Tuesday, January 10, 2017

BJHS Special Issue on Patents

The December 2016 issue of the British Journal for the History of Science is a special issue titled Owning Health: Medicine and Anglo-American Patent Cultures, and reading through it has had the odd effect of making me simultaneously more disgusted with, and hopeful for, the U.S. patent system. The disgust is for the law as it is, as taking a historical view brings into sharp relief how inappropriate it is for cases like Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Mayo v. Prometheus and Alice v. CLS to graft 19th century anti-patent sentiment onto 21st century research and development. The hope is for the law as it is likely to be, as history also illustrates that the pressures which lead people to seek patent protection are deep-rooted and can ultimately sway even the most vociferous patent critics.

As it happens, I'm a firm believer in the much less quotable corollary to the saying "those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it" - i.e., "those who do not learn history make the rules, and so we are all doomed to repeat it, but that repetition can be made less onerous by learning history so you have some idea of what comes next." Accordingly, throughout the month I'll be blogging the individual articles from the December 2016 BJHS special issue, I'll be blogging the individual articles from the December 2016 special issue, addressing not only what they say about the past, but also what I think they can tell us about the future.

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