Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Patent Con: U.S. Corporations Claim To Own Everything.

A few years ago, I "attended" (online) a three-hour seminar on the subject of Patents, and recent developments. I was horrified at the extent to which U.S. corporations had taken control of the Patent process, and were filing millions of patent applications and claims, on everything imaginable and even some not so much, trying to get an official U.S. government certification saying that the corporation "owned" some device, or idea, or concept. If they succeed, then anyone who wants to use that device, or idea, or concept, will be legally required to pay the corporate owner money as a license fee on every single sale. Most patents last for 20 years.

Here's how it works, in theory: somebody invents a device. They file for a patent. If the device is unique, new, creative, they will be given a patent which will prevent anyone else from copying their device for a certain number of years. During the time the patent is in effect, the inventor can license it to manufacturers, and charge a fee for them to use the inventor's design. At the expiration of the patent, anybody is free to make their own similar device, and won't have to pay anything to the original inventor.

But in recent years, as U.S. corporations began to "outsource" (have all the work done in other countries), and as new businesses began to form in third world countries to make products, the U.S. corporations went back through every single thing they ever made, every assembly, every screw, every idea, and applied for patents on all of them so they could try to extort money from third world businesses.

For example, let's say some U.S. Corporation has made and sold toasters right here in the U.S.A. for decades, but now they're going to have the jobs sent overseas. The toaster itself is made up of a series of tiny internal components, all held together by welds, screws, inter-connecting pieces. The U.S. corporation hires a team of lawyers, who hire engineers, and file a patent application on every single part of that toaster including how it is made. They will succeed in getting the patent issued in a remarkable number of instances. Think about it: how likely is it that some small company in Indonesia that makes toasters would even know about this patent application that had been filed, never mind have the resources to file something in the patent office to dispute the U.S. corporation's claim that they "own" it, or it is "their" idea. Then the U.S. corporation can go over to Indonesia, for example, and file a lawsuit against the little local guy who makes toasters, say he is using "their" patent, so he has to pay them money for every single toaster he sells.

This whole process accelerated as a part of the Clinton-sponsored "globalization" idea: that all U.S. corporations should send their jobs overseas to be done by slave, prison, or child labor, which is a lot cheaper than American workers. Essentially, globalization is a concept that means that Americans are thrown out of work and replaced by third world employees who have no rights. Thanks again, Bill. Since the U.S. corporations had decided to go out of business inside the U.S., and instead license most of their work to foreign companies, by getting a frantic last-minute rush of patents, they can earn money off of every single business anywhere in the third world. While doing absolutely nothing. They hire some facility in China to make their toasters, but if anybody tries to compete with them, they wave around their patent and make all toaster companies in the world pay them a percentage of their sales.

Not surprisingly, when the U.S. started entering into what they mis-named "free" trade agreements, one of the biggest areas of protection was for the patents claimed by U.S. corporations: every other country in the world is required to sign something saying they will "honor" those U.S. corporate patents. There are no protections for American Workers in the "free" trade agreements entered into by the U.S., but the corporate patents are protected.

One of the current areas of questionable patent claims arises in the medical and scientic research area. For example, some corporation that went into the Amazon cut down samples of every plant they found, then brought them back to the U.S. for testing, to see if the plants had any unique properties that could be used here in the U.S. One of the plants turned out to have cancer-fighting qualities, so the corporation filed a patent and said they owned the plant, and any and all rights to use that plant to make cancer-fighting drugs. Oh yeah? What about the people native to that country? What about their rights? And beyond that, didn't God, or nature, or whoever or whatever created the world actually make this plant? And in that case, doesn't it belong to all the people of the world?

Here's a link to an article discussing turmeric. Turmeric is a spice that is frequently used in Indian food. Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years in many ways, including using it for medicinal and healing purposes. But when the University of Mississippi realized that Turmeric appeared to have medical or healing properties, they applied to the U.S. Patent office for a patent, and got it. India protested that some Mississippi university (or any American institution) could not claim that they "owned" turmeric, something which was in common use in India for thousand of years. The turmeric patent was eventually challenged and overturned, but at what cost? Who can afford to pay for lengthy patent lawsuits? The better question is why was the patent issued in the first place?

