Monday, June 27, 2005

"Breaking" Patents?

Grrr. The BBC makes me angry. Watch the use of language:
Brazil may break Aids drug patent

Brazil has threatened to break the patent on an anti-Aids drug in order to make a cheaper generic version....

Under Brazilian law, the government can break drug patents if it is deemed to be in the public interest. This would be the first time it would have done so.
Okay, this is something that gets deliberately obfuscated by western reporters all the time, so let's be clear: There is no international body that grants intellectual property laws. Period. There are organizations like WIPO, and the Berne Convention goes back more than a century now, but at the end of the day IP, like all property laws, is the purview of sovereign national governments. So Brazil can't "break" a patent - the Brazilian government gave Abbot Labs that patent, and can take it away whenever it wants, under Brazil's law.

Brazil is, quirkily enough, not bound by the patent laws of the United States. Bizarre, but true!

Now, if the headline used the word "revoked", instead of the emotionally-charged "break" (which is obviously meant to imply a crime) the BBC would at least be accurate.

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