Viagra, Patents, and Responsibility to Society

From Michael Geist at his excellent blog on intellectual property law and policy in Canada:

The Supreme Court of Canada this morning [November 8] shocked the pharmaceutical industry by voiding Pfizer’s patent in Canada for Viagra. The unanimous decision provides a strong reaffirmation of the policy behind patent law, namely that patents represent a quid pro quo bargain of public disclosure of inventions in return for a time limited monopoly in the invention.

Disclosure is… a crucial part of the patent bargain.

The court clarifies that this involves not only a description of the invention and how it works, but rather a much more practical level of disclosure “to enable a person skilled in the art or the field of the invention to produce it using only the instructions contained in the disclosure.” In this case, the court finds that Pfizer failed to provide sufficient disclosure.

Seems that, rather than doing one patent for the drug, Pfizer filed for two separate patents for the drug’s components. As a result, the invention could not be reproduced with the description in a single patent. Pfizer “‘gamed’ the system.”

What I find interesting is that the Canadian Supreme Court so clearly states what is implicit in our own founding documents. Patents and copyright are granted in order to provide an incentive for people to take on the risky business of innovation. At the same time, they are time-limited so that all can benefit from the good that is created in the long run. Advantage leans early on to the creator and later on to the society. That’s the balance. Uphold both goods to seek the common good.

Here in the US, that balance has tilted toward the creators’ side. In a real practical sense, that’s why people download music illegally and mail order drugs from Canada. Nice to see a neighbor seeking the balance.

We Need To Gamify Common Sense?

From the “wow . . . just, wow” files:

An Ohio woman has confiscated the Xbox of her 15-year-old son who was hospitalized for dehydration after spending at least four days in his bedroom playing the Modern Warfare 3 video game, WCMH TV reports.

Jesse Rawlins tells the NBC affiliate in Columbus that her son, Tyler Rigsby, emerged from his bedroom Tuesday morning after a marathon round of game-playing, and collapsed three times. She says he became very pale and his lips turned blue.

Via Douglas Stanglin at USA Today.

I am both a gamer and parent. I get that when you are gaming, you can lose perspective on time. I also get that it can be a challenge to get your kids to back away from the console, especially as they get older.

But “hard choices” doesn’t seem to capture what happened here. And it certainly transcends the “parent’s responsibility” vs. “individual choices” debate. Central to parenthood–or friendship for that matter–is knowing what is going on in someone else’s life. Cental to a dignified life–much less the developed life–is caring for one’s own basic needs (to the extent that one is able to do so). This fails on both accounts.

Perhaps there are good reasons to explain what happened, but I can’t imagine what they would be.

Man, I hope Snopes figures out this is an urban legend.

Eyeglasses as Indispensible Mobile Technology

How do you define “technology”?  Often, our definitions are bound up with the notion of change.  Technologies change our lives.  That’s true, but it can lead us to focus a bit too closely on the “our” part of life.  What makes mobile phones tech, while we rarely think about wired phones as technology? Probably that wired phones haven’t changed in a long time.

Having returned from my various trips, I picked up a new pair of glasses this week.  Actually, they were a second try at a new pair. We seem to be having a hard time finding the right prescription.  It’s happened to me before, and when happens, it reminds me of how important even the most basic technologies can be.  Without glasses, I can only see things in focus if they are about six inches in front of my face.  Everything else is horribly blurry. Its the kind of thing that would really limit my ability to accomplish a lot of even basic tasks were I to be without them for very long.


Institutional Trust and Silencing a 9-Year-Old Girl

Happy Father’s Day, belatedly! My parents and in-laws were in town this weekend, so I was not able to finish this post on time. But here it is, hopefully still of interest.

Over the course of Friday, we saw an interesting story unfold about an Scottish food blog written by primary school student. John Russell at The Next Web (UK: Local Authorities Silence 9-Year-Old Girl Behind School Lunch Blog) writes:

A nine-year-old British school girl has had her popular blog about school food closed by a local council. Martha Payne, a primary school student in Western Scotland, began posting photos of her school dinners with commentary in May and today ‘Never Seconds‘ passed more than 2 million page views.


Bulgaria: Skeletons treated for vampirism found

Via Bulgaria: Skeletons treated for vampirism found at PhysOrg:

(AP) — Bulgarian archaeologists say they have unearthed centuries-old skeletons pinned down through their chests with iron rods — a practice believed to stop the dead from becoming vampires

According to Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the National History Museum in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, two skeletons from the Middle Ages were found in such a state last weekend near the Black Sea town of Sozopol.

He said Tuesday that corpses were regularly treated in such a way before being buried in some parts of Bulgaria, even until the beginning of the last century. Widespread superstition led to iron rods being hammered through the chest bones and hearts of those who did evil during their lifetimes for fear they would return after death to feast on the blood of the living.

Sounds a bit odd for a blog on tech, right.  But here’s what I wonder: how many of our seemingly awesome technologies will seem like these iron rods in a couple of centuries?


Infrastructure Tech: Some Things, E-Learning Won’t Solve

From Adam Nossiter at NYTimes, Niger Children Miss School to Search for Water

Wars keep children out of school. So does sickness. But in Niger, a sun-baked land where drought occurs with alarming frequency, a major impediment to education is thirst and the long trek required to quench it. …“The others are more advanced than me, but I have to get the water,” Sani said of his classmates who escape the chore and get to school on time.

Here in the US, it is easy to forget how much technology we really rely on day to day. When was the last time you thought about our water infrastructure?

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