Leon Rosenberg, Bristol-Myers Squibb
As late as the early 1980s, there remained a deep suspicion of intellectual property among investigators in academe, other research institutions, and government. Even though they understood that patents rewarded inventors for disclosing the nature of inventions to the public, patent law was not considered a mechanism for promoting dissemination of knowledge. Consequently, many scientists strongly opposed any role that their colleagues might have as founders of or collaborators in commercial enterprises. Some even objected to researchers having the status of inventors on university-owned or government-owned patents. In the opinion of many scientists, such relationships fostered unavoidable and unmanageable conflicts of interest. Today, there is greater appreciation and acceptance of the delicate balance that has now been struck in the laws governing intellectual property protection.
We have witnessed the development of an ever-closer alliance between universities, research institutions, government agencies, and private industry in the field of medical research. These increasingly productive, yet always complex, relationships are an accepted reality in today's medical-research enterprise. Their frequency and complexity, however, continue to highlight the inherent tension between two legitimate, yet competing, interests—the commercial incentive to protect intellectual property and the tradition of open communication and free flow of information within the scientific community. Undoubtedly, the many collaborative efforts that exist today will not subside, and there will be more tomorrow. Funding pressures on all parties will drive them closer together as scientists seek scarce research funds from all potential sources and companies seek to maximize their use of all sources of innovation. Thus, it is incumbent on the academic and government research communities and on private industry to communicate and understand each other's positions better. The necessarily different interests and different cultures on both sides of the equation will continue to present us with complex questions that defy simple answers.
Dissemination of research results is one of the most visible ways in which the competing interests intersect. Once new knowledge is created, researchers want to exchange it freely in the scientific community for replication, evaluation, and use. Publication, whether immediate or delayed, is not always welcomed by parties holding a commercial interest in the research. Nevertheless, most corporate entities recognize that it is critical to attract and retain the cooperation of top scientists. As indicated by Blumenthal and others (1996), it is common for