Taiwan Violates Patent

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.

35 Comments

  1. HMT says:

    bird flu will kill us all. The threat is real.

  2. Mexigogue says:

    I’ve always had an intuitive dislike for the concept of intellectual property. I’m glad to know there’s are good philosophical grounds to back up my position. Just to make a point I should try to copyright the sandwich and then sue everybody who makes one without paying me a royalty. I don’t want to get sucker punched by The Earl of Sandwich himself though.

  3. R says:

    “it belongs to We The People” sounds so communist, dude.

  4. R says:

    Please explain.

  5. Phelps says:

    No, it is communist when you just say The People. Or maybe You The People. (As opposed to We The Party.)

  6. Citizen Quasar says:

    Phelps:
    Please be informed that the contents of my mind are NOT public property; especially if I enter into a contract with a government to protect it. Furthermore, public need is NOT a moral justification for said contract’s violation.

    The law of supply and demand is the universal law of survival. Whacks like you betray your true hatred of the good for being the good when you call for life-giving capitalism’s overthrow in the name of the thankless masses.

    People with too much medieval weaponry laying around the house have something the matter with their brains. It seems like they want to stick their fangs into my brain and suck the life out of me.

    No, wait. They will only do that it they decide they need what comes out of my skull.

  7. Phelps says:

    R, I’m not your monkey. CQ, you are correct. The contents of your mind are not public property. However, the moment you allow those contents to escape your skull and enter my mind, then they are public property. Otherwise, you would be making the contents of my mind your property, because you would be controlling what I do with it.

    You don’t enter into a contract with the government to protect intellectual property. You are granted a privilege by the government. There is a big difference there — that difference being that the government can alter the terms of a privilege at any time. Any time Congress passes a new copyright law, all the copyrights in the US are affected, not just the new ones. That is because it is a privilege, not a contract and not a right.

    Supply and demand argue against intellectual property. Patents and copyrights set up artificial, government created barriers to entry and make direct competition illegal. The founders decided that in this instance, a limited interference with supply and demand was warranted in exchange for a more free flow of information. If you want true supply and demand, then you would want to end all intellectual property restrictions.

    No one can take what is in your skull out. However, once you have made an idea public, it neither picks your pocket nor breaks your leg for me to practice the same idea. For you to use government force to prevent me from doing so does break my leg. How can you claim the high moral ground here?

    And surely you can come up with a better ad hominem than “ooh, he has some pointy metal things!”

  8. Mexigogue says:

    What is at issue here is the concept that a person can own an idea. That’s the craziest concept of all time. Can you imagine making a wheel and having someone tap you on the shoulder saying “Dude, MY idea. Dat become ten dolla!” Outrageous. That is the same thing being played out with the Chinese and the flu drug patent. Prohibiting the manufacture of this drug is not wrong “in the name of the masses”. It’s wrong because the concept of owning an idea infringes on everybody else’s right to use their real property as they see fit.

  9. R says:

    “What is at issue here is the concept that a person can own an idea. That’s the craziest concept of all time.”

    WTF, nubcake. That’s what this fucking country was founded on.

    “Hey, guys, I just devised a way to extract more efficiency from this machinery, thereby giving me leverage to pwn my competitors, but since I don’t want to be thought of as ‘crazy,’ I’m going to go ahead and disseminate this new idea to the competition. I’m sure that will make the board most happy!”

    You want this paradigm destroyed?

    Go 2 China!

  10. Northe says:

    For future reference are you anyone’s monkey, Phelps?

  11. Phelps says:

    I’ll rent myself out for cash, or vagina rights.

  12. Phelps says:

    That is how this country has worked for the last 150 years, but it is NOT what “this fucking country was founded on.” What this country was founded on was, “sure, you’re smart, but I’m just as smart, and I’ll work harder.” When they wrote the copyright laws, the specifically warned against creating “another Publisher’s Guild”. That is because in England, they had the kind of strong IP laws you seem to be advocating, and the Founders hated it.

    In England, the Publishers Guild owned copyrights to old, old works (think Disney and Mickey) and had made it so that they owned all the printing, all the authors (that wanted to be printed) and therefore all the works. You wanted to do anything, you tithed the Guild.

    The Founders recognized the situation you stated above, but they also didn’t want someone to patent say, the “automobile” and then dominate the market for the next four centuries. There are situations where I can see that happening. If patents weren’t time limited, AT&T would own all modulated information transfers (i.e., the Internet.) Edison would own incadecent lights AND the movie industry. Xerox would still charge $200 a bottle for toner.

  13. Citizen Quasar says:

    “What is at issue here is the concept that a person can own an idea. That’s the craziest concept of all time.”

