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The danger of "intellectual property"

Posted by plosmedicine on 30 Mar 2009 at 23:59 GMT

Author: Richard Stallman
Position: President
Institution: Free Software Foundation
Submitted Date: August 31, 2006
Published Date: September 4, 2006
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

The article "How Do Intellectual Property Law and International Trade
Agreements Affect Access to Antiretroviral Therapy?"
is very useful for its substance, but due to an unwise choice of terminology,
it will tend to mislead the public in a way that the authors and editors
probably are not aware of, which will promote the sorts of abuse that it seeks
to criticize. This results from the use of the term "intellectual property".

This article uses the terms "intellectual property law" and "patent
law" interchangeably, which is like using "Asia" and "India"
synonymously. However, most readers will recognize the latter as
loose use of language, so they will not really be led astray. Only a
few will realize that identifying patents with "intellectual property
law" is just as mistaken, so real confusion will result.

I ask the editors of PLOS Medicine, and the readers and writers of
articles, to be on guard against confusing use of the term
"intellectual property" -- which means, nearly all use of the term.
See for more explanation
of the problems of this term.

No competing interests declared.