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The debate continues



The debate started with microorganisms. Several unclear areas still to be resolved in deciding the scope of patentable microorganisms and non-biological and microbiological processes. WTO has to address the issues explicitly, listen to and assuage indignant nations and not let multinational conglomerates do all the talking. Going back to the original intention for which patents were allowed, the international community has to clarify the basic questions on discovery and invention, and ensure complete conformation in letter and spirit to the criteria of patentable inventions being novel, non-obvious and useful.

“The US states that requiring patent applicants to identify the source of genetic materials or traditional knowledge used in developing their claim "would be impractical." Forcing all countries to change their patent laws in spite of protests is considered practical. Changing the world's cultures and enforcing property rights on seed is considered practical. Collecting royalties from the poor in the Third World for resources and knowledge that came from them in the first place is considered practical. But taking the simple step to change one clause in one law in the US and one clause in TRIPs is considered impractical. This suggests that the US is committed to promoting biopiracy.” (North-South Conflicts in Intellectual Property Rights).

Third world countries have enough to contend with in these days of skewed globalization - poverty and hunger, ill-health and epidemics, education and infrastructure, and they can very well do without imposed legal hassles that are sprung as nasty surprises on them as a result of the IPR regime. Why should they spend precious resources in fighting for what was theirs in the first place? Such below the belt hits by developed nations reek of unashamed greed for commercial benefits and misplaced, even ruthless hankering after vainglory. The NGO Greenpeace terms it “INDUSTRY GREED OVERRIDES MORAL AND ETHICAL CONCERNS”.

There are so many issues that confront international lawmakers, and the earlier they address them, the better for all humankind.

  1. What could be other possible tangible rewards for the ‘inventors’?
  2. How can ethical and moral values, principles and ideals be sacrosanct?
  3. Aren’t we all actually stealing from Nature?
  4. How else can meaningful and purpose-filled research progress? Does the concept of progress itself require redefinition?
  5. Archaeological sites and finds are worthy of protection as world heritage; surely nature’s bounties endowed on earth’s regions warrant only protection and sustainable use, never mindless exploitation?

It’s time the debate on IP rights as applied to biological forms is intensified to reach an ultimate solution that does not conflict with peoples’ interests. The IPR regime impacts society, environment and human rights concepts and development in national and international legal frameworks.