Michael Crichton On Companies Owning Products Of Nature

Michael Crichton has an excellent essay up over at the New York Times concerning medical company Metabolite’s efforts to defend its patent of a scientific fact before the Supreme Court tomorrow. There’s a lot of interesting commentary on the negative ramifications of companies owning ideas, associations, scientific theories, surgical procedures, products of nature… and, in the case of the Human Genome, the building blocks to human life itself.

We’ll let you read it for yourself, but here’s the crux: “Do you want to be told by your doctor, ‘Oh, nobody studies your disease any more because the owner of the gene/enzyme/correlation has made it too expensive to do research?'” That really just says it all.

We’re not lawyers, but one thing that occurred to us while we were reading the essay is that a way to fight this sort of frivolous patenting would be to press lawsuits under the assumption that companies can and do own these things. So you sue companies that own diseases for public endangerment. Individuals born with genetic disorders sue companies that own the deficient gene for unlawful discrimination. Those who own the Human Genome could be sued for the deficiencies of human character that lead to murder, rape, war, sickness and death. After all, responsibility is part and parcel of ownership.

This Essay Breaks the Law [New York Times]


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  1. Danilo says:

    The enforcement of liability you mention here isn’t a terrible idea, really. Particularly if barriers to entry such as licensing prevent useful research from being conducted. If that were the case, it seems perfectly reasonable to say “Hey dudes, you own this, and since you took ownership, pretty much no one else has made progress in fixing the problems involved, so… Well, just cut us a check for $2.5 billion please. Thanks!”

  2. Nick says:

    I know it’s a tired old saw, but it doesn’t seem so ridiculous after reading that article: Patent the strategy of patenting strategies for the purpose of extorting money from people.