Meeting with a political person

Nick Hockings s96121272 at
Tue Jan 22 14:54:25 UTC 2002


wrt lobbying, I am busy arranging to write Free Software columns for several
magazines. I will raise the issue of patents in these.

Should we set up a Free Software contact group to lobby international
organziations (ie UN downwards). Such a group should have input from all the
major Free Software organizations around the world, and a sort of firewall to
prevent any political counter attacks from hurting the FSF family.

wrt the genome the appropriate argument against patents is non-invention.
Naturally occuring codon sequences that make the various alleles (alternative
versions) of genes (objects/library functions?) of the genome (O/S) are not
invented in any laboratory, they already exist. Merley describing something does
not earn ownership of it.

Software is different though, it is applied mathematics. I would prefer to say
maths is the first science, and therefore its works are also descriptions of
nature. This may fail in the case of software since is seen as "created" rather
than "found" by most people.  

I am based in Africa, so I focus on the nature of patents, how they are used and
their effects where they are enforced:

Patents are government granted monopolies.
Companies use patents to block/tax competitors and increase the prices they
charge, by creating artificial scarcity.
This prevents competitors from under cutting the patent holder's price or
improving the design.
It transfers profit from competitors to the patent holders.
It prevents any attempt to freely share technology.

Patents are given at the disgression of government officers for the supposed
benefit to the country that grants them.
Nothing in this process takes into account the interests of any other country.
There is no objective way of measuring how inventive a new design is.
No patent office official or patent lawyer has any interest in curtailing the
patent system, only to expand it.

Thus it is highly profitable for a country to award many patents to its own
companies and enforce them on other countries.
This brings a steady revenue from taxing the ecconomic activity of other
countries citizens.

Poorer countries have less capacity to produce new patented inventions.
Weaker countries have less ability to enforce their patents.

The effect of patents between countries is the same as patents between
the established leaders entrench their position at the expense of new
copmetitors, who must pay a tax to the establishment for the priveledge of using
the existing technology. 

This transfers their profit margin to the establishment, who need only inovate
fast enough to "keep the peasants down".

I encourage politicians to reject foreign patents. 
Any monopolies to be granted by government should be decided test of the benefit
to the country of granting such a monopoly in its territory. 
Since no two patents are of equal merrit or consequence this test must be
conducted for each patent applied for.

Seen in this light I doubt many patents would be issued at all.
The key point is patents aren't commercial they are political.
Patents are a way of taxing other people, and staying in control.

In South Africa we have a phrase for that "baas kapt", the central philosophy of

Nick Hockings

<nick at>

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