Green nano and too much intellectual property

US Congress approved the reauthorization of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Act in June 2008. First approved in 2003, this new version of the act includes, for the first time, provisions for “a proactive research plan to account for environmental, health, and safety issues involved in nanotechnology research.” There’s more from the news release here. Jim Hutchison, a chemistry professor from the University of Oregon, is one of the leaders in ‘green’ nanotechnology and one the prime advocates for the new inclusion to the act. There’s an interview with Jim Hutchision here.  The Senate was supposed to be considering the revised bill now (during September 2008) but, given the financial services and structure situation in the US, I would imagine that this bill will be set aside for a time.

There’s a new report from the The Innovation Partnership (based in Canada) suggesting that intellectual property laws are stifling innovation and cutting off whole areas of research. The discussion centers largely around biotechnology but the freezing of innovation is felt everywhere not just in the sciences. There are more details in an article (which mentions nanotechnology at the end) here and in the report here. I gather that the report is advising that a new model for intellectual property law be adopted.

The entertainment industry (music, movies, books, etc.) is engaged in huge fights over intellectual property issues. (1) JK Rowling (Harry Potter books) just won her case against a publisher who was producing a Harry Potter lexicon. I gather that from a legal perspective (even with the current intellectual property laws in place) she shouldn’t have won and would likely lose on appeal. Of course, does the publisher have enough money to continue with an appeals process?  (2) The Canadian government introduced a draconian Copyright Act or revision to the current act which would make keeping a copy of an old tv programme illegal after a period of time. In other words, if you videotaped Buffy the Vampire Slayer eight years ago when it was on tv and you still have a copy, you’d be in violation of the new act. The proposed Act would create any number of new legal violations and I gather these new provisions were heavily influenced by some US-based lobby group.  From the writer’s perspective, I’m torn. I’m happy to share my work but I wouldn’t be happy to have someone copy my work and subsequently make a fortune from it.  I guess it’s a question of being fairly compensated for my work and getting acknowledgment of my contribution.

Getting back to JK Rowling and the lexicon, she’s gotten more than adequate compensation for her work from various sources and the lexicon attributes the work to her. The author of the lexicon has gone through the books and created a reference for anyone who reads Rowling’s books. Arguably the lexicon assists sales of her books because now a reader can look up a reference to a character in Book 5 who was first introduced in Book 2 and not mentioned since. The lexicon makes things easier for the reader.

1 thought on “Green nano and too much intellectual property

  1. Pingback: Idle thoughts about the OECD 2009 Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard, patents, and scientific productivity « FrogHeart

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