This House Believes That Universities Should Not Claim Patents over the Products of Their Researchers


The good ol’ debate of whether does copyright actually protect their original creators and inventors, or on the contrary, do they actually harm potential insight and demotivate future research and delay improvement?

But, anyway, the wording of this motion actually makes things a little bit more complicated than just about this. Alright let’s go. Motion dissection time.

MegaSableye: “Holy sheet, somewhere along deconstructing this motion and doing the dissection, I just suddenly realized how complicated and ubiquitous this motion is going to be: I think that this one post entry this time will be one of those cases where I just write the direction and expected discourse of the debate and then leave only one-sentence assertions without explaining them because I will have been on the verge of losing my sanity by the end of the post.”

First word. “Universities”.

Problem number one will be its characterization. I am personally expecting clashes surrounding the glorification and/or discredit. The more Team Affirmative glorifies universities’ benevolence, or virtuoso, or professionalism, or w/e it is, especially towards their researchers, the more justification and the stronger the reason will be to have a claim over their researchers’ products. And vice versa. The more-much-eviler universities are characterized by Team Negative, the less grounds they will have over this claim of patents.

Problem number two is in regards towards stances. Pertaining to the words “Universities Should Not Claim Something over the Something Else of the People Who Work for Them”. This begs into question the stance of Team Affirmative regarding the ethicalities, moralities, legalities, and etc w/e it is regarding claiming. You should conduct more research and do more readings towards similar cases like this, especially since history has dictated and narrated us a lot of disputes and fights, and sometimes even legal actions and wars over these.. err… claimings.

Anyway, possible courses of actions for Team Affirmative: These are some options from a wide range of stances for you to choose from:

  1. One should never claim anything that belongs to someone or something else.
  2. Sometimes, one may claim some things that belong to someone or something else. But employers shouldn’t claim something from their employees.
  3. Sometimes, one may claim some things that belong to someone or something else. Including employers claiming something from their employees. But employers shouldn’t claim something which their employees made by themselves.
  4. Sometimes, one may claim some things that belong to someone or something else. Including employers claiming something from their employees. Including the things which were made by the employees themselves instead of the employers. But because this motion is about patents, you can’t. Patents get a special treatment.

I’ll stop right here and then continue later. Let’s review what we have already had here until this point:

(1) Just what is this “claiming” thing about? Is it ethical? Moral? Legal? Justified?

I am expecting that both Team Affirmative and Negative behave rationally and not adopt a blanket stance as in, Team Affirmative going ‘Claiming is universally immoral and illegal and unethical and unjustified! Nothing should ever be allowed! This claiming should be banned! Heil Hitler!’ that sort of thing, and, Team Negative going ‘We are not going to tolerate this form of government oppression and everybody and every body and every party and everyone and everything should have their right to execute their actions! Claiming is allowed on all circumstances! Fork the ethicalities and moralities and legalities and justifications! V for Vendetta!’ that sort of thing.

What I am expecting is for both teams to have an understanding that there is a certain threshold for the normality regarding claiming, and that this threshold is arbitrary. Get past the normality and you will find those cases where things are unethical. Or immoral. Or illegal. Or unjustified. Claiming can, and may, and should(!) be done. But when it is considered applicable to all things, what happens will be tyranny and oppression. From copyright owners, trademark possessors, and patent holders. But in a world where no claiming can be performed, what will happen is chaos and anarchy instead. So what this motion poses for debaters is for them to challenge the threshold of claiming’s arbitrariness, and see in which side of the fence does this motion get placed where. Is it before the threshold? Making it still justifiable? Or beyond the threshold? Making it immoral.

(2) What are these “universities” about? And where do they place along the lines of this “morality of claiming” analysis?

The analysis of claiming should be done on the perspective of every one. And everybody. And every body. That is because you are going to analyze the perspective of claiming on behalf of universities, and then use the previous ones (other actors/parties) you have analyzed as comparison in regards to these universities.

Compare the ethicalities and moralities and legalities and justification behind the claims of a company, for example. Over a logo, for example. Produced by their creative/marketing team, for example. Compared with this ethicalities and moralities and legalities and justification behind the claims of a university over a patent produced by their researchers.

Or, you know, other examples.

Notice that this headache over stances is also stemmed from the wording of the motion (the last two words): Their Researchers. Again, same like the problem number one for the first word of the motion (universities), this is also going to be about characterization. Characterize the researchers as being spoiled brats, parasites and freeloaders in a university, you justify how their universities will have the rights to take something over from them. Characterize them as being slaves, overworked and underpaid, you will prove that there is no moral/ethical or even legal grounds for their bosses to strip them one layer deeper of their basic rights and dignity.

