Property Rights and Accountability, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Introduction

Intellectual property rights (IPRs) have become a commonplace concern for many people with the use of digital media. While investigating the impact of such property rights with respect to certain technologies, it behooves us to make certain distinctions. With intellectual property rights overall there lies subsets of industrial practice. Digital Rights Management (DRM) intends to restrict or allow access to works protected by copyright digital material such as software, music, and audio video data stored on the web, a hard drive, or CD-ROM for example. Two subsets of DRM are Technological Protection Measures (TPM) and right management information (RMI). TPM intends to control the distribution work by copyright and related measures. More broadly, this includes the use of patents, but DRM systems themselves are actually patented. RMI intends to identify the name of the creator of a work or the owner of copyrights or performer; the name and address of the owner of the rights and the terms and conditions of use. Here, we describe challenges facing biotechnology and assess the current state of property rights and the impact of accountability on biotechnology both legally and ethical. Furthermore, we formulate a solution to these challenges incorporating property rights legislation and issues of legal and ethical accountability. Last, we anticipated the future of property rights and what effects that future might have on biotechnology.

Problem Involving Property Rights and Accountability in Biotechnology

Some experts believe the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) has failed to appropriately govern patents for biotechnological discoveries because officials do not understand the process involved in emerging biotechnological innovation that well (Rai, 1999). The same experts argue that the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is better equipped for the task (Rai, 1999).

Current State of Property Rights

Property rights theory is based upon presumption of what a reasonable person might require for dealing in the market place (Demsetz, 1967). With respect to intellectual property the line is draw between discovery and invention (Rai, 1999). Thus when a biotechnologist discovers DNA haploids that serve as the genotype for a particular phenotype, she does not own the rights to the natural phenomenon, but she may own the rights to the process by which the discovery was made (Rai, 1999).

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has wanted to strengthen IPR to better protect it across international borders (Ivus, 2011). As a result, the volume of technology exports into developing countries changed (Ivus, 2011). It forced more technological firms to diversify their operations (Ivus, 2011). In much of Asia this meant a reduction in innovation because of the reduction in shared knowledge (Kumar, 2003). In terms of biotechnology, this meant denying the needy critical medical treatments (Kumar, 2033). In China, what is generally regarded as insufficient IPR protection has not limited economic growth, though (Snyder, 2010). Collectively, the global move toward more viable IPR measure intends to protect the economic rights of innovators while allowing for sufficient economic growth (Maskus, 1998). WTO members are expected to adhere to a minimum standard (Maskus, 1998).

Ethical and Legal Impact of Accountability on Biotechnology

It is the ethically and legally accountable role of IPR is to simultaneously protect the rights of innovators while encouraging economic growth, the problem really becomes how to optimize policies such that both outcomes can meet at some maximized solution (Acemoglu & Akcigit, 2012). As it turns out, full protection is not optimal (Acemoglu & Akcigit, 2012). What economists have calculated is that partial protection is more optimal if the protection is proportionate to the head-most firm’s lead on its competitors (Acemoglu & Akcigit, 2012). This way, the presumably most cost-consuming inventions have a solid chance of earning a return, while still allowing less detrimental industry-wide knowledge-sharing (Acemoglu & Akcigit, 2012). The end is that incentives for innovation are maintained while still allowing for sufficient freedom of information (Acemoglu & Akcigit, 2012).

Solution to Property Rights and Accountability in Biotechnology

This holds true for biotechnology too. The hope (and trend) appears to be that expanded economic growth offsets decrease in returns by imitation. CEOs argue that such policies disadvantage their enterprises, but researchers conclude that it is healthier economically. (Yang & Maskus, 2008). In order to formulate a solution to the problem by incorporating property rights legislation and issues of legal and ethical accountability, approaches included laizzes faire and legislation. The US Supreme Court landmark case Chevron v. National Resources Defense Council has predicated the move of IPR governance toward PTO. This seems to be the most viable solution so far (Rai, 2011). This way, those most familiar with technical innovation can adjust IPR as necessary to meet the dual requirments of the IPR protection as a whole.

Future of Property Rights and its Effect on Biotechnology Property Rights Solution

To anticipate the future of property rights and what effect that future might have on biotechnology, we look to the genome. One application that has interesting potential is biotechnological watermarking which is actually a subset of RMI. As geneticists become more and more skilled at manipulating genetic code they have been known to implement anomalies in the junk DNA as a signature of the researcher. What are the dangers here? It could mean for unharnessed profiteering in the genetic engineering. People in dire need of gene therapy could be denied because they cannot afford the state-of-the-art genetic coding – trademarked by Eli Lilly for example, and what would happen if it becomes trendy to genetically engineer people? Would babies by Johnson & Johnson have disparately better prospects than others? The considerations are bone-chilling. Would wealth accumulate in concentrations heretofore inexperienced in the marketplace? Would name brand people work with leading multinational organizations to acquire the most resources? Would they become an ultra-elite oligarchy that would enslave the rest of lesser means? It sounds near science fiction, but let us look at human economic behavior so far. A so-called one percent of the population controls 90% of the world’s wealth. What would happen if they could engineer successive generations to be smarter, stronger, and richer? Super-rich, supermen – the prospects are bone-chilling. One may argue that greater intellectual capacity would garner greater moral thinking, but human experience demonstrates that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Conclusion

IPR has become commonplace considerations in this age of information. For the average person it is a real concern as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has fined teenagers who have illegally downloaded music millions of dollars to protect the copyrights of artists. The real issue, however, is what property protraction is supposed to accomplish and what it is supposed to avoid. It is supposed to protect the creative efforts of individuals for a certain period of time. The aim is to allow the creator to acquire sufficient reward for their efforts but avoid giving the owners of property right infinite control. Ultimately, the society which nurtured the creator must benefit economically from the investment it has made in the individual. With some aspects of biotechnology, the trademark of the creator/inventor/researcher could be embedded in the very building blocks of a person’s physical identity. The ethical challenges IPR has contended with thus far will come to bear on new biotechnology, but it is clear that newer, more effective frameworks will eventually have to come into play. Corporate influence on the process could promote a commercialization of what is essentially organic material. Many experts see this as the beginning of a global economic catastrophe.

References

Acemoglu, D. & Akcigit, U. (2012). Intellectual property rights, competition, and innovation. Journal of the European Economic Association, 10(1): 1-42.

Demsetz, H. (1967). Toward a theory of property rights. The American Economic Review, 57(2): 347-359.

Ivus, O. (2011). Trade-related intellectual property rights: industry variation and technology diffusion. Canadian Journal of Economics, 44(1): 201–226.

Kumar, N. (2003). Intellectual property rights, technology and economic development: Experiences of Asian Countries. Economic and Political Weekly, 38(3): 209-215+217-226.

Maskus, K. E. (1998). The role of intellectual property rights in encouraging foreign direct investment and technology transfer. Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law, 9(109): 82-107.

Rai, K. A. (1999). Intellectual property rights in biotechnology: Addressing new technology. Wake Forest Law Review, 34: 827-845.

Snyder, N. (2010). Intellectual Property Rights and China: A survey of adjudicated trademark dispute cases from Guangdong Province. WULR, 3(3):82-107.

Yang, L. & Maskus, K. E. (2008). Intellectual property rights, technology transfer and exports in developing countries. CESIFO, working paper (2464): Category 7 Trade Policy.

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