shifts the discussion away from the issue at hand, and toward a political stance that people have already heard.

avar's post does the latter.

Just like in a topic about whether to vote for a specific tax levy, it's inappropriate to talk about whether property taxes as a whole should be abolished.


>Just like in a topic about whether to vote for a specific tax levy, it's inappropriate to talk about whether property taxes as a whole should be abolished.

Making the argument that a given problem is recurrent is very constructive: consideration of the generic problem can provide arguments for prioritizing your problem as it relates to X. This is especially true when present instances of a problem affect future probability of the same problem occurring.

This is notably the case in law where jurisprudence makes laws progressively more difficult to repeal.


    > That's an argument against patents existing at all.
No it's not.

It's not an argument for or against patents, I'm pointing out that @aroch is wrong about them "patenting the processes".

That's not true for most of these patents, they're patenting isolated organisms, compounds or genes. I.e. the end result, not the process.

What incentives we should give individuals and corporations to advance biotechnology is another matter.


>That's not true for most of these patents, they're patenting isolated organisms, compounds or genes. I.e. the end result, not the process.

Organisms and genes are machines. There's nothing new about patenting specific machines.

Could they really get a patent on "bacteria that secretes X" that would stop you from doing it in a completely different manner?

But if you insert the same gene into the same bacteria using different equipment, that's no better than making the same patented gear with a different manufacturing method.


There's nothing stopping you from doing that, even with a patent in place, so long as your mechanism for secreting X (such as using a different base organism) is different.

To give an analogy, if somebody invented and patented the reciprocating piston engine, and then somebody else came along and invented a rotary engine, such as the wankel engine, the inventor of the former wouldn't have a claim against the latter because, while the result is the same (a drive shaft gets turned), the mechanism is different. Sure, it's possible that the inventor of the former could threaten the inventor of the former, as many patent trolls do, but legally they wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

Now, if the gene itself is the critical part of the 'invention', and not the organism, then taking that same gene and inserting it into a different organism still leaves you open to patent infringement. But that assumes the gene itself has been engineered, as opposed to having been found in an existing organism.


Exactly. It's why we tried to fight that crap back when they first tried it.


I'm not so sure, how is the end result any different than patenting a better manufacturing technique? That happens all the time in the macro-world.

Again, I'm not sure how I feel on whether it should be patentable or not. But, at least as I understand it, their intent is protection for something they've spent millions/billions developing -- no different than the process patents we have now.


Except it gets really interesting down the line once we create a new intelligent life form.

How would you feel if your body, consciousness, and everything you were was patented?


I guess I'd prefer it to a situation where anyone at all could make a clone of me on their 3D printer slash uterus.

There are an awful lot of ethical and legal considerations when custom-designed intelligent organisms become possible, I'm not sure if IP is high on the list.


If you want to copyright an organism, you had damned well better remove its ability to copy itself without your permission first.

As much of the utility in modified organisms is that they do copy themselves without your help, it seems as though the patent system would be much better suited, because there the enforcement burden is to prevent a human from using the organism to accomplish a specific purpose.

People sometimes forget that laws are pointless if they are not enforceable.


> People sometimes forget that laws are pointless if they are not enforceable.

Or worse than pointless; actively harmful.


Since copyright terms often exceed 150 years, I think we're better off with patents, which last for 20 years.


In seeking to patent an organism, they are treating the novel organism as an invention. Copyright doesn't protect purely functional elements, only creative ones, which is why we have the idea of patenting inventions — so patent seems like the right system in this case.


Patents are for inventions. For mechanisms. It's only in the last few decades that it has been otherwise.


This alone is a strike against humanity: Now local patent laws that are widely criticized are even protected by international contracts (and thus have to be implemented by all signers -- and can not be changed, even the US can not change it's laws or regulations, when the top courts want to change patent ability regulations, they can't.).

Is this about "free trade" or about profit-maximizing and guaranteeing for some big corporations?


The latter, of course. Novartis and other pharma giants are heavily behind the TPP because it would send their profits through the roof relative to currently.


That is, IMHO, just the opposite of a "free market". "Chained market" fits it better.


Also, the drug market and ISP market in the US are explicitly exempt from the free market and ISDS policy – meaning, in the US, you can still have monopolies, but in the rest of the world, protectionism becomes impossible.

