Wednesday, November 02, 2005

      Patents - Legalised Monopolies?

With the spread of Bird Flu to Europe, many countries are alerted to its potential damages. To Roche, her patent on Tamiflu is like a new found goldmine; as countries rushed to stockpile the vaccine in millions. However, Roche is unable to meet demands of such scale, and is unwilling to relinquish its patent to other producers.

This event makes me ponder on the effectiveness of copyright measures like patents. The aim of copyrighting is to protect rights of originators to profit from their intellectual works, and hence encourage more people to invest resources into R&D, which is needed to fuel economical growth.

However, patents can also potentially allow entities to command a monopoly where the patented product possesses no readily available substitute products. It also forces competitors to circumvent patent issues by taking second best alternatives in their product design. These ironically results in detrimental to economical growth.

The Tamiflu incident should serve as a good case study. As it succinctly highlights the need to balance the rights of patented originators, and the need to distribute the patented work. In the case of Tamiflu, the need of bending patent laws is elucidated by its implication of millions of people’s lives.


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