Delays in Disseminating Information

One view holds that researchers awaiting a patent they have applied for are likely to withhold information until the patent is granted, therefore delaying dissemination of important information (Looney, 1994, p. 244). An opposing view contends that patents provide protection and thus permit disclosure of scientific knowledge before an actual product is ready for the market. The consequence of not being allowed to patent would lead to the more detrimental consequence of maintaining secrecy in research.

A leading U.S. geneticist, David Botstein, who shares in a number of genetic technology patents, argues that not only do patents protect a scientist's self-interest, but they also promote the dissemination of research findings. Botstein agrees with those who say that the one of the primary purposes of patents is to reduce the economic motivation for excessive trade secrecy, which has a negative effect on progress (Hoke, 1995, p. 1). Jonathan King, a molecular biologist, proposes a directly opposite view:

Contrary to the claims of the biotech industry, gene patents retard progress in the biomedical arena, introduce secrecy where openness is essential, and slow the publication and sharing of important results. This follows from the fact that once a result is reported publicly, it cannot be patented. Thus researchers drawn into the web of the patent process do not report their results, even informally, until they have passed through the expensive patent application and granting process (King, 1996, p. 11).

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