Very dangerous, and sounds more like "Empire – Colonies" than "Equal partners in trade"


That is exactly the impression I got from the TTIP negotiations. The EU "partners" where supposed to sacrifice any of their positions, but the US (and US-corporation-) side always insisted in theirs.

Unbelievable, that the EU does really accept all this! Only explanation: Those politicians are already bought.


To quote Obama:

> The TPP means that America will write the rules of the road in the 21st century.

http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/11/05/trade-tpp-idINKCN0S...

It very much sounds like they’re treating the rest of the world as colonies.


What confuses the hell out of me regarding the TPP - and maybe it's just because I'm in the HN/Reddit echo chamber on this - but if the TPP is so damn important to reigning in China in the 21st century or whatever, then why did they load it up with a bunch of unrelated antagonizing bullshit?

It doesn't seem to me that the intellectual property provisions of the agreement are all that important to the overall stated goals of the TPP. Yet they are so fucking regressive and antagonistic that there is some chance (I guess? Again, echo chamber...) that they will sabotage the rest of the agreement. After SOPA, etc., if it were me and I wanted to be sure that the TPP passed in enough Pacific Rim countries to make it effective, I would keep anything remotely like SOPA as far away from my precious treaty as I possibly could.

Instead, the IP portions of the agreement are basically the language that was in SOPA all over again, which pissed a whole lot of people off last time. It's really hard to take seriously the claim that the TPP is so important, when the people drafting it are including language that is pretty much guaranteed to stoke vigorous opposition, for reasons that are mostly orthogonal to their goals.


To me it seams that they just don't care.

Either they know, that the other countries will follow anyway (because the politicians are (select one or multiple): incompetent, bought, blackmailed, Pro-US, incompetent, ignoring their own countries interests) -- or the things told about the importance of the treaties are not true, but it is just a vehicle to transport the antagonizing bullshit, because some big corporations want this to be installed.

In the EU (TTIP), my impression is, that at least at the high levels of politicians, the list above just must be applied. Many leading politicians are just hitting so hard to get this installed, that it seems they are mad, when I see what negatives they are ready to swallow. They let the US dictate the treaty and just don't seem to recognize, how the EU is hornswoggled.


Only the rest of the worlds did not recognize it!

What happens to colonies can be seen in the plenty of former colonies that still struggle to get out of poverty.


>Is this about "free trade" or about profit-maximizing and guaranteeing for some big corporations?

If the West is moving towards an information economy and is going to let the developing world take over manufacturing, the West wants to protect the information economy. The idea is we want to sell information for goods/services.


Of course, some types of protection for own inventions is necessary ... but what here shall be protected, are the building blocks of life!

This is not about protecting own inventions, but about land-grabbing things that we did not invent, but nature!

The same thing, corporations try again and again. For example, once they copied cures of traditional Indian medicine, patented them in the USA and tried to forbid the free usage.

When this goes on this way, we all will soon have to pay a life-tax for having some type of DNA or bacteria in our bodies. Already, many cures are not invented, because to many patents on life building blocks make the creation to financially risky.


Can you support your claim that indian medicine cures were patented in the US?


Can't EDIT, so here is this:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/feb/22/india-protect-t...

"In the first step by a developing country to stop multinational companies patenting traditional remedies from local plants and animals, the Indian government has effectively licensed 200,000 local treatments as "public property" free for anyone to use but no one to sell as a "brand"."


Just use Google and you can yourself easily find enough references. Maybe I should add, that also European corporations did such things in Europe.


Re: "I wonder if someone could take advantage of this"

I believe that microorganisms patentability would indeed introduce a whole lot of problems for any human being. Starting with what's apparently already happening with plant patents -- see e.g. the story at:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7798919


Probably more important than probiotics are patents for biologically engineered bacteria, like those made by Ginkgo Bioworks. A lot of work goes into engineering bugs to execute specific chemical synthesis pathways, and it's trivial to reverse engineer.


But what about prior art? I understand newly created microorganisms being patentable, but how can you patent something that was already there?


Entire sections of the Human Genome are patented, so unlikely.


Human Genome patents are no longer recognized in the United States of America. https://www.genomeweb.com/clinical-genomics/us-supreme-court...


What does that mean? If I have a child with part of that patented code, the "patent owner" could legally extract the DNA?


Human Genome patents are no longer recognized in the US[0], but my understanding is that they were used to protect genetic tests and treatments. For example, Myriad Genomics held patents against the BRCA genes (which can indicate breast cancer risk) which they used to prevent competitors from creating BRCA-based panels.

