Earlier today Kevin Noonan of Patent Docs posted an article titled Falsehoods, Distortions Lies in the Gene Patenting Debate. In the article’s first paragraph Noonan explains that ever since the filing of a complaint by the ACLU challenging the propriety of certain gene patents owned by Myriad Genetics, the debate regarding gene patents has gone mainstream. He wrote:
Thus, there have been debates on the topic on National Public Radio, and an otherwise respectable blogger has let his pages be used by an academic with more passion than logic to present his anti-gene patenting views.
Well, I am that “otherwise respectable blogger,” now apparently known in some circles as the blogger who published The Case Against Gene Patents, which was written by David Koepsell, the author of Who Owns You?
Although no one who knows me would ever accuse me of being “left,” “left of center” or perhaps even “moderate,” it is flattering to be talked about in the same sentence as National Public Radio. In a kinder, gentler time, before political vitriol became the rule of the day after the disputed 2000 Presidential Election, I listened to NPR, and even occasionally voted in ways that might get me marginalized in certain Republican or Conservative circles. Nevertheless, in an odd way, being talked about in the same vein as NPR makes me enormously proud, even if I disagree with much, most or even practically all of what they seem to represent in this brave new world. Between the Patent Office now considering me a journalist, and the comparison to NPR, it seems as if in publishing terms I am doing something right to get noticed!
By way of full disclosure, I would characterize myself as a Republican and a Conservative, but that was not always the case. At one point I was even registered as a Democrat, even if it was just to vote in the primary for a friend who was running for Congress (who won the primary but not a House seat), it is a part of my history. I used to like to call myself a Moderate, or a fiscal Conservative, but as the debate changed and I spent time as a full-time academic at a number of law schools, I realized that tolerance is not something that those on the left are willing to give, even if they simultaneously preach to those on the right regarding what they perceive to be intolerance. Plainly put, I got sick and tired of those on the left being condescending with respect to alternative views, characterizing the South and Midwest as “fly-over country” and generally being arrogant, rude and contemptuous toward those who actually thoughtfully considered issues and just disagreed. As if the only “correct” alternative is to agree with them, even when they spew nonsense.
For a long time I have wanted to have others write on IPWatchdog.com and to provide a counter-balance to my decidedly opinionated view. Of course I think I am correct, otherwise I wouldn’t write and say what I do. What you see is what you get with me. As one friend has told me: “You are just more willing to notice and say that the emperor has no clothes than most.” What can I say? I am from New Jersey, and I call it like I see it, even if that means disagreeing with people I respect, or people who for the most part share my political views. That is why I was so critical of the Dudas Administration. The fact that I am Republican and Conservative doesn’t mean I can’t notice that under Jon Dudas the US Patent Office took many steps backwards, a few steps sideways and seemed generally out of step with innovators and the patent bar.
Let me be clear. I think David Koepsell is wrong, and he and I have gone back and forth out in the open in comments to many posts, and have gone back and forth in a long stream of e-mails. Nevertheless, I have tremendous respect for him. He had to know what he was getting into, and that my core audience was not going to take to his point of view, but he stepped up to my offer to publish his thoughts. Rather than those who write and hide, he has entered the debate and engaged those who disagree with him, which seems to be most everyone. Notwithstanding, just because I disagree with him and think he is misguided doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t have his say. What kind of “watchdog” would I be if I censored out opinions I disagree with. You can say pretty much anything you want in comments to posts, as long as it is not vulgar and as long as it is not rude. I will admit to having little tolerance for things close to the line when the person commenting uses a fictitious name and a fictitious e-mail address. If you want to be a part of the debate that is great, and encouraged, but if you want to take cheap shots at people or get close to the line at least have the decency to stand up and be counted.
