Taiwan announced that it is going to ignore a flu drug patent and make as much as it needs to of the drug:
A top health official said Taiwan had demonstrated its goodwill to Roche in talks – and the country hoped it would eventually secure permission to copy the drug.
“We have tried our best to negotiate with Roche,” Su Ih-jen told Reuters news agency.
“It means we have shown our goodwill to Roche and we appreciate their patent. But to protect our people is the utmost important thing,” he said.
Some of you who know me as a rabid libertarian might not be expecting this from me, but Taiwan is absolutely right to do this. Intellectual property is not an inherent right. It is a government granted privilege. That is why copyright and patents are explicitly carved out in the US Constitution — they have to be.
When you are granted intellectual property rights, you are being given a government protected monopoly. (Government protection is the only way a true monopoly can arise anyway.) That is why they come with so many limitations. You are time limited. Patents and copyrights expire (although the big media companies are doing their damndest to end that.) Your right o free speech doesn’t. That is because speech is an inherent right.
You are also under a duty of disclosure. When you apply for a patent, you have to tell the world everything they need to know to duplicate your invention. Why? Because when that patent expires, you are giving everyone in the world the right to use it. You don’t have to patent it. KFC never patented the 12 herbs and spices. That meant they could keep them secret. The same for Coca Cola never patenting the recipe for Coke. It is still secret after 100 years because they didn’t apply for a government monopoly.
So what is the flip side? Sometimes, this privilege is revoked. When there is a pandemic on the horizon, and you are holding out for more money, expect the government to stop protecting the monopoly they gave you. If you want to screw people over with your invention, then you better figure out a way to keep it a trade secret — once you patent it, it belongs to We The People — it is just a matter of how long we let you borrow it from us.