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RE: A moral question

  • Subject: RE: A moral question
  • From: "Andrew Lietzow" <alietzow@myfamily.com>
  • Date: 14 Mar 2004 08:13:35 -0700

Good morning, Glen, and list, 

RE:>>A lot of plants   (those without patents) cab be TC'ed without permission or
offering the original hybridizer a red cent.

While I am writing this from Colorado, and not Iowa, I believe I can claim that I am on the same planet with you, though definitely not in the same neighborhood with Chic :-).  However, I do agree with most of what Chic states regarding the patenting and propagation issue.  

Legislating morality is a difficult row to hoe; perhaps as percarious an endeavor as attempting to define "indecency". However, without fear of being too greatly in error, particularly on the legal aspects of this issue, I'll take a stab at this one.   Bill can correct me if such is warranted.  

It seems to me that when one purchases a patented plant, the right of reproducting that plant through vegative, micropropagation, DNA cloning, or other means, is expressively prohibited.  The only "license" conveyed for personal use is for this one plant.  If it reproduces itself through vegatative means, the owner of the "license" has no right to redistribute those progeny without the express written consent of the patent holder.  The progeny are simply part of the original plant and still part of the legal protection provided to the patent holder. 

This is similar to how software is sold; unless it is with an open license such as Linux, Apache, The Gimp, or other GNU/GPL-licensed software, the purchaser is only obtaining a license to use the software for their personal benefit, and not for the benefit of any others.   Microsoft is a noteworthy enforcer of such proprietary licenses.  

On the other hand, developers who distribute their software under a GNU/GPL license expressly prohibit the purchaser from making their software proprietary.  Any licensed user can redistribute that software, and they can charge for the re-distribution or any value-added additions, but they cannot charge others for the underlying, originally licensed product.  Thus, open software licensing is the opposite of what a capitalistically-motivated software developer wants to do.   It's the type of license that controls future distribution and dictates what the user can do with the product.

By licensing under GNU/GPL, the developer is expressly ENCOURAGING free distribution while licensing softwware as proprietary expressly DISCOURAGES distribution (such would be illegal).   

It seems to me that patenting a plant is the only way to expressly discourage (prohibit) distribution while not doing so expressly encourages distribution (so others can enjoy the plant, too!).  To deny a purchaser the right to propagate a NON-PATENTED plant is probably "immoral" when that is part of the implied benefits purchased with a non-patented plant.  Were it otherwise, many purchasers would refuse to purchase that specific plant.  Specifically, when there has been no agreement denying the purchaser rights of propagation and subsequent distribution, and in fact the purchaser paid for such rights, to deny them those rights seems immoral and even illegal!

This is what patenting is all about, right?  Of course, people are free to establish written agreements and I think this could address your concerns, or any other hybridizers for that matter.  Getting people to sign an agreement to not distribute seems like a good idea, if the hybridizer wants to protect a potential revenue stream.   Two or three simple sentences and a signature would readily address the problem, incurring little or no costs for this protection to the seller, and avoids the the extensive work and costs of patenting.  But to hold purchasers to some kind of implied prohibition against propagation and resale, especially after the purchaser has paid for those rights, just seems "immoral".   That's why I'm a huge open software advocate.   Linux--the choice of a GNU generation! 

Wouldn't you agree? 


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