Segments in this Video

Berlin's Patent Office (02:45)


Patent laws were established to encourage inventors to share knowledge with the public. Patents have been taken out on human genes in the U.S. Filmmaker Hannah Leonie Prinzler travels to New York to learn about a case pitting cancer patients against researchers.

Patenting Breast Cancer Genes (04:10)

Lawyer Daniel Ravicher set up the Public Patent Foundation to help plaintiffs against Myriad Genetics. Lisbeth Ceriani's health insurance wouldn't cover genetic testing for the BRCA1 gene due to its patent status.

Patent System (03:31)

Ravicher explains that the U.S. Patent Office was created to benefit industry. Prinzler meets with James Dyson who invented a bag less vacuum cleaner. He spent hundreds of thousands of pounds patenting his design while incurring development debt, and says the system hasn't benefited him.

International Patent Competition (03:23)

Japan started to approach the U.S. in numbers of patents taken in 1980. In response, the U.S. changed patent rules to include academic research and ideas. Companies in different countries began patenting versions of inventions, rather than originals.

Manipulating Patent Language (02:37)

A Silicon Valley lawyer explains that the wording in patent claims must be "original" enough to be granted a patent, yet broad enough to prevent competitor infringement.

Blackmail Tools (02:13)

Obscure technical patents can be dangerous to small firms and entrepreneurs. Patent trolls buy patents to threaten other companies with lawsuits. Most small inventors will pay "bribes" rather than millions of dollars to defend their patents in court.

Patent Litigation System (03:02)

"Rembrandts in the Attic" shows managers how to use patents to reduce market competition. IT companies accumulate patent portfolios to avoid being blackmailed, but the industry engages in reciprocal lawsuits. Ultimately, consumers pay the costs.

Protecting against Industrial Espionage (03:01)

In the U.S., patent plaintiffs don't have to pay legal costs, if losing a case. Dyson won his case against Hoover and now has an intellectual property department. Research and development employees are forbidden from disclosing anything work-related to family and friends.

World Intellectual Property Organization (02:16)

States want protection against industrial espionage. A U.N. branch seeks to protect patents, brands, and copyrights—viewing knowledge as a national resource. Industry giants profited most in the tension between social access and private profit.

Access in Developing Countries (02:30)

Patented medicine is too expensive for many Indian citizens. HIV patients lacking health insurance are unable to purchase treatments. Pharmaceutical companies refuse to drop prices, in order to protect Western markets.

Circumventing U.S. Patent Laws (02:19)

Gandhi encouraged a local pharmaceutical industry; India abolished medication patents in the 1960s. Doctors Without Borders asked Indian companies to develop a generic version of AIDS medication; most is exported to Africa.

Binding Intellectual Property Agreements (02:55)

During initial WTO negotiations, developing countries were expected to protect intellectual property in exchange for exporting jobs overseas. India was forced to reintroduce medicine patents; generics are restricted to expired patents. Trade restrictions favor patent holders.

Basmati Rice Controversy (02:05)

In 1997, a Texas company patented a "new" variety of basmati rice that matched a traditional variety. The Indian government contested the patent in U.S. courts and won.

Gene Campaign (03:25)

Geneticist Suman Sahai founded an NGO to protect Indian agricultural resources from being patented. Rice farmers are trained to collect and conserve genetic material in closely guarded seed banks.

Call for Abolishing Patents (02:23)

Economist Michele Boldrin argues that the patent system is a sign of innovative decline in industrialized nations, and that companies use patents to establish monopolies. Without them, entrepreneurship would thrive.

Local Motors (03:07)

The auto industry is slow to innovate because of high investment. In Arizona, engineers are developing vehicle prototypes contributed by an online community. Independent car designers view publishing their ideas on the internet as protection.

Open Sourcing and Innovations (03:49)

The Creative Commons Licensing System protects Local Motors' car prototypes. The Honeybee Network shares basic technologies that can be individually tailored, such as a motorbike tractor that bypasses patent laws.

Patent Resistance Movement (02:10)

Honeybee Network founder Anil Gupta links open sourcing with political democracy. Gene banks shared collective knowledge and inventor networks challenge industrial monopolies. The U.S. Supreme Court rejects Myriad's patent on BRCA1, which was about to run out.

Credits: The Patent Wars (00:31)

Credits: The Patent Wars

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The Patent Wars

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



This documentary uncovers who profits from intellectual property, and who bears the economic and social consequences. In 2012, giant technology companies like Apple and Google invested more money into patent infringement lawsuits than they spent on the development of new innovations. But it is not a virtual war being fought only over market shares and equity prices. Filmmaker Hannah Leonie Prinzler interviews British inventor James Dyson and American business gurus in Silicon Valley. She visits the world’s patent headquarters in Geneva and travels to India, the world’s largest manufacturer of generic medicines. She investigates India’s measures to protect genetic resources and meets Anil Gupta, the “Gandhi of Innovation.” Finally, she tours an Arizona warehouse where the first open-source car is being developed.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL115484

ISBN: 978-1-68272-894-9

Copyright date: ©2013

Closed Captioned

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Not available to Home Video and Publisher customers.

Only available in USA and Canada.