Patents, Copyrights & Licence Agreements

Toby Bradshaw toby at stein1.u.washington.edu
Wed Nov 17 16:41:37 EST 1993


In article <CGnGuL.KuD at ccu.umanitoba.ca>,
Andre Hamel <hamel at ccu.umanitoba.ca> wrote:
>
>Why don't governments pass laws prohibiting such activities ?!?!?!?!?

You're worried about inefficiency and wastefulness and want to put the 
*government* in charge?  Where's the smiley? :)

> Sure
>... whatever the market will bear! But this is taxpayers $$, used for
>betterment of all.

Sakes, what are you Canucks smoking! :)  "For the betterment of all"?  My
taxes go for a lot of things, and the "betterment of all" is only an
accidental by-product of some of them.

The federal taxes that are disbursed to private companies to purchase
their patented products aren't being stolen, they're supposedly being
used to produce added value (in many different currencies) via your
research (hey, maybe the Canadian gov't will slap the VAT on your
research :).  If you don't like what the company charges, use another
method, organize a boycott, or challenge the legality of the patent
in court.  I suppose you could argue that the gov't can limit the
profits a company makes on a patented product because it has given
the company a licensed monopoly.  I wouldn't make that argument, though,
unless you want to see companies give up or reduce in-house research.

>For example, we regularly purchase a few boxes of 500x 15 mL Corning screw cap
>tubes from Canlab for $120 (Cdn), recently we purchased a box by rush
>purchase order (instead of standard purchasing department tendering, etc,
>which takes months), and the price was $230 per box. Well, we had to talk
>to several folks at Canlab before convincing them to HONOR their original
>price. Sure, price can go up a FEW %, but not 100% in span of a few WEEKS!
>And we didn't have systems contract, standing order, etc ... simply had
>THAT lower price for that product ... which one of their customer service
>managers stated was a "one time price" for us .... BULL F'ing SH__!

Do you expect to pay the same price for milk at a convenience store
and at a supermarket?  There's a cost associated with speed and
convenience.  Do you feel "price-gouged" when you use Federal
Express (or CAN equivalent) because you waited till the last minute
to send of your NSERC grant?  Clearly you think that some number lower
than 100% markup is appropriate.  Who should set that figure?

>I've talked with ALL the different companies involved in the tendering
>process, and am "assured" that the bids are closed ... yet how does this
>explain FREQUENT gouging ... I can under stand their reasons for
>providing discounts off their catalogue prices whenever bulk purchases are
>involved (often 30%  discounts) ... but I more often than not find it
>difficult believing them when in situations like the one I mentioned above.

They're trying to make money.  Hit them where they live if you don't
like their tactics.

>I've experienced (and heard similar stories) such actions TOO many times
>to bother sharing here. I can understand pricing of products that a company
>spends $$ R&Ding, but NOT such nonsense for standard items (that one can
>often buy ... and we do anyway ... at KMart, etc) ... on other hand,
>"specialty" items (enzymes, patented products, etc) ought to be priced
>according to reasonable profit margins ...  but, items that are bread and
>butter to MANY/MOST of their customers ... come on ... talk about pork
>barreling!

Define "reasonable".  The devil's in the details.

>:^) :^)  I haven't yet learned how to make my own micro centrifuge tubes
>... and micropipet tips, etc! ('tis why some labs wash/reuse such items,
>especially TEACHING labs!).

My technician recently had some microtiter plates made at a plastics 
company.  They cost about US$0.25 each vs. the catalog price of $1-$5
each.  If you think there's so much money it, start a company and compete
on price.  Personally, I think there's a lot of slop in the market for
scientific supplies and equipment, and that prices are too high.  I'm
too busy to do more than complain, and that isn't likely to help a hell
of a lot.

>Regarding "overpriced" reagents, etc ... I can quickly estimate such items
>easilly accounting for 1/3 to 1/2 of our grant expenditures. Thus, if such
>items were priced more reasonably, we could readilly expect to see our
>grant monies going at least 20% further ... thus allowing ofor hiring of
>another technician PLUS incidental supplies that that extra staff could
>utilize.

And yet biochemists cheerfully spend these same tax $$ on distilled phenol
at 5-10X the cost of doing it yourself, as detailed on this newsgroup
recently.  Would you recommend that they be stripped of their grants for
misappropriation of funds?  How is this different from taking first class
flights to a meeting when coach class will do the job? We could all go
back to making all our reagents ourselves, like Kornberg used to do.  If
you look at the price of even common lab chemicals they make gold look
cheap.  Still, there's no doubting that the easy (if expensive)
availability of reagents has been for "the betterment of all" -- all who
can afford them. There is no "right to do research" at public expense, and
who do you want to have in charge of what you spend your grant money on? 

>"I'm not politically incorrect ... just euphemistically challenged"! 
>(source unknown ... looking into it though :^)

-Toby Bradshaw
toby at u.washington.edu



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