Tuesday, July 6, 2010

More on SweetTango...

There is an interesting comment on the Minnesota Daily web-site today.

So interesting that I quote it in full:

From G. Edward Schuh* **
Intellectual Property Rights and the Land Grant Mission, 2004

* Presented at a Symposium on Intellectual Property Rights for the Public Good: Obligations of U.S. Universities in Developing Countries, St Paul, Minnesota, Apr. 28, 2004.

** Regents Professor of International Economic Policy, and Director, Orville and Jane Freeman Center for International Economic Policy, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Minneapolis.

These effects of intellectual property rights are the basic concerns in terms of impeding the mission of the land grant universities. There are a number of other points that need to be made in a related context, however.

First, the idea behind the land grant concept was that public support would be provided so the universities could provide public goods to society in each of their main functions.

Intellectual property rights weaken that concept at all levels and dimensions of the mission.

At the University of Minnesota, there are discussions at high levels over how the accumulated royalties from patents are to be allocated. Central administration wants to allocate those revenues so as to generate more such revenues, not towards the production of the University’s public goods.

An important part of that perception comes from the fact that the discussion is carried out by internal members of the University, without representatives of the private and public sectors being present[emphasis added]

The exclusion of "representatives of the private and public sectors" at this public land grant university has extended well beyond what Professor Schuh described. An excellent example is the licensing of the MN 1914 apple (SweeTango™).

President Bruininks and other university representatives grossly mischaracterize events when they say things like, "so SweeTango was made available to 80 growers in the state."

Allowing orchards to plant up to 1000 SweeTango trees occured after Minnesota apple growers, having been excluded from the original licensing process, complained to the state legislature.

This resulted in the legislature's request that the university establish a "Plant Licensing Task Force." (We can see why the university did not include anyone from the Applied Economics department (formerly Agricultural Economics) on the task force, even though their expertise is precisely what such a task force needs.)

From the final report of the Plant Licensing Task Force

The legislation establishing the task force had its origin in concerns about the University exclusively licensing a new apple variety “MN 1914” to Pepin Heights Orchard, Inc.

During the final days of the 2006 legislative session, a law was passed and signed by the governor establishing the task force and requesting the University refrain from implementing the MN 1914 apple license.

After conversations with the chairs of the legislative committees that passed the bill and the governor’s office, it was determined that by agreeing to amend the license, the University and Pepin Heights have taken appropriate measures to resolve any issues with the license [emphasis added].

Obviously "issues with the license" haven't been resolved and that is why the apple growers are suing, lawsuits being the means by which Minnesotans communicate with their public land grant university. "So I believe we have handled it well," says President Bruininks. Yikes.

And for a laugh:
"The University always prefers settlements to lengthy trials," he [Mark Rotenberg] said. (Minnesota Daily, March 24, 2008)
This was in reference to the Jimmy Williams lawsuit which the university recently lost.


My comment on the comment:

Part of the problem is that the Morrill Hall Gang treats the expense of the General Counsel's Office and the availability of outside counsel as a given.

And every year, including this, these expenses keep rising. If the Morrill Hall Gang had to pay even a tiny fraction of the legal expenses, I would guess that their attitude would quickly change.

The Gang behaves like a mega-corporation in using the legal system as a bludgeon.

It is sad that the General Counsel's office is more interested in building an empire than in giving the U good legal advice. Ultimately, it is the public checkbook that pays for the U's litigations.


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