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Saturday, April 23

The Dim Sum Squad: Pundita deputizes two of her readers

NOON UPDATE: It just occurred to me that more than two can join the Dim Sum Squad. So the Pundita Prize is open to any reader who wishes to take up the challenge.

Dear Pundita: Re your 4/21 post [Protectionism and the WTO patent regime ] I note that the Indian legislature has rejected software patents .

I have to admit to being something of an intellectual property crank. I'm opposed on principle to patents on organisms, computer software, and business processes.

I'm also opposed to copyrights (of all sorts) since I believe they're based on a flawed model of creativity. Copyrights demonstrably do not encourage creativity, they subsidize distribution. With the Internet and other forms of modern communication we don't need to subsidize distribution. I think that copyrights should be abolished (but I'd settle for limiting their terms to the natural life of the authors).

How the intellectual property business model can possibly function for the United States troubles me deeply. Most of the world has no tradition of intellectual property and no intent to enforce U. S. intellectual property rights. This means that the Chinese and Indians expropriate American-created intellectual property freely while Americans must support companies whose monopolies are based on intellectual property. This doesn't appear to be
a formula for American prosperity to me.
[Signed] Dave Schuler [ The Glittering Eye] in Chicago"

Dear Dave:

It so happens that the reader (John in Lexington) whose letter formed the basis of my April 21 post speaks with authority on issues relating to patents. Pundita learned this only after receiving his response to the post you mentioned. I suppose this is another reason to reconsider my ban on a Comment section. But I am making your website known to him, so that the two of you can duke it out (or agree) on the issue as the case may be. From John's second letter, he thinks India is being held back by their habit of patent-breaking.

An informed discussion about copyright law (and patents) is outside Pundita's purview but I originally brought up the topic because I was shocked to learn that yet another of what was supposed to be America's foreign policy instruments had gotten away from our control. I am speaking here of the World Trade Organization.

But while it's bad enough that policy instruments get away from us it will be an outrage when America is left holding the bag. Mark my words that's exactly where things are headed with this bio-piracy business. Now that Greenpeace, India, China and the entire Developing World have set up a howl about the theft of generations of native sweat and ingenuity, you may trust that Brussels will point the finger of shame at America and say, "They made us do it."

And how is it that America got included in the Old Boy Colonialists' club in this matter? And how is that an American company had to apply to the European Commission for their chapati patent? (See the link to the UK Guardian report in my first post on the subject Better pirating through Chemistry: Monsanto patents the chapati).

This is the part that escapes Pundita: Are there now two bodies of law covering patents--domestic and "international" (i.e., Brussels)? And does the international law now supersede the domestic one? Or has it been this way since the inception of the WTO? If so, whose bright idea was that?

Pundita is just one person and we can't very well charge a squirrel and a couple of squabbling crows with the task of researching the WTO rules, the rest of our team having deserted us for Spring chores. And as with most Americans, my eyes tend to glaze while reading the WTO rules and regulations. Which, I suppose, is how the WTO got out of hand--and clearly it is out of hand, if the Developing World is now saying the US owes them USD billions for pirating the fruit of their intellectual labor.

I doubt you see at this point how serious the matter has become. Realize that China is behind it because all this Chinese food we've been consuming since the Gold Rush era is actually medicine in China. That's right; except for the Chop Suey and a few other Made in America concoctions, all those noodles, broth, sauces, steamed chicken feet, diced octopus and the dim sum are not only food; they are also used as medicine. So do you have any idea of the kind of bill Beijing can hit us with, if this bio-piracy patent business isn't stopped cold in its tracks?

So if you are game, Pundita will deputize John and you to figure out what the WTO is up to with regard to patent law, and explain it for Pundita's readers (or yours, and we can link to your post) in PLAIN ENGLISH. If you can accomplish the feat you will be awarded a Pundita Prize, which you can split between you.

As to what kind of prize, let me see...you will receive the recipe for Pundita's Very Own Brand Demon Repellent, for use while visiting Trotskyite websites to gather news that our glorious American media doesn't bother to report to us, such as news about bio-piracy. I warn you there is a patent pending on my recipe.
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