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Another moral hypothetical 
28th-Apr-2010 11:41 am
Zoidberg
Moral hypothetical: Suppose that you have spent all of your adult life working to create a pill to cure a major disease (e.g. Aids). After sacrificing everything (time, family, money) you succeed and develop a successful pill. You start a company and market the pill. Then, a non-profit organization analyzes your pill and begins to manufacture a much cheaper version of it and distribute it to third world nations without your permission. This causes you a significant loss of profit, forcing you to lay off half of your company's employees.

Assume that you can stop the non-profit company by going to court and getting an injunction that will force them to cease what they're doing.

Poll #1557538 Drug Hypothetical

In the hypothetical above, would you take legal action to stop the non-profit organization?

Yes
30(45.5%)
No
35(53.0%)
Comments 
28th-Apr-2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
I voted "no," but then I'm coming from the perspective of someone who isn't motivated by profit. If anything, I'd probably be working for the non-profit organization instead of creating my own business to market the drug. So many low-income folks can barely afford to pay for basic living expenses, and the cost of medication is exorbitant; having been there, I wouldn't want adding to their financial troubles on my conscience.
28th-Apr-2010 06:56 pm (UTC)
But how did you pay for the researching of the drug then?
28th-Apr-2010 06:58 pm (UTC)
After sacrificing everything (time, family, money) you succeed and develop a successful pill. You start a company and market the pill.

If I read and understood that correctly, the research was done before establishing the company to market it. It doesn't say how the research was paid for.
28th-Apr-2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
Ah, okay. I guess I read it that you put your own money and time into the research and development. I can only imagine how much in debt I would be. However, once I recouped my money, I would be happy to make the drug cheaper and perhaps even help create the non-profit. Drugs should not be so expensive. Too bad the OP could not find a donor to help establish the drug. We need more philanthropists. ;) I...still am not sure how to answer the poll, though. :P
28th-Apr-2010 07:04 pm (UTC)
That's possible, now that you mention it. They could have taken out thousands of dollars in loans and are still paying them back. This actually seems to be a big problem for those in the medical field, because the cost of student loans and malpractice insurance is ridiculously exorbitant.

Which leads me to wonder, just WHY is all of that so expensive in the first place? =P It didn't used to be as bad as it is now. But that's a rant that's best reserved for another time, since I've got to take off pretty quick. XD
28th-Apr-2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
Did you research this cure for AIDs for profit, or for humanitarian reasons?
(Deleted comment)
28th-Apr-2010 07:32 pm (UTC)
But doing so would not encourage as many people to go into the field and thus there would be a lot of demand for a non-profit service. It's a great idea, but it is a huge catch-22-type thing.
(Deleted comment)
28th-Apr-2010 07:34 pm (UTC)
Sounds like you're out of tune with your market. Piracy exists when there's a large discrepancy between what you're legitimately charging and what the public is willing to pay for it. You should be asking yourself what's driving these people to pirate your product, and why they're willing to stake their health on a cheap knockoff rather than purchasing from you.

Of course, you could just go Galt and stop contributing to society entirely.
28th-Apr-2010 08:51 pm (UTC)
I agree with this completely.

Also, I'm curious if OP's hypothetical situation accounts for patent term (I'm assuming I had the drug patented before I began marketing it, because honestly it'd be pretty stupid not to after throwing that much away on it). Does this nonprofit organization begin marketing their generic after my patent term has expired (which I'd be okay with), or are they producing their generic while my drug is still under patent (in which case I'd go after them with all the legal resource and precedent at my disposal, for the sake of my business at the very least)?
28th-Apr-2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
If the inventor of the drug invested a great deal of money into research and development of the drug, is it wrong for him or her to factor that into the price of the drug? Is it moral for the pirate to seize the market by making the inventor have to bear all those costs without being able to recover any of them? Those are some ethical considerations that can easily get overlooked in this scenario I think.
28th-Apr-2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
I also want to point out that piracy has its own costs, such as reverse-engineering, manufacturing, distribution, legal expenses, and outright risk. Successful piracy is often a sign that there's something seriously wrong with your business plan.

I absolutely agree that the inventor should be free to charge whatever he wishes for a product he created. R&D is not free and definitely contributes to that cost, but ultimately, if someone is counterfeiting your product its because the market does not think it is worth what you think it is. Part of marketing a product is predicting how well it will sell at the price you've set without going broke. I think you should sue the non-profit for destroying your own sales, but that you should also re-evaluate what you're charging in order to discourage piracy.
28th-Apr-2010 09:08 pm (UTC)
I would say no, because I would have devoted my life to this because of it's positive impact on health, rather than profit.
28th-Apr-2010 10:15 pm (UTC)
I voted no. It would be hard to lose people/money/business but if you have cured a major disease then that means more than the rest of it.

The only possibility I would do (keep in mind I know nothing about the industry/intricacies of it all) is make a cooperative effort.
28th-Apr-2010 10:22 pm (UTC)
It was ethically wrong (and legally wrong if you have a current patent) of them to do what they did. It would however be morally wrong for one to monopolize something like a pill to cure a major disease by getting an injunction against the non-profit.
28th-Apr-2010 10:55 pm (UTC)
I think that many people assume from the hypothetical that the inventor is trying to hold sick people for ransom by charging an exhorbitent amout for the drug. But what if the inventor simply wants to recover what has been invested in research and development of the drug. Is it wrong for the inventor to want to recover those, and is it right for the pirate to make the inventor eat those costs? Also, what if the inventor wants the injunction to stop others with less noble intentions from profitting from his or her work, and is willing to sell at a reduced rate to impoverished nations? (I'm not being critical of your reasoning, I only mean to point out that these kinds of ethical issues are never as clear as they might first appear.)
28th-Apr-2010 11:07 pm (UTC)
In the absence of profit motive, the inventor only seeking to cover his costs is operating a non-profit organization by definition. I think he would be well within his rights, legally and ethically, to put a stop to an organization creating knockoffs of his work
29th-Apr-2010 12:57 am (UTC)
This is exactly what I was thinking.
29th-Apr-2010 01:31 am (UTC)
The impoverished 3rd world people weren't buying the drug anyway.
29th-Apr-2010 03:52 am (UTC)
Intellectual Property exists for a reason.
(Deleted comment)
29th-Apr-2010 01:31 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry that it fails to meet your exacting standards.
(Deleted comment)
30th-Apr-2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
I said no, but I probably would consider taking legal action because I had to lay off half of my employees.
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