[0]: https://www.genomeweb.com/clinical-genomics/us-supreme-court...


Wild-type micro-organisms are not currently patentable, while genetically engineered ones already are. And 18.37.2 requires a new use, method or process involving any "known products", so it would be the use not the organism that is patentable.


[deleted]


> most fuckups that ever happened

How about not blatantly ignoring all the human misery caused by failed extreme free market experiments, such as Pinochet's Chile and 1990's Russia?


Deaths under Pinochet: 3000, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_dictatorship_of_Chile.... Deaths under Mao: 20,000,000 - 70,000,000, according to http://necrometrics.com/20c5m.htm#Mao. Deaths under Stalin: 20,000,000 - 50,000,000 according to http://necrometrics.com/20c5m.htm#Stalin. Deaths in 1990s Russia: I can't even find a source.

So if 1990s Russia and Pinochet's Chile are examples of extreme free market experiments, I'd take the human misery they cause over the human misery of extreme no-market experiments any day.


> So if 1990s Russia and Pinochet's Chile are examples of extreme free market experiments

You're confused. They're examples of free market experiments, however the Pinochet's deaths had nothing to do with the free market and all with his political power.

If you want to see deaths caused by free market, look at e.g. homeless people who freeze on the street during winter.


The statistic you want for russia is the life expectancy. Russians are dying very young. The situation got worse after 1990s.


Why is this relevant? The proximate cause for the decreasing life expectancy is massive alcohol consumption. You could assign the blame by drawing long, tenuous chains of social causation from policies you don't like. Or, not unreasonably, you could just fault those destroying their bodies through substance abuse.


Indirect harm is no less harm than direct harm. If life expectancy plummets after capitalism takes effect then yeah, capitalism is probably to blame.

Anyway, I don't think anyone excuses dictatorships in this thread.



I wouldn't say that's the main cause. It's more about the collapse of the previous infrastructure than the particulars of what came after.


why the need to narrow complex set of factors affecting each other into a single bullet point? it doesn't work, not only in this scenario. General Russian mentality is a prime example of one f*ed up beyond repair, for quite a few generations to come unless some miracle happens (and Putin is making sure it won't happen during his reign).


"General Russian mentality is a prime example of one f*ed up beyond repair"

What do you mean?


Well, my first hypothesis for rampant alcoholism - cultural background nonwithstanding - would be the lack of options in the social environment.


> Why is this relevant? The proximate cause for the decreasing life expectancy is massive alcohol consumption.

IIRC, this is not true. It's a contributor, certainly, but Russian life expectancy is substantially lower than other nations with similar alcohol consumption.


Has any philosophy in human history caused more death and suffering than collectivism and its offshoots? ... and its adherents take the free-marketeers to task for their "cruelty" and "heartlessness"!


You have presented a logical tautology. Killing another human being is always collectivist according to your definition.

However, that doesn't say anything about validity of ideas of free market or communism. What does say a lot though is that some free market proponents have the need to advocate Pinochet.


> You have presented a logical tautology. Killing another human being is always collectivist according to your definition.

That's not what ctlby said. Nor is it a reasonable interpretation of his/her words.


OK, consider this. Every (moral) philosophy exists to motivate other people, as a code to follow (if it didn't you wouldn't have reason to tell anyone!). This means there is a group, or a collective, which supposedly holds these values and is to be protected. If fulfilling this philosophy (or its protection) requires killing other humans, then this is (ostensibly) done in the interest of the group.

In other words, if someone is killing for individual reasons, he is not following any philosophy, because he doesn't need any; he's just crazy or psychopath. Killing for philosophical reasons always happens to protect some social order (albeit sometimes fictional).

If you don't agree, there is a simple solution. Just provide an example of philosophy that causes killing of people and is not in fact collectivist (by any definition you choose, it doesn't matter very much, and that's why I was able to do the bold claim I did).

Or to put it even simpler, it's contradictory to kill another human to fulfil any philosophy of individual freedom.

Hitler killed because he wanted to protect Germans from Jews, Pinochet killed because communists were danger to his social order, and so on. Even Winston Smith from 1984 was willing to kill in order to replace the social system (which is the passage in the book I really like, because it's one of the places that makes it actually morally ambiguous, just like real world).


You said, "Killing another human being is always collectivist according to your [ctlby's] definition."