    The only reason that inventions (ideas) are described upon registration with a government is to identify them. Then their creator receives governemntal protection while they reap the benefits of their mental labor and capital investment.

    It appears to me that you are saying that you expect other people to invest their time and capital to develop technological marvels while you do nothing but receive them adjusted to what you want to invest in mental effort and money.

    I suggest you tell a brain surgeon what you think his ideas are worth if you ever need one’s abilities.

    Surely you are smarter than this.

    As it was demonstrated in the novel Atlas Shrugged, why would a character like Henry Rearden spend decades developing his “miracle metal” if he thought that it would merely be seized by the government and nationalized.

    Yes, I can come up with better ad hominems. I just liked the sound of that one.

    The next sound you hear will be Ayn Rand turning over in her grave.

    Who is John Galt?

  14. Citizen Quasar says:

    One more thing:

    I have never had a flu shot and never will.

  15. Phelps says:

    The only reason that inventions (ideas) are described upon registration with a government is to identify them. Then their creator receives governemntal protection while they reap the benefits of their mental labor and capital investment.

    You are absolutely, 100% wrong. The standard that a patent is held to is that it must completely describe the method being patented to someone skilled in the art in a manner that allows that person to duplicate the results. That is because you give up that knowledge when the patent expires. The patent description is disclosure to the public, because it belongs to the public when the patent expires.

    I suggest you tell a brain surgeon what you think his ideas are worth if you ever need one’s abilities.

    I don’t want his ideas. I want his performance. Describing his operation to me does jack-shit until he actually digs his tools into my brain.

    As it was demonstrated in the novel Atlas Shrugged, why would a character like Henry Rearden spend decades developing his “miracle metal” if he thought that it would merely be seized by the government and nationalized.

    Hank Reardon never asked the government to give him a monopoly. Hank Reardon didn’t try to patent his Reardon Steel. Hank Reardon actually understood how ideas work. Even if Reardon had told his competition how to do it, they would still fuck it up because they are incompetent.

    Oh, wait, he did tell them and the did still fuck it up! What was your point again?

    Who is John Galt?

    Someone you think you understand but actually don’t.

  16. Citizen Quasar says:

    Perhaps I should concede and give you the argument on a technicality.

    I certainly give you the one about the brain surgeon because I took that one out of context and applied it wrong.

    However, I recall Bill Gates publishing a letter about everyone making free copies of BASIC (or was it DOS?) and no one sending him a penny. This is where software licensing came from.

    Once again, maybe you still win the point on patents.

    Yet there was the fiasco over Napster and the copyright violations of multitudinous musicians. But that was copyright protection by the government.

    It appears to me that you are saying that as long as someone does not make their hard thought out knowledge a matter of public record that they are entitled to the remuneration for it. Is this correct?

    Am I completely missing your point?

  17. Phelps says:

    Bill Gates bought MS-DOS. It was a port of QDOS. And he didn’t pay a royalty to the guy he bought QDOS from, no matter how many copies of MS-DOS he sold. I don’t think that software should be copyrighted — but I would be more than happy to grant Gates a patent as soon as he ponies up the source code.

    I think you are missing the point. The point is that an idea is not a zero-sum game. When I learn your idea, you don’t lose the use of your idea. Therefore, you have no natural right to prevent me from using the idea I learned from you.

    The Founders decided that things worked better if you could “keep” an idea — for a certain amount of time. They didn’t do it because they thought you had a right to it — they did it because they thought the system worked better that way.

    Like everything that they thought was a necessary evil, they tried to put lots of limits on it. You couldn’t really keep an idea — you could give it to the government, and then you would rent it for a while. Intellectual Property is a very real monopoly, and that is entirely in line with there being no such thing as a non-government enforced monopoly.

    On the other hand, there is no reason that the granting of this privilege to someone should be a suicide pact. If the system stops working for the benefit of everyone, then the government is proper in ending the system.

    Also, I think you are stuck on the difference between intellectual property and trade secrets. You have a right to your trade secrets — as long as you can keep them secret. There are proper protections that you can get — non-disclosure agreements (being agreed contracts) and such. But it is your job to keep it secret. If I reverse engineer your secret, tough-tittie said the kitty. Whether or not you take intellectual property (giving the idea away in return for a guarantee that you get a monopoly — enforced at the muzzle of a gun — for the first xx years) or a trade secret (you keep the idea to yourself until it gets away) is a business decision.

  18. Citizen Quasar says:

    OK

    Now, go get a flu shot…Damnit.

