Thursday, May 1, 2008


Thomas Riggins

There is an article in Wednesday's New York Times that is a perfect illustration of how capitalism works (“Patent Bill is Bonanza To Lobbyists” by Robert Pear, NYT 5/1/08, Business Section).

There is a heated debate going on in Congress whether or not companies (especially drug companies) “should be allowed to keep patents they obtained by misrepresentation or cheating.” Fraud would be a better word but the Times doesn’t want to upset its advertisers.

Imagine, a company lies to the Patent Office to get a patent because if the truth were known it would not qualify for the patent. The truth comes out. Our senators and representatives are actually debating a new law which says its ok for the company to keep the patent; it cannot be revoked just because it was obtained by lying to the government. Remember if you as an individual lie to the government, i.e., the FBI or the IRS, it’s off to jail.

The courts have been voiding patents, Pear reports, of companies “that have intentionally misled the Patent and Trademarks Office.” This will never do and Congress intends to put a stop to this outrageous judicial interference with free trade.

As the law now stands a company can lose its patent if it “misrepresented or concealed information with an intent to deceive the patent office.” R.A. Armitage, a VP at Eli Lilly & Co., says, “This is like imposing the death penalty for relatively minor acts of misconduct.” He means, it seems, capitalism can’t function without fraud and deceit.

What is at issue for the drug companies is that they can prevent cheaper more inexpensive generic versions of their patented drugs from going on the market (God forbid that corporations be forced to compete in the market) by means of fraud. The House of Representatives has already passed a bill that will curtail this outlandish requirement of telling the truth on your patent application. Now its the Senate’s turn. The Senate Judiciary Committee, controlled by the Democrats, has already passed a companion bill to take to the full Senate. Both parties of monopoly capitalism are backing big business on this one folks, the American people will be the losers.

Drug makers have “inaccurately described experiments and concealed information that contradicted their claims.” Some say they want the new law because they want to lighten the load of the “poor patent examiner” who gets too much information anyway. How charitable.

Maybe instead of lapel pins the presidential candidates should be asked their positions on this bill.

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