Friday, March 20, 2009

Rickover and Bayh-Dole

John Simpson wrote on californiastemcellreport:

Of course taxpayers should benefit directly from the fruits of the research they have funded.

This is not some harebrained, wacko leftist idea.

Back when the Bayh-Doyle Act governing federal funding of research was being debated, Adm. Hyman Rickover, the "father" of the U.S. nuclear fleet testified against the legislation.

He warned that giving private companies exclusive rights to taxpayer-funded inventions was forcing the public to pay twice: once for the research and once for higher prices made possible by the monopoly granted under a patent.

You can read more about this in Jennifer Washburn's excellent book, "University Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education."

LBE wrote a comment:

Simpson's allusion to Rickover understates an important point: Congress did not adopt Rickover's position.

Of Bayh-Dole itself, one notes that the federal government retains rights in patents arising from federally-funded projects, and is free to exercise those rights. Furthermore, Congress can interfere with rights of non-government funded patents, and even the executive branch can do things, as Simpson recognized in his previous allusion to the airplane patent pool during World War I (although Simpson misstated the outcome).

An issue with the "paying for things twice" viewpoint is that the costs of "making the invention" (the research and patenting costs) are generally DWARFED by the development/marketing costs. If someone can't get return on THOSE costs, they won't invest. If they don't invest, there is no product to benefit the public. All the public gets is an academic paper.

Simpson's argument about "paying for things twice" is more relevant to whether the public should get free access to the information, an issue which is currently being debated in the copyright context.

Of Washburn:

Los Angeles Times Article Way Off Base on Stem Cell Issues

Thinking negatively about Bayh-Dole

***Separately, whenever someone goes out of their way to state that something is NOT a harebrained, wacko leftist idea, look out.

***Of copyright-->

John Conyers and the ”Fair Copyright in Research Works Act”

***A further comment-->

As a separate matter, there has been previous discussion of Simpson's views of Bayh-Dole. See for example:

Fact check: Simpson misinformed on publicly funded research

but note comments by both Simpson and Ebert.

There is a "deck chairs on the Titanic" aspect to Simpson's position, in that there may not be any money to share in the case of stem cell patent royalties from Prop. 71.

Assuming for sake of argument that the funding of CIRM produced viable inventions/patents for therapies, one asks which the California taxpayer wants more in the next step of implementation: the cure or the royalty money?

In the Bayh-Dole world, the federal government generally stays out of the picture, and deals are made between the federal grantee as licensor and the private licensee.

Making an innovation, which really changes the way we live, is harder than merely making an invention. Incentives must be offered. Simpson would be advised to note the words of Lincoln:

The patent system changed this; secured to the inventor, for a limited time, the exclusive use of his invention; and thereby added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius, in the discovery and production of new and useful things.


A post on Patently-O titled Independent Inventors: Five Ways to Reduce the Cost of Patenting and Get a Better Patent Application has the text:

In the vast majority of cases, it is very expensive to bring an inventive idea to the marketplace, and the patent costs are typically a minimal part of those costs.


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