Monday 7 September 2015

the Ethics of Patents on Life : a taster

Murray Edwards College where we discussed #patentsonlife
Those of you who follow my twitter feed will know that #patentsonlife figured a lot from 4-5 September. This was a true multi-disciplinary conference that I blogged about before the event here.
It was an extremely stimulating conference and brought together many streams of academic interest within a manageably sized gathering. There was good representation from the patent professions from a High Court Judge to several patent agents; the Churches Religions (mostly from the Catholic church which being an undemocratic global organisation is able to speak with a single voice); Bioethicists and Scientists from Academia; and even Syngenta's IP counsel to represent the commercial world, though we had no policy makers or representatives from the patent offices (they need not have been afraid). The list of speakers can be seen here and they all stayed for at least one full day and participated in the discussion unlike many a traditional IP conference.

I am hoping that Michael Factor who presented a Mosaic viewpoint on property in ideas will also blog his impressions of the event.

Each delegate came from his own world but went away with a better understanding of the viewpoint of others. Those of us who understood that patents are time-limited and relate to inventions strove to help others discern  the distinction between discovery and invention. While there are some who feel the patent system is iniquitous, it is clear that there are distinctions to be drawn between the morality of research, the validity of patents relating to aspects of outcomes of that research and the manner in which any patents are exploited to the benefit or detriment of society. In turn,  we gained a better understanding of how  catholic social doctrine can justify the capitalist concept of property ownership. Big academic ideas like social mortgages and the public trust doctrine were also explored. The capacity of patent examiners to make moral judgements or even apply the Biotech Directive was considered. We learned how the search for funding may perhaps create a tendency to make big promises or attempt to exploit the patent system for financial gain.

There is much to be done by those digesting the contributions to this conference and a publciation should emerge. Nevertheless I hope that when silos of interest discuss ethics they will remember that social doctrine is something that affects and needs to be influenced by the whole of society and cannot be dictated by any single sector - however learned the  IP specialists.

UCL is also organising their own micro panel event here.

1 comment:

  1. Barbara,

    I've blogged extensively on IP Factor on this event.




    3. (Religious perspectives on Intellectual Property)