The issue of intellectual property is viewed differently by different groups involved in biomedical research: researchers; academic institutions; corporate, government, and philanthropic sponsors; and society. The members of these groups do not always agree even among themselves; within government and academe, for instance, there are different and competing schools of thought. Many in academe believe that intellectual property rights are limited and that the openness and intellectual interdependence that marked and contributed to the rise of the research university are anathema to notions of intellectual ownership and control. In discussing this view, the author considers the issues of control that are implicit in concepts of ownership and property, concluding that any emphasis on profit and control constitutes a stance at variance with the outlook that has driven much of medicine's success throughout history. In supporting intellectual property claims, some suggest (often by implication) that medical advances would be less frequent or significant if exclusive control and access to profit were eliminated or reduced. The history of research, on the contrary, shows that university research for centuries yielded major results without the incentive of patents and still does. Another major concern is the open flow of information, which could be restricted by intellectual property controls. Sharing information is not merely a good deed, a commendable practice - such sharing tends to produce overwhelmingly good consequences for all those who share and for the society that is ultimately paying for the research enterprise.
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