2010-03-13

Intellectual Property Watch � Blog Archive � AIDS Patients Protest EU-India Trade Agreement

The logic of intellectual property--who owns it, keeps it, safeguards it, distributes it, and why and how--applies as much to medicines as to software and other intangibles. In the case of medicines, what's at stake is pretty clear: lives. If the drug is too costly or otherwise unobtainable, the user might very likely die, or suffer rather horribly, as patented medicines aimed for niche markets (even if they number in the tens of millions) can be priced arbitrarily high. (Think of it as ransom: only the rich can afford their lives.)

The consequences of such encumbered software are less visible. But lives, too, can be at stake, as software *enables* the flow of ideas and the making of things. Good software that does what the user wants is essentially invisible: the user's desires are achieved and she doesn't worry about the means or the medium. She simply does it. But if the software is poorly designed, buggy, or equally, enormously expensive, it adds to the cost of doing things and introduces obstacles to their doing. In fact, those doings, however meritorious and necessary, may simply not be done.

Open source is by no means a panacea. It is a strategy for making and distributing things, and it is purposefully unscripted when it comes to precise methodology. That's the nature of pragmatism. It's an option that could answer the exigencies of efficiency and cost. Applying the logic of openness to other fields, such as open access and open IP for the production of such things as the medicines, and not only that, seems at this point, compelling.

Intellectual Property Watch � Blog Archive � AIDS Patients Protest EU-India Trade Agreement

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