Just.. one… little…. more….. thing. There could be a disagreement over the characterization of the relationship between a university and its researchers. The nature of that relationship is as debatable as the nature of the relationship between a teacher and her students. Or a lecturer and her freshmen. Is the relationship more like a producer-consumer one? A vendor-customer one? Or more like a parent-children one? My analysis of this motion so far assumes that the relationship between a university and its researchers is tantamount to the relationship between an employer and her employees. But there are other (still relevant) perspectives.

Anyway, more possible courses of actions for Team Affirmative (again, back to this once again, into the fray): These are some more options from a wide range of stances for you to choose from:

e. Sometimes, one may claim some things that belong to someone or something else. But finders keepers. Claimings should be irrelevant past the time-frame issue of the point of invention is already crystally clearly obvious and decided.

f. Sometimes, one may claim some things that belong to someone or something else. But silent partners shouldn’t claim something which is the work of their active partners. Claimings should be based on effort, energy, and power contributed to something, not based on monetary value (the amount of investment).

Notice that these new options assume that the relationship between a university and its researchers are being compared to that of a researcher and other fellow researchers, no longer to the relationship between an employer and her employees. Or, in case number (f), more towards to that of partners in a limited liability company. Or maybe to that of stockholders in a corporation.


g. Sometimes, one may claim some things that belong to someone or something else. But just because I invented an accounting system program using C++ which I developed when using Microsoft 2010, doesn’t mean that that accounting system program of mine will belong to it belongs to Bjarne Stroustrup. Or Bill Gates. They can’t claim my program. Claimings should be based solely on activity [again, just like in point (f)]. Not based on territorial aspect (or could be another form of investment – land and equipment – just like in point (f), too – just no money involved – but still has monetary value, though).

Notice that in point (g), the relationship between a university and its researchers are now (or can be interpreted as) being compared to that of a supplier and a customer.

What will be the most confusing part of this, and also what is going to make or break your arguments, regarding this characterization, is that the nature of justification varies so much depending on what parallel example you choose and use. Let’s talk about a pair of parents lending $50 to their teenage daughter to open a lemonade stand at the school’s festival. As the festival ends, the teenage daughter yielded a $150 turnover ($100 profit) – but doesn’t matter, because the parents eventually took all $150 of it and then said that it’s because their daughter had at least gained something, which is an invaluable experience of entrepreneurship. Or that it’s because they still pay for their daughter’s living expenses. Or that it’s because they still love each other.

Sounds justifiable and quite a happy-ending enough of a story, right? Yes, because their relationship is that of a family and the number is unsubstantial in the first place to begin with!

Now let me tell you a different story. This time it’s about that rich mustard of a friend who lent his working, entrepreneurial friend $1000 to establish a start-up company. The working friend spent his days and nights working his ash off whilst all that rich mustard had to do was just sit, kick back, relax, and enjoy. Upon the year end when the start-up company finally yielded a $5000 turnover, the rich mustard claimed the whole $4000 profit for his own, and leaving the working friend just enough with $1000 to cover the basic expenses (and pretty much, like, literally, the initial investment).

Get the big picture already? Okay now let’s have another stop here and review what extras we have had from before’s pit stop.

So, from before’s checkpoint, now we have:

(3) What are these “their researchers” about? How, if any, does this change the lines of analysis in point (2)?

So, (1) and (2) considered as done, we have pretty much tackled the issue of “This House Believes That Universities Should Not Claim Something” already. Okay, now evolve the motion one step more sophisticated from its simple form. It changes from “This House Believes That Universities Should Not Claim Something” into “This House Believes That Universities Should Not Claim Something from Their Researchers”. How the lines of analysis differ from point (2) is in the sense that now it is more specific towards a certain actor claiming something from another certain specific actor. No longer about a certain specific actor claiming.. something. From.. another thing. Or nothing, in particular, because generally speaking, anything will do. Any. Thing.

The point is, this line of analysis now asks for comparison between the different actors (and then, later on, things) that a university can, and will claim from.

The basis of comparison is going to go something like this:

If in point (2) you are just comparing the act of claiming in general, as in, literally, comparing the claiming of a university over something from some employees of theirs, compared to the claiming of a company over something from another different company,

then in this point (3) you are going to compare the act of claiming of a university over something from their researchers to that same university claiming from other universities, for example. Or claiming from the military. Or the ministry of defense. Or ministry of agriculture. Or of culture. Or education. Or w/e.