Now you argue that killing another human being for philosophical reasons is always collectivist according to your [asgard1024's] definition. That does nothing whatsoever to make the quoted statement true.

[Edit: For that matter, I see nowhere where ctlby gave his/her definition of "collectivist", nor where he/she assented to yours definition.]

To your point in this post:

You are kind of arguing a tautology. If someone expresses a moral philosophy (no matter how twisted), but they are the only one who believes it or adheres to it, they're collectivist, because they're trying to motivate other people to follow their code. But if someone doesn't express their reasons as a moral philosophy, "he's just crazy or a psychopath". You dismiss any possibility that such a person is following an inexpressed philosophy. In fact, you have pretty much defined out the possibility of there even being such a thing. From that starting point, you argue that your position is correct, but in fact it was contained in your starting assumptions, so your argument is of no value.


> Now you argue that killing another human being for philosophical reasons is always collectivist according to your [asgard1024's] definition. That does nothing whatsoever to make the quoted statement true.

What I said is true of (almost) any definition of "collectivist", including ctlby's.

> You dismiss any possibility that such a person is following an inexpressed philosophy.

Yes, because any inexpressed philosophies were not subject of the discussion; we can't assign killings due to inexpressed philosophies to any philosophy, since we don't know which one.

I mean, show me one non-collectivist philosophy according to which is OK to kill human (except in unavoidable self-defense). There is no such thing - all of them are collectivist.


> What I said is true of (almost) any definition of "collectivist", including ctlby's.

No, your definition of collectivist is so expansive, everything fits. My reply is trying to communicate something to you, therefore my reply is collectivist (or else I don't understand your definition). But presuming I do understand, I reject your definition as being so broad as to be meaningless.

> I mean, show me one non-collectivist philosophy according to which is OK to kill human (except in unavoidable self-defense). There is no such thing - all of them are collectivist.

The Marquis de Sade had a philosophy. Since there is no God, whatever is, is right. And, hey, nature made man stronger than woman. Therefore man has the right to do to woman whatever he wants. I can't find any sane way to describe that philosophy as "collectivist", but de Sade lived out his philosophy to the extent of torturing women. (To my knowledge, he did not actually kill any, but certainly he was free to do so, according to his philosophy.)

Now, I will agree with you that collectivist philosophies (conventionally defined) are much more likely to say that it is OK to kill an individual, because those philosophies start from the group being important, and the individual not. (That's kind of the definition of collective.) From that starting point, it's really hard to find a way to stop short of "It's OK to kill an individual if it's for the good of the group."


> I mean, show me one non-collectivist philosophy according to which is OK to kill human (except in unavoidable self-defense).

Individualistic (as opposed to ethical or utilitarian) hedonism: if it brings the holder of that philosophy net pleasure to do a thing, it is right to do it.

Pretty much the most anti-collectivist philosophy possible.


Yes, but it is also kind of trivial. I mean isn't this philosophy something that every agent ultimately follows?

I would like to see an example that would be useful to classify social systems, as ctlby attempted to do. But I don't see it. Once you put "social system" into it, killing happens for collectivist reason.


So your argument is "Stalin and Mao were monsters, therefore fuck the poor"?

Life is not black and white. The hardline communists were awful. That doesn't mean that hardline capitalists can't also be awful. Maybe they're less awful, in a "rather be kicked in the face than shot in the head" kind of way, but that's not a positive recommendation.


Dude, you cannot compare a country the size of Chile (8m in the '60s) with a country the size of Russia (120m in the '60s) or China (600m in the '60s).


But we can divide 3000 / 8M and 20M / 120M to get ratios, no?


No, because you also have to account for duration and for a number or other factors (e.g. Chilean population was concentrated in very few cities, so the effect of one death was relatively higher than in a place like Russia, where things often happen "at very long distance"; and so on and so forth).

This is not a rational historical comparison (if such a thing can really exist), these are just random numbers shouted in a pub argument, "My guy killed less people than your guy!"...


There's a distinction to be made between rapid neoliberal deregulation policies which naively attempt for a full "shock therapy" solution in an economy already devastated by accumulated allocative inefficiency from central planning and oil shocks (in the case of the USSR), and the general concept of laissez-faire which is separate from a particular national policy and can emerge by counter-economic means (e.g. crypto-anarchism), or others.

