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December 13, 2005
Can Patent Policies be Socially Responsible?
An alum pointed me to an article in the online UCBerkeley News that details the school's attempt to forge a patent policy "in the public interest." As I've written before, there are some cases in which IP rights can come into conflict with what we might consider basic human rights, such as access to life-saving medicines. What this policy seems to focus on is not the issues of what to patent or whether or not patents should happen - issues that organizations such as the FSF have argued over. Instead, their focus is on the licensing - what do you do with the patent once you have it.
The school, a public institution, does not have the overriding drive that corporate patent holders do to maximize profit. Certainly there are costs and expenses to be paid and Carol Mimura, currently heading the office of intellectual-property management for Berkeley, seems well aware of that. However, for the past three years the school has attempted to balance its role as entrepreneurial enabler with a role as a responsible social agent. The article details ways in which what they call "the full spectrum of IP-management strategies" has been deployed to produce win-win situations.
Berkeley is famed for leftist/socialist leanings and that will doubtless color how some people read their initiatives. I, however, am heartened to see an approach that is not rejectionist towards the intellectual property system, but rather attempts to use it to serve a multitude of beneficial ends. I think that was what the Constitution's framers had in mind when they set patents and like into the original text.
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