Policy ForumIntellectual Property

Commons-Based Strategies and the Problems of Patents

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Science  20 Aug 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5687, pp. 1110-1111
DOI: 10.1126/science.1100526

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The effects of patents on scientific research and access to medicine are hotly debated. While providing incentives for R&D, patents increase the costs of research tools and raise cost barriers on access to drugs. This Policy Forum reviews the experience of free software, distributed computing, and other forms of commons-based peer production. It then proposes two complementary avenues open to scientists and universities to alleviate the costs of overly protective patent systems.