  19. Citizen Quasar says:

    Addendum:

    The software thang started in the Palo Alto Research Center. This is where Windows started from. Steve Jobs hijacked (stole) it from Xerox. Bill Gates stole it from Steve Jobs. But, this is not about all that…

    A mention must be made that you mistook Bill Gates’ release of DOS for BASIC. I loaded this just to see the amount of knowledge that you would come back with. I planted a trap that you fell for. I find you lacking and ignorant of the history of software.

    When I lived in Dallas and worked on the Richardson Corridor, I knew what the fuck was going on and the history of things software. One of the things that I knew about was the history of the BASIC language. It was about BASIC that Bill Gates wrote his monumental letter to software users about not copying software.

    I daresay that you do not understand CPU architecture nor basic logic structures, nor advanced artificial intelligent algorithms like I do.

    I also doubt very seriously that you understand the machinations of the human mind or their interaction to society at large. Rights? Wrongs? You don’t have a clue.

    Anyway, nice jousting with you.

    “I’ll be back.”

  20. Phelps says:

    What trap? You wrote DOS.

    If that’s where you want to end it, I’m OK with that.

  21. R says:

    Patent laws being what they are, this is why unique products are kept as trade secrets, with the threat of massive ass-raping should anybody divulge their secrets.

    The reason our commerce system thrives on this economy is, I believe, because unique products such as Windows or Coke or anything else decides to not patent products.

    So you could say that the commercial industry recognizes the inherent damage that patenting a product could do to them and chooses not to do so.

  22. Citizen Quasar says:

    Alcohol and computers don’t mix. It’s just that while I was sitting in my favorite chair and getting shnockered listening to music, I kept looking at my monitor across the room and thinking about this post. Point in your favor.

    Upon reading my Addendum this morning, I am surprised that it is even coherent. However, it contains some unnecessary drunken schmeel posturing that is off topic and pointless. My bad. Another point in your favor.

    However, the following email that I received from the Ayn Rand Institute on 10/25/05 may interest you.

    Dear Editor:

    As fears of an avian flu pandemic grow, demands that governments
    trample on the property rights of drug companies also grow. Many
    people want governments to violate the patent rights of Roche AG,
    licensed manufacturer of Tamiflu, so that other organizations can
    manufacture the drug.

    These demands are immoral.

    Instead of threatening Roche we should be praising it for having the
    foresight to license and manufacture Tamiflu in the first place, the
    drug which appears to be the most effective treatment for the current
    strand of avian flu. Governments that wish to stockpile Tamiflu should
    enter into contracts to purchase it. The surge in demand will lead
    Roche to manufacture as much of the drug as it profitably can and to
    license its patent to other manufacturers for a fee. The new demand
    will be swiftly met. That Roche will profit is only just.

    We must remember that without Roche and Gilead (the inventor of the
    drug), Tamiflu would not exist. And without unyielding recognition of
    a creator’s patent rights, research into the next anti-flu drug will
    be stifled. Government intervention has already made many avenues of
    drug research unprofitable–to the detriment of the health of each of
    us. The threat of an influenza pandemic is ongoing. We must not let
    governments destroy this vital area of research too.

    Dr. Yaron Brook
    Executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute
    Irvine, CA

    2121 Alton Parkway #250
    949 222-6550 ext. 226

    Copyright (c) 2005 Ayn Rand(R) Institute. All rights reserved.

  23. Phelps says:

    ARI is flat wrong about this. Patent rights aren’t. They aren’t under Lochian natural law, and they aren’t under objectivism. No one is forcing Roche to make more of the drug; Roche is refusing to fill the market. They are doing so because they thought that they could use their artificial monopoly to force people (under threat of death) to pay a price the free market won’t sustain.

    They thought wrong, and in this case ARI is simply a useful idiot for Roche.

  24. Mexigogue says:

    I would like to add that Ayn Rand is not running the Ayn Rand Institute. For them to supposedly speak for her point of view at this time is kind of like Paul supposedly speaking for Christ. And we all know how that turned out.

  25. Citizen Quasar says:

    Thanks guys. I needed to hear that. ‘Specially since I’ve been kicked off two Objectivist forums and not allowed on a third.

    Still, it sounds like you both think that the law of supply and demand causes death whereas socialism causes life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fair weathered lip service just does not count.

    See, my/our existence is not a moral claim on their creative genius and productivity…not on any level. Not no way. Not no how.

    I think a government should honor its contracts. I see nothing the matter with them holding out for a higher price.

    I suppose they could charge $1,000,000,000,000 per dose but I don’t think they would sell very many and, if a pandemic really occurs, they would not have many customers left for the next go-round. Somehow, I just don’t think their management is that stupid.

    And when I can look it up, I will give you Ayn Rand’s quotes on this matter. Aparently you value her opinion.