My philosophy is that fair and open debate crystallizes the issues. When those who disagree with me respectfully put forth their position it allows me to analyze my own beliefs, and to form more cogent rebuttals. The problem I had with respect to making it as a full time academic is that I had strong beliefs and opinions, and those who claimed they wanted full and fair debate really didn’t want any debate, let alone full and fair debate. Universities are not the place for the exchange of ideas. Professors and administrators at most Universities seem to want to live in an echo chamber, and that is appalling, if not completely disgusting. Open exchange of ideas where everyone has to agree to stay employed and/or not be ridiculed is ridiculous, if not completely immature.
Another thing that bothers me greatly is hypocrisy. I do not claim to be above hypocrisy, but when someone points it out I thoughtfully address in my own mind whether there is merit to the charge. In some cases there is, and I use that to inform my own beliefs. But I am certainly not going to hold others to a standard that I do not hold myself. Universities are not places that encourage or reward open debate and free thinking, and I have justifiably railed against that in private and in public. It would be nothing short of hypocritical of me to then turn around and choose to live in an echo chamber and write only for a chorus of “amens,” although the “amens” are greatly appreciated.
It is clear to me that the ACLU complaint is frivolous and baseless, and does quite clearly state many lies as if they are object truths. They lie about what the claims they challenge say and cover, and they are grandstanding to make a political point. This is inexcusable, and the ACLU should be sanctioned.
I am also tired of the anti-patent crowd claiming that patents prohibit research and/or innovation. The truth is that there is very little research for the sake of research at Universities any more. Since Bayh-Dole passed and gave rights to Universities to exploit their inventions and receive licensing revenue, Universities have been in business, and in many if not most cases are no longer engaging in pure research for the sake of science. The law clearly allows pure scientific research, but scientific research that is leading to the development of commercially viable innovations that will themselves be patented and licensed can only be done with permission. This is as it should be. In my view, a view widely shared by those familiar with University research, licensing and Bayh-Dole, the Bayh-Dole legislation is wildly successful and appropriate, but Universities cannot claim the benefits of Bayh-Dole and then wrap themselves in scientific research as a means to circumvent paying royalties.
I am also tired of the anti-patent crowd relying on scientists with respect to whether patents harm research and innovation. Doing so is like relying on a park ranger for a weather report. Sure, park rangers are outside all the time and can read signs of distant but oncoming thunderstorms, but they are not meteorologists who know the causes of weather or the underlying science.
Many scientists and researchers routinely claim that patents harm innovation, but their opinions are completely uninformed; not because they are ignorant, but because they are not familiar with the intricacies of patent law. So many scientists (and computer scientists) tell me that a particular patent is in the way because it describes something, and that something is contained in the specification. Of course, the specification plays no real role in defining the exclusivity granted by the patent. Exclusivity is all about the claims. It is also impossible to know what exclusivity is provided to the patent owner without doing a thorough and complete analysis of the entire file history. So scientists are just wrong, misinformed or lazy when they dismissively claim that patents harm research and innovation. Disregard for truth and reality is not a problem with the patent system, it is a problem for those who think they know everything and choose not to educate themselves with respect to the intricacies of patent law. These people who willfully or ignorantly see road blocks are not those whom we should concern ourselves with. It is not at all likely that anyone with such narrow view of the world would ever come up with any kind of noteworthy invention, innovation or discovery.
Engaging those with whom we disagree in a respectful, yet heated, debate does not mean we are giving in, or compromising our beliefs. While I think it is naive to engage terrorists in debate, as well as those proclaiming the virtues of genocide, there is nothing wrong, immoral or unacceptable about open and honest debate with thoughtful individuals who hold opposing views. If my publishing of a contrary viewpoint offends anyone, I don’t know what to say. I certainly will not apologize, and if there are others out there who truly wish to engage in a respectful way with an alternative viewpoint I would anticipate more of this type of publishing coming from the pages of IPWatchdog.com. Even the New York Times has a token quasi-Conservative, and FOX News has a few liberal commentators. So why can’t IPWatchdog.com have an occasionally different viewpoint that challenges our beliefs?