Here are a few links to articles discussing Bio-Piracy and the devastating effect on the third world. Everything happening in the third world is a preview of what we can expect here in the U.S. in the future.

American corporations and the Empire have moved into a new phase. Originally western nations claimed they owned other countries as "colonies." Then later, western nations would militarily invade another country, set up a puppet government, steal all the resources, under a slight variation on colonialism which many called "imperialism." But today we have something new: the corporations simply claim to own everything in the world, or at least everything that is needed to sustain life. They don't need to own land and plantations, or factories, or even to employ anyone if they can claim that they own everything: every idea, every device, every assembly, every method, every seed, every plant, every spice, every form of medicine or healing. They just sit back and sue, collect license fees or royalties from third world countries, from every person, from every business. And what is the likelihood a person or any small business can fight against a U.S. multinational corporation -- before a U.S. patent office -- and win? Slim to none.

Chemical companies like Monsanto are buying up all the seed that exists for the basic food stuff of the world: corn, rice, and wheat. Then they do something to create a minor mutation in the seed, kind of like imprinting a bar-code on it, and call it a "Genetically Modified Organism" (GMO). Then they patent the genetically-modified seed and distribute it throughout the world, along with their U.S. government-sponsored patent claim that says that any time their seed is found in any crop, the farmer is required to pay to Monsanto a big "license fee" for using their seed. So if the seed blew in from a neighbor's crop, for example, it doesn't matter, the farmer can still be required by a court of law to pay an enormous fee to Monsanto. And they have been aggressively pursuing such lawsuits. See "Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers,"

Monsanto will profit most if it can eliminate all the "natural" seed that exists in the world, or at least contaminate all of it with the genetically-modified Monsanto seed. Then they will demand that every single person in the world pay a license fee to Monsanto every time they take a bite of any basic food stuff that keeps us alive, generally rice, wheat, or corn. Monsanto will claim that they "own" the patent on rice, wheat, and corn, so nobody can grow it, sell it, or eat it without paying a fee to Monsanto every single time. Forever.

Monsanto also, as an aside, is creating a "terminator" aspect to their genetically-modified seeds, so that the seeds will break down completely at the end of the season, so the seeds cannot be reused. Farmers throughout the world have been saving and reusing seeds for thousands of years, but Monsanto wants to make all seeds completely self-destruct at the end of one growing season, so that all farmers will need to buy new Monsanto seed every year. And of course more people will starve because most farmers in the world would not be able to survive if they could not save and re-use seeds. If the terminator seed mis-fires, it could also destroy the entire world's food supply if, for example, it "terminates" not only itself but also neighboring plants. And the U.S. Government is letting Monsanto do this.

Below is an excerpt from an article about Monsanto now trying to genetically modify animals -- in this case pigs. (Hmmmm, what have I read recently about "swine?" Was it "FrankenSwine"? A genetic mutant created in a laboratory?). Monsanto is trying to take over every single part of the food chain in the world. They've already got patents on seeds, and are eliminating the "natural" seeds that God (or nature, or whoever) created. Now they're starting in on the animals that are part of our food chain. Soon they will in-breed their FrankenSwine with enough other pigs that all pigs will eventually show the Monsanto bar-code in their DNA, and all pig-food-products sold will require that a license fee or royalty be paid to Monsanto. They will literally allow the world to starve to death unless they get their fees. How do we know this? Look at the patent-owner of the Aids drugs who have allowed millions to die rather than have a genetic version made available to save lives.

Here's an excerpt of an article about Monsanto's FrankenSwine:

"The Earth is flat, pigs were invented by Monsanto, and genetically modified organisms are safe. Right."

" Monsanto is blatantly continuing their scheme of rounding up the food chain from A to Z!"

"One way or another, Monsanto wants to make sure no food is grown that they don't own -- and the record shows they don't care if it's safe for the environment or not. Monsanto has aggressively set out to bulldoze environmental concerns about its genetically engineered (GE) seeds at every regulatory level. So why stop in the field? Not content to own the pesticide and the herbicide and the crop, they've made a move on the barnyard by filing two patents which would make the corporate giant the sole owner of that famous Monsanto invention: the pig."