  26. Mexigogue says:

    Still, it sounds like you both think that the law of supply and demand causes death whereas socialism causes life.

    Look closer at the arguments. Neither one of us has argued that the good of the many is a factor to be considered, nor that life and death changes the issue. The argument is whether or not one can own an idea or, better put, if one has the right to use the government to prevent me (by means of force) from using an idea.

    You can own a set of mittens and if I take them from you that is wrong because I have deprived you of them. But if you invent a means of beaming yourself from place to place and I use my own property to build a similar machine I have not deprived you of your teleporting device. It would be unethical for you to be able to prevent me by means of force (government) from doing that. Regardless of whether or not the masses benefit, that socialist tripe is a non issue.

  27. Phelps says:

    I think you are still misunderstanding my argument. Government protectionist schemes — even IP laws — are NOT the free market. They aren’t quite socialsm (no compulsion to participate) but they both come from a similar mindset.

    INTERFERING with the free market via government monopoly schemes can cause death.

  28. Citizen Quasar says:

    Obviously, we disagree on the point of patents. There is really no reason for me to try to persuade you to my point of view.

    However, you and Mexigogue show basic misconceptions about Objectivism and Ayn Rand. I will address these.

    Ayn Rand mentored Leonard Peikoff on Objectivism for 35 years before her death. She did this specifically so that there would be someone to speak in her stead after her death. Ayn Rand publicly declared Leonard Peikoff as her intellectual heir and made him the heir to her material estate and copyrights.

    Leonard Peikoff founded the Ayn Rand Institute in 1985 for the express purpose of carrying out Ayn Rand’s wishes. To compare this with the Beatles saying they were more popular than Jesus (not that they were Jesus like Mexigogue reports above) shows a complete lack of easily verifiable knowledge about Ayn Rand.

    Phelps says:

    “ARI is flat wrong about this. Patent rights aren’t. They aren’t under Lochian natural law, and they aren’t under objectivism… They thought wrong, and in this case ARI is simply a useful idiot for Roche.”

    Ayn Rand had this to say about patents:

    “Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind…”

    “…The government does not “grant” a patent or copyright, in the sense of a gift, privilege, or favor; the government merely secures it—i.e., the government certifies the origination of an idea and protects its owner’s exclusive right of use and disposal. A man is not forced to apply for a patent or copyright; he may give his idea away, if he so chooses; but if he wishes to exercise his property right, the government will protect it, as it protects all other rights. A patent or copyright represents the formal equivalent of registering a property deed or title. The patent or copyright notice on a physical object represents a public statement of the conditions on which the inventor or author is willing to sell his product: for the purchaser’s use, but not for commercial reproduction.”

    The preceding excerpt is taken from: Patents and Copyrights written by Ayn Rand and originally published in The Objectivist Newsletter, May 1964. The article is presently available in the book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

    You are both certainly entitled to your opinions. However, please get your facts straight. Neither one of you has any noticeable knowledge of Objectivism or Ayn Rand so please do try to pretend that you do.

    Please do not insult my intelligence further by pretending to understand Objectivism or Ayn Rand.

  29. Citizen Quasar says:

    Typo correction:

    Neither one of you has any noticeable knowledge of Objectivism or Ayn Rand so please do NOT try to pretend that you do.

  30. Phelps says:

    Please do not insult my intelligence further by pretending to understand Objectivism or Ayn Rand.

    Please go fuck yourself with a broken stick. You sound like a full-fledged member of the cult of personality, and that is a strong indicator that you are beyond help until you are deprogrammed.

    ARI is an offshoot of Rand’s Cult of Personality. You want an example? Piekoff is her second choice. Her supposed “intellectual heir” (which is a pretty stupid idea in the first place) was Nathanial Branden. Branden was all fine and dandy. She liked him so much that she fucked him for a good decade, with the full knowledge of thier respective spouses. Yes, her pimp hand was strong.

    Of course, one day, she found out that Branden was cheating on his wife with both her and another woman, which was of course, unacceptable. Branden was then “excommunicated” (which makes sense since Cults of Personality form in a religious fashion) and proceeded to Stalinize any records she could, removing Branden from the Objectivist history.

    Rand was brilliant. Little o objectivism (as shown in example in Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead, and in a lesser degree, Anthem) is a strong, internally consistant philosophy. Big O Objectivism is a Cult of Personality and a crock of bullshit. That she was able to make a mountain of cash off the gullibility of nominally intelligent people is something that will win my undying respect of her. I just won’t be one of her marks — I’ll be my own kind of pimp.

