Tom Giovanetti on the R&D Treaty, and political science

Tom Giovanetti kindly sent me a link to his latest NGO bashing. This one titled: “IP skeptic NGOs as Marxists.” This is his attempt to label the various public health groups as Marxists, and his brief attempt to understand or describe a February 2005 proposal for one possible approach R&D Treaty.

First, I have told Tom Giovanetti several times that while his hysterical red baiting is amusing at times, it is also sometimes offensive and boring.

KEI has supported innovations in innovation policy, certainly. Tom seems to support the elimination of current flexibilities the current WTO/TRIPS framework, and demands a stronger, less flexible but elaborate global system of complex rules for patents and other types of intellectual property. Specifically, Tom wants to force every country to embrace very precise rules on the granting of legal monopolies, designed by governments as social engineers to stimulate private investment in R&D.

KEI thinks it is appropriate to consider some alternatives or a least a new emphasis in the global regime to support R&D. KEI would not focus entirely on high drug prices, as the sole mechanisms to stimulate R&D. This is entirely inappropriate in a world with enormous disparities in incomes.

KEI thinks the evolving global regime should be flexible in terms of instruments used to stimulate R&D, including of course various national preferences on rules for patents and other intellectual property rights, but also other instruments, such as multilateral agreements that would address the need for government funded research, as well as well as newer incentive mechanisms that reward investors in successful R&D products with money, rather than monopolies.

Even the industry trade association IFPMA supports more government funding for priority research. In Geneva this week the IFPMA called for $5 to $10 billion in new subsides for developing 8 new drugs for neglected diseases, a proposal that KEI and other NGOs will likely support in some form, after the details are elaborated and discussed. Why is the IFPMA proposal for government funded non-profit R&D consortiums not attracting Tom’s Marxist label? What about the UK/German, Indian and Kenyan proposals for an R&D fund? What about the G8 and Gates proposals on advanced market commitments? What about the NIH proposals for multilateral funding of open source vaccine research? Are we all Marxists when it comes to funding medical R&D?

In any event, the February 2005 R&D treaty proposal, which is only one of perhaps a dozen recent proposals for an R&D treaty, was designed to (1) give member states enormous flexibility in terms of the instruments to fund R&D, including strong or weak IPR, (2) to manage R&D projects and programs in their own ways, and (3) to use market incentives, including tradeable credits, to encourage decentralized actors to pursue research targets in areas of priority. I doubt that any simple ideological label is very accurate, since the treaty proposal incorporates many different ideas, made by a diverse set of persons (including even some provided in a very helpful Washington, DC consultation organized by USTR).

In the end, Tom will find that it is not so much ideology that brings people together in the new “i+a” movement, but it is the heart, and the growing recognition that a world should not be so impoverished or divided in terms of the benefits of innovation.

This is from the Giovanetti blog

At various times I have described the gaggle of activists that has congealed around opposition to intellectual property as “IP skeptics” (I think I may have coined that term), “anti-IP”, “anti-capitalist”, “anti-corporate,” “neo- Marxist,” etc. In my most recent blog entry, I referred to them as Marxists.

This label was, apparently, not appreciated. Though I should note that it was not denied.

So I’d like to make the case that, in fact, these activist NGOs are, in fact, Marxists, or at least that they advocate what can accurately be described as a Marxist agenda. I’ll leave it to others to decide if groups who push a Marxist agenda can accurately be described as Marxist.

I’ll construct my argument first by reminding us all of what Marxists actually believe and advocate. Then I’ll describe for you the pièce de résistance of their agenda, the Medical R&D Treaty.