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Free software, free computing => patented results?

Free software, free computing => patented results?

Posted Jun 10, 2008 3:48 UTC (Tue) by roelofs (guest, #2599)
Parent article: Fedora harnesses the power of idle computers with Nightlife

Is anyone else discomfitted by the thought that many of the positive/useful results produced by all this donated CPU time will undoubtedly be patented and either spun off into for-profit startups or licensed to already immensely wealthy megacorporations? Stanford may be the poster child for such commercial spinoffs, but it's by no means unique; TTBOMK, most major research universities now operate this way.

I'm thinking specifically of biotech here, for which patents are the lifeblood (so to speak). The biomedical/pharma industry is already the single biggest obstacle to useful US patent reform, and while it would be unfair to lay the entire US healthcare mess at its feet, biotech patents are certainly a contributor to said mess. I don't think it's a coincidence that all of the specific research examples listed by Dr. Laidig are related to biotechnology. That's where many of the most pressing and computationally difficult problems lie, and it's also unquestionably where the big money is. Extraterrestrials, gravity waves, prime numbers, and the hypothetical transuranic "island of stability" just aren't in the same league.

Btw, I'm not claiming this is a new concern, nor one that's unique to Nightlife; the same questions arise for Folding@Home and any number of taxpayer-funded research programs, for example. I'm just surprised that it wasn't mentioned as an issue alongside energy consumption.

Greg


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