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July 20, 2005
Arr, Me Hearties!
Reader SP sends along this speculation:
"Something that comes up every now and then when discussing IP issues and freedom to operate is to dream about having a ship or island that's in international waters and free from all international patent laws. Obviously you can't sell things made on the ship in any country that are covered by composition of matter, but any patented processes could be performed there, and people who wanted to use patented matter could go there for treatment. . ."
He passes along a link to this blog, which is discussing this news item. There's an outfit called SeaCode that plans to anchor a ship just outside US waters off Los Angeles, stock it full of coders, and crank out software at outsourcing prices (while staying in the same time zone as Silicon Valley.)
And the thing is, something similar to SP's idea already goes on. Multinational US companies, for example, run assays in Europe if they're blocked by a US patent. And there's Panlabs, part of MDS Pharma Services. They run all sorts of assays for you, hundreds of the things, and some of them are clearly covered by other people's patents in some of their customer service zones. But they have that taken care of by being all over the place, including some spots that many assay patents don't necessarily reach (Taipei, to pick a big example, where their main assay lab is.)
The difference between this sort of thing and SeaCode is that the assay companies aren't primarily driven by labor costs. Larger companies use them because they don't keep all these screens running all the time, and it's a convenient one-stop way to profile interesting compounds. (Including, of course, some assays that you probably just can't run.) But they're not particularly cheap, although when you work out the cost of establishing a new assay of your own, they don't look as bad. . .
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