[ExI] (The Independent 2013-08) Plumpy'Nut: The lifesaver that costs... well, peanuts

Ben Zaiboc bbenzai at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 18 13:57:32 UTC 2013

Dave Sill <sparge at gmail.com>

> On Tue, Sep 17, 2013 at 3:51 PM, Tomasz Rola <rtomek at ceti.pl> wrote:
>>  If you were swimming in the open seas, would you want to be thrown a
>>  generic safety raft or just a raft?
> I would accept whatever is offered, of course. The patent issue really
> only comes into play when the raft is purchased. If the rescue service
> is soliciting donations to buy rafts, donors may well care whether the
> rafts are produced by for-profit ventures or by non-profits. It could
> be that rafts produced by the for-profit makers are a better value,
> but donors may still balk at the idea of a portion of their donation
> going toward the CEO's Porsche payment.
> If Plumpy'nut were produced by an entity that *didn't* enforce
> intellectual property rights on others who want to produce similar
> products (locally and more cheaply) then more starving people could be
> saved at less cost. That kind of pisses me off and makes me not want
> to support them.

Exactly.  The point is not 'what do you prefer?' but 'what is it possible to get?'

Patents on things like this are not immoral because they reduce people's choices, but because they kill.  It's not "Which kind of life-raft would you prefer?", it's "can you afford this life-raft, which is the only one available?".  "What's that you say?  You (or whoever else is paying for the rescue) can only afford a generic one?  Well, I'm not allowing them, so die".

There's no getting round the fact that if you hold a patent on a life-saving technology, and enforce that patent to prevent it being available for cheaper, people will die because of your decision.

Ben Zaiboc

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