"The big picture is chilling to anyone who mistrusts Monsanto's record disinterest for environmental safety. And if you're not worried, you should be: central control of food supply has been a standard ingredient for social and political control throughout history. By creating a monopoly position, Monsanto can force dangerous experiments like the release of GMOs into the environment on an unwilling public.They can ensure that GMOs will be sold and consumed wherever they say they will."

"Such blatant abuse can only continue if it is not challenged. Unfortunately, the typical lack of response from the masses and the idle government oversight is precisely why these perversions occur and continue. Sadly the only way to counter these shenanigans is to collectively and openly flaunt these patents ..."

"It's official. Monsanto Corporation is out to own the world's food supply, the dangers of genetic engineering and reduced biodiversity notwithstanding, as they pig-headedly set about hog-tying farmers with their monopoly plans. We've discovered chilling new evidence of this in recent patents that seek to establish ownership rights over pigs and their offspring. In the crop department, Monsanto is well on their way to dictating what consumers will eat, what farmers will grow, and how much Monsanto will get paid for seeds. In some cases those seeds are designed not to reproduce sowable offspring. In others, a flock of lawyers stand ready to swoop down on farmers who illegally, or even unknowingly, end up with Monsanto's private property growing in their fields. "

"One way or another, Monsanto wants to make sure no food is grown that they don't own -- and the record shows they don't care if it's safe for the environment or not. Monsanto has aggressively set out to bulldoze environmental concerns about its genetically engineered (GE) seeds at every regulatory level. So why stop in the field? Not content to own the pesticide and the herbicide and the crop, they've made a move on the barnyard by filing two patents which would make the corporate giant the sole owner of that famous Monsanto invention: the pig. "

When Paul Bremer was sent into Iraq to act like the "pretend King of Iraq," he issued 100 Orders to take complete control of the economy and resources of Iraq away from the citizens of that country, and turn it over instead to the multinational corporations. One of his orders, cut the tax rate of any corporation doing business in Iraq. One of his orders gave full immunity to any foreign contractor (Halliburton and Blackwater) from Iraq's laws: a license to kill. But of most interest, Order #81 specifically authorized the patenting of plant forms from Iraq, and authorized the distribution of the chemical company GMO, geneticially modified seeds, into Iraq. To saturate the entire country with food forms which, in the future, will require all Iraqis to pay a license fee to Monsanto or whichever other chemical company "owns" the seed.

And now we learn that the U.S. patent office has actually given a corporation a "patent" on a gene. A gene from human beings. How can somebody have a patent on a gene? They didn't invent the gene. They "found" it inside somebody else's body. It is an important gene, because it may indicate the likelihood of breast or ovarian cancer. Critical information many women would want. But the only company that can test for that gene is the one with the patent. Now somebody has sued, saying it isn't right.

May 13, 2009 (New York Times)

Cancer Patients Challenge the Patenting of a Gene

What should happen?

1. The laws should be changed to prohibit anyone from receiving a patent on a gene.

2. The laws should be changed to prohibit anyone from claiming a patent on any form of food, plant or animal.

3. The laws should be changed to eliminate patents on any medical treatment or drug that is life-saving unless the patent-owner makes the drugs available at a cost that is "affordable" to the citizens of each country. The question of what is "affordable" should be locally determined. For poor countries, the patents should be ignored and generic versions should be made locally and distributed to the local population.

4. The laws should be changed to prohibit any business from attempting to modify animals or plants other than in a university environment subject to strict controls, and no commercial use or production should be allowed for a period of at least 10 years. By allowing businesses to genetically modify food stuff, we run the substantial risk that they will wipe out the entire source of food, or delete the nutritional value of food, or create a FrankenSwine which could spread disease and give rise to new forms of crop-disease, and much of the world will starve. This is not the type of experimentation that corporations should be allowed to conduct.

5. Patents on any product or device should expire in 5 years after the product or device was first made available.

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