This is the last post of the serie of posts that I have been publishing about Intellectual Property. As we have already talked about the main topics concerning IPs and their protection, in this case, in order to analyse the concept from another point of view, I want to focus in ethics in relation with IPs in the industry. Yes, ethics, the topic that is frequently forgotten by a lot of companies and people.
First of all, in order to conclude with the main topics that most of the people will consider the most important part, I want to present an overview of what have been published in the previous posts: definition, relevance/importance and controls and auditing. So, what is Intellectual Property? As is presented by the World Intellectual Property Organization: “Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce“. These IPs are protected with laws, including patents, copyrights and trademarks. The relevance of IPs in industry is much more than evident, as a huge part of the actual economy is based in or is strongly influenced by IPs. Taking into account the importance of IPs, they should be protected and respected, and this fact generates risks for companies, as they should be fast in this area, apply the correct methods and avoid legal issues. For this objective, it should be considered essential the use of a formed auditing team in this topic, which will detect the actual risks in the company in relation with IPs, and propose the necessary controls to fix the existing problems and avoid possible troubles.
Once reviewed all the previously presented scope, let’s talk about the ethics inside the world of Intellectual Property. What is acceptable to protect? Any type of idea? Just technology for “leisure”? Any type of medicaments and medical technology? When is it acceptable to protect during a certain time period and then open to the public (certain technologies that can help to improve the actual technology strongly…), and when it must be considered necessary to publish an idea and do not protect it(medicines…)?. The necessity of laws to protect IPs is obvious, but I consider the necessity to avoid the hiding of information, ideas or products essential to save lives or make the society and the world better, much stronger than any business interest. So, in my opinion, it should be put much more interest and pressure in this field, creating new laws and applying it in a very severe way. It is true that the period to maintain patents are more strict when talking about patents in medical fields, but I consider it still inefficient, as we can find periods of 14 years or more for medical IPs protection! The companies are in some way moral agents, and they have, apart from rights, ethical responsibilities. It cannot be allowed what is happening in the actual situation, in which, for example, pharmaceutical companies protect patents during years. Patents that can save people’s lives, that can help people to live more, or live with less pain. And then, they use legal tricks, taking advantage of the “loopholes” in laws, to continue protecting their benefit at the expense of the health and lives of people. Such as waiting until their patent is about to expire, to modify or add something to their product, in order to protect it again and continue with their business. It makes me sick. And not only that, this situation provokes the emergence of monopolies that make the medicaments or other necessary products pretty expensive for a lot of people, “force” the state to pay part of that unfair price, and all the society face the music, reducing our life quality. Let’s apply bioethics and social ethics to the Intellectual Property field and its protection laws.
Another point to be analysed when talking about ethics in the field of IPs, is the technological development and the innovation. Some people consider that the patents and other ways of protecting IPs are slowing down the progress, while other people think that it is stimulating the creation of new ideas and products. In this debate, it is hard to positionate in one side, as each case is different, and in my opinion sometimes these laws can be negative, and sometimes positive, depending on how they are applied, what is protected and how much time. This field is harder to analyse, much more subjective, and generalizations can be double-edged. So, I think that it is important to be analytic each time a situation of this type happens, and consider all the possible consequences, not only from the point of view of the company that is trying to protect an idea or product, but when the organizations and institutions that offer these protections play their role too.
In conclusion, the importance and relevance of IP in industry is evident, as well as their protection, including the necessity of laws and the auditing in companies to avoid steal of ideas. But, the IP laws should be used to encourage the creation of new ideas, the evolution of technology and society, to protect the ideas and give to the author the authority (yes, redundant) and reward her/him in some way. Not for creating unfair monopolies and make money at expense of the necessity of people, ignoring the good that an idea can do to society, environment and the world in general.
 Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus (2016 Update). U.S. Economics and Statistics Administration and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
 Intellectual property rights intensive industries and economic performance in the European Union. European Patent Office and European Union Intellectual Property Office.
 The Pharmaceutical Industry and the Patent System. Bruce Lehman President, International Intellectual Property Institute.
 La ética y el acceso a los medicamentos. Juan Esteva de Sagrera, professor of Legislation and Pharmaceutical Deontology.
 ¿La única patente buena es la patente muerta?. Santiago Navajas Gómez de Aranda (available in Deusto Electronic Library Resources – Oceano).