Intellectual property and the commercialization of research and development

Science and Engineering Ethics 11 (2):203-219 (2005)
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Concern about the commercialization of research is rising, notably in testing new drugs. The problem involves oversimplified, polarizing assumptions about research and development (R&D) and intellectual property (IP). To address this problem this paper sets forth a more complex three phase RT&D process, involving Scientific Research (R), Technological Innovation (T), and Commercial Product Development (D) or the RT&D process. Scientific research and innovation testing involve costly intellectual work and do not produce free goods, but rather require IP regulation. RT&D processes involve an unrecognized IP shift from a common IP right in public goods like information and knowledge to private IP in products and other hard assets. The question then is, what kind of IP right: private or common? Since scientific research and innovation testing require openness about adverse findings, and wide, low cost diffusion of results, they require a common, inclusive IP right. Common IP is appropriate to both sharing knowledge goods and recovering the cost of production. Research is furthermore compatible with commercialization and support by other social interests. On the other hand it is incompatible with the exclusionary private IP rights that permit restrictive publication or total suppression of information. Private IP rather than commercialization conflicts with the openness requirements of scientific research and innovation testing. Commercial funding, however, is in principle compatible with research and testing, especially when regulated by a common IP right. This reflects a pragmatic view of the fundamental interconnections of knowledge and other social interests



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