The discussion of increasingly draconian intellectual property laws isn’t exact new at Third Pipe. Manipulation of the political process, bureaucracies and the courts has created a whole new class of oligarchies in our society. It’s one of the foremost reasons why it’s all but impossible for a new competitor to enter mature, research intensive businesses. Governmental grants of exclusive rights to common design elements that have existed for ages like Apple’s newly patented slide to unlock function have perverted intellectual property law to erect overwhelming barriers to any worthy rival interested in competing.
Even crushing barriers can inspire human ingenuity. As lawyers and Oligarchs continued to manipulate law to squelch outsiders. a few freedom loving rebels established the open source movement. When there’s no profit from intellectual property alone and no owner of that property, patent trolling becomes difficult if not impossible. This frees creative people to innovate with impunity with larger communities of contributors that enrich the process. That’s likely why most successful software startups founded in the last decade have managed an open source product rather than a commercial one. That trend is rapidly moving into hardware, with new projects beginning to challenge closed architecture products. Commodity manufacturers are likely to continue to produce more products using open source technology due to reduced R&D costs and faster time to market.
This takes us to the world of pharmaceutical development. Big Pharma is a dominant yet seldom mentioned player in big push to criminalize the free exchange of information and technology via new patent laws. Like the entertainment industry, the drug peddlers have become flat, bloated and stagnant. Industry consolidation forced by laws that unfairly favor the establishment has stifled innovation leaving it without promising new products in the pipeline. Many of the most profitable (and expensive) drugs are going out of patent in the near future freeing them to be produced by rivals and sold for pennies. The likely passage of new laws to extend patents will only bring more stagnation. Fortunately, a few industry rebels are embracing the open source movement:
When Tomasz Sablinski was working in pharmaceutical R&D, he was often frustrated by the demand for secrecy in the clinical trials process—a misdirected effort, he says, to keep competitors in the dark about what drug companies were up to. “The price you pay when you hide what you’re doing is you only get feedback from a precious few people,” he says. “There is very little new blood in the ideation process.”
Then Sablinski read an article about the open-source operating system Linux and he had an epiphany. “If said, ‘If computer coders can do open source, so can drug developers,’” he recalls. “You have to add patients to the mix, because they’re really the reason you’re doing drug development.” (more at Xconomy)
This is worth watching…. and supporting. If the likely roadblocks that Big Pharma’s cronies at the FDA can be overcome. we could see real breakthroughs in the drug business. Not just from the application of fresh new ideas. Open Source means many sources for the final product with good, healthy competition. That could bring a real breakthrough in healthcare by doing an end run around the political and industry establishment that has kept prices high and innovation low.