Chile and the Chicago Boys is a bit disingenuous to regard as outright failure, it's a controversial subject. Keep in mind that the Chicago School are a unique economic position, but they've been oversimplified to "free market" in common discourse.


What makes the Chicago Boys unique, to a large degree, is that they seem to have made a choice to trade analysis for position advocacy. A lot of them are better thought of as taking part in politics rather than academics.

If you want sources, just scan Brad Delong's blog; there's a decent chance he's making this point at any given time. There was a wonderful example I can't take time time to dig up right now in which an (Chicago-aligned) economist published a paper with outright deceptive priors and when confronted, explained that his goal was to promote an argument, and it was the reader's problem to make counter arguments. You can call that a lot of things, but academic inquiry isn't one of them.


Anytime a government exists, you can find a way to blame anything that happens on the government rather than the deer market, since the government certainly intervened in there market in some way, and that always influences market conditions and decisions. Free market fundamentalism isn't falsifiable, it's an axiomatic quasi-religious article if faith.


Of course, the exact opposite dynamic also exists in full bloom - when did you last see an advocate for government action invite falsification?

Mariana Mazzucato's work on The Entrepreneurial State makes frequent appearances in these parts, typically in the shape of references to internet startups not really being innovative, because the internet/GPS/touch screens/Siri have roots in government research programs.


> when did you last see an advocate for government action invite falsification?

All the time: very often advocates of government action tend to predict an association between specific government actions and specific results, rather than ascribing bad results to "government" generally and good results to "the market", drawing both bad and good results from scenarios where government regulation shapes the market; while anti-government advocates like to pretend that there is a symmetry between their non-specific advocacy against government and some opposing advocacy for government, that's not actually the case.


Well, all right, but how often do you see the loop closed? "We predicted results X from this government program (with these error bars), actual results were Y, which were/were not withing the error bars."

I have literally never seen that kind of analysis of a government program, still less a group of them. But it's essential, so that we can tell whether the predictions of what the next program will do have any basis in reality.


While this isn't necessarily the exact kind of analysis you're talking about, it's very close to what the Government Accountability Office was set up to report on -- and from what I can tell, they do their job pretty well. We don't hear about them very often in large part because what they do isn't very "sexy," politics-wise.


> "the deer market"

I know this was a typo and you meant "free market", but it was a hilarious typo.


Playing the deer market is a great way to earn a few bucks.


I could use some extra doe!


What if someone tries to game the system?


The misery Russians suffered after the collapse of the USSR, was from the collapse of the USSR. There was an immense price paid for the failure of the Soviet Union.

The notion of blaming the ills of 1991-1999 on free markets is absurd. Were free markets going to magically turn the nation of Stalin right around into a bastion of prosperity? Impossible.

You know what turned Russia's condition around? A debased US dollar and the high oil prices it caused. It wasn't Putin or central planning.

And as for Pinochet: a 17 year, violent military dictatorship in a free market. If that's your political system, what you inherently cannot have is a free market. The two are mutually exclusive.


Yeah, me too! Any time anything bad happens under my econo-political regime of choice, it's not really my regime, since my regime ensures bad things can never happen. So any example that makes my regime look bad is by definition not an example. The two are mutually exclusive.


It was Putin's planning to keep all money in the country. And it was well-executed.


How many of these are the government's fault?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_accidents_and_disaster...


The very first (more deaths than all the rest combined) one in the list (Bhopal disaster[1])...

"Government-controlled banks and the Indian public holding a 49.1 percent stake."

The government and public quite literally owned half of Union Carbide company at the time of the disaster. Fault can't really get more directly placed than that.

The hopes of private industry are that an entirely private corporation, in order to protect its brand's value, needs to avoid this sort of thing. Add government funding to the mix, and everything is up in the air. Lockheed's F-35 project is another example of a disaster, but of the financial sort instead. If funded by another private company, rather than the government, this project would have been shut down and Lockheed would have already been sued into bankruptcy. Instead, Lockheed continues to be paid billions, while their treasonous corporation holds our national security hostage.

Note: All content in this comment is my opinion only.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster


> The hopes of private industry are that an entirely private corporation, in order to protect its brand's value, needs to avoid this sort of thing.

It's 2015, no-one believes this anymore.


Now let's talk about asbetos and tobacco if you please.

c'mon... your glasses are so rosy it's not even funny.


I'd argue that most of them are the government's fault, but in favor of more regulation (and bigger teeth), not less.




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