    Rand is wrong about patents and copyrights being an extention of natural property rights. If they were, they wouldn’t be time limited. You don’t lose your land after 35 years. In fact, you leave it to your posterity. That is how it is with all real property — but that isn’t how it is with intellectual property.

    A man has the right to the product of his hands, not his mind. If I think that I would really like some apples, and I think of a really good way to get them, and then sit on my ass all day, I’m fucked. If I actually go out and plant an apple tree and harvest them, I’m golden.

    Rand also falls apart on the issue of patents being a negative right. Reasonable men will find similar if not identical problems to a given problem. (Isn’t that a tenant of Objectivism, that all Rational people think alike?) How is it, then, that someone owns an idea simply by the chance occurance of thinking of it first? How does this man now own the product of the mind of one who came after him, simply from the chance occurance of being presented the problem first?

    The answer is that he doesn’t. The right to what is in your head stops at the edges of your skull. I have no right to pry into your head, but you have no right to deny me the opportunity to observe and to learn.

    I told you in Mexi’s comments that I was your huckleberry. If you had the sense God gave a goose you would let it die here.

  31. Citizen Quasar says:

    I am well aware that Leonard Peikoff was Ayn Rand’s second choice as “intellectual heir.” I am also well versed in her extra-marital affair with Nathaniel Branden.

    I am in agreement that an intellectual heir is a ridiculous term. I also find it unimaginable that two spouses from two different marriages would allow their spouses to go fuck each other without filing for divorce.

    However, the fact remains that Ayn Rand did mentor two people to carry on her philosophy in her stead regardless of what term may be applied to them. Leonard Peikoff followed through on her wishes and ARI does accurately present her views.

    Another fact that remains is that the extra-marital affair was conducted by contractual consent with the other spouses. This was more like an open marriage than a breach of marital contract. What pissed off Ayn Rand about Nathaniel Branden is that Branden carried on his second affair in secret and in violation of the agreed upon terms of the contract. He lied. There were no lies in the whole affair until he started screwing one of his students. Until then, everything was above board and fully acknowledged and agreed to by all parties involved (or not involved as the case was).

    Once again, I don’t agree with the whole thing but it occurred among consenting adults. I do not understand how Rand and Branden convinced the other two to go along with this. If I were Frank or Barbara, I would have taken them to the financial cleaners in divorce court.

    As a consequence of the breakup, Branden signed over The Nathaniel Branden Institute. In a telephone interview with him a couple of months ago, he said that was tired of Rand anyway and one of the reasons he did this was to unload the financial responsibility of a long lease for office space under that corporate name.

    He said that he would have eventually left her as she had an overbearing personality. He was also tired of fucking a hag. The question of whether Rand was an inny or an outy never arose.

    Yes, there is a cult element to Objectivism. That you make such a distinction is a point in your favor. I have often referred to the cultists as Randites to distinguish them from Objectivists. Yet, I have no problem using normal rules of capitalization and call the philosophy Objectivism. This is the capitalization that Rand used in The Virtue of Selfishness.

    Once again, you said:

    “ARI is flat wrong about this. Patent rights aren’t. They aren’t under Lochian natural law, and they aren’t under objectivism… They thought wrong, and in this case ARI is simply a useful idiot for Roche.”

    It is this statement that I took issue with.

    My posting of excerpts from Ayn Rand’s article proves you wrong on this point. First you said that patents were against objectivism. Now you say that Ayn Rand is wrong. You contradicted yourself.

    If you want to have the questions you raised in your most recent response answered, I suggest you go read the entire Rand article. I would post it here but it is several pages long and it would be better for me to email it; or perhaps you could just go buy Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal for yourself and then read it in its entirety.

    In closing, I will point out that the difference between humans and animals is that humans’ natural tool of survival is the rational faculty; the mind. The entire objectivistic philosophical derivation of the concept of rights and their implementation in society is based on intellectual sovereignty and the content of one’s mind. You may disagree with this. However, you are mistaken to say that you are applying objectivism correctly if you do.

    I do not even know what a huckleberry is. Is that a fruit or a vegetable?

  32. Phelps says:

    objectivism != Ayn Rand.

    Objectivism is what Rand outlined in the afterword of Atlas Shrugged. It is four principles. Forming the core principles does not exempt her from misapplying them.

  33. Citizen Quasar says:

    Ayn Rand speaks for herself in her voluminous non-fiction writings.

    Thank you for telling me what a huckleberry is.

    I rest my case.

  34. Phelps says:

    Irrelevant. Objectivism is an idea whole and seperate from Ayn Rand. She made the first popular writings on it and coined the name; that doesn’t make objectivism and Rand synonymous (unless you buy into the Cult of Personality.)