Then, along the lines of analyzing those comparisons, both teams will eventually arrive at the disagreement (or agreement) over the characterization of the relationship between a university and its researchers, talking about which parallel examples are equivalent, which ones are relevant, and whatnot.

Alright. Next word. Now, the fourth. “Claim”. Well, as a verb, which connects the subject and the object in a sentence, this piece of the motion as a word has actually been quite well-analyzed already by this point, I can say; thanks to the exhausting and extensive analysis of our subject (the university) and our object (their researchers). However, there is just one other tiny teeny wee weetle bit small aspect left of this word. It’s still relevant and integral, although albeit small. Claiming is also about the outcome, winning or losing.

Why does it matter? Well, because for one, Team Affirmative could be arguing about the tendency of superiors to win in lawsuits compared to subordinates. The fact that these universities are their researchers’ employers, their superiors, already poses a propensity towards more strength, a position of power, in winning claims. Team Negative, as always, the otherwise, the vice versa.

Next! Fifth word. “Patents”. The realm of debate surrounding this part of the motion wording is whether to treat patents as a special object, or to decide that its treatment is (should be) just the same as any other object. This WILL be a clash, when both Team Affirmative and Team Negative agree that:

  • Claims are legitimate. And legal. And moral. And ethical. And justified.
  • Universities have the legitimacy. And legality. And morality. And the justification. And it’s within the ethic code. To claim items from their researchers (regardless of how the characterization of their relationship turns out to be – with agreement, or without agreement).

What this means is that Team Affirmative auto-concedes the philosophy (whatever it is) that favors the stance of Team Negative in terms of the issue (ethicalities, moralities, bla bla bla.. that one, you know it already) of the activity ‘claiming’, the characterization of universities, and then their researchers, as well as their relationship. What Team Affirmative does is introducing a clause which will negate all the pre-established precedence, arguing that, “just because” these are patents we are talking about, this changes everything. What happens next is Team Affirmative trying to assert and prove how these patents are exclusive and deserve the title of “special case” bestowed upon them. Team Negative, asserting that patents are no different than other items commonly becoming the source and cause of claim disputes, trying to prove that “it’s just a patent, it’s no different than a pen”.

Oh, and, by the way, that paragraph above, that’s my preferred discourse regarding this motion.

Erm.. just saying. Heheh.

Anyway, moving on. Last one. Eighth word. Products. Well, this generally shouldn’t be a source of clash, as I’m not expecting any (and I believe that nobody else – debaters, at least – will do, either). But, just in case there happens to be some trolls in the chamber, the “products” patented by a researcher can vary. It can range from something even as simple as a research paper, or article, or journal, or thesis (they are more valuable than you think, mind you – some research proposals can garner even until millions of dollars from government support and private investment) to machines, or medicines, or even organisms (microorganisms, at least).

In a healthy debate chamber, it should be interpreted as ALL of them.

Okay. Last stop. A final review before I give some assertions and then I’m outta here (sorry not gonna elaborate them – I’m on the edge of losing it atm):

(4) What are patents, in essence? Are they to be considered no different than other items, like, as in, can be compared to even an everyday household object like a frying pan and a vacuum cleaner?

If yes, is the difference in nature so substantial that the lines of analysis in number (1) and (2) and (3) changes entirely? Or worse, rendered insignificant?

How are both teams (likely) to see the severity of this patents’ essence and nature? Different? If yes, how different? If really different, will it be so substantial until changing the lines of analysis in number (1) (2) and (3).

Among other things, there are still points about the practicality of and the goal of this motion. To discuss. What I have written so far till this point covers only the philosophical background part of the motion dissection.

Team Affirmative

  1. Because the rights to ownership of an object should belong to its inventor, not its investor.
  2. Because lecturers (=researchers) do not forever belong in the same university.
  3. Because a patent claim will not reflect a university’s quality (in education, btw).
  4. Because universities already have everything.
  5. Because fork the interests of universities, because lecturers (=researchers) come first.
  6. Because universities sharing the same lecturer (=researcher) (=a lecturer/researcher working at more than one university at the same time) will not have to spend any time or energy or money fighting over a patent claim.

Team Negative

  1. Because this will ensure and control the behavior of researchers (=lecturers) from going overboard: abusing tenure, oppressing undergraduates, being an acehole in classroom and acting all high and mighty, etc. etc.
  2. Because these researchers are parasites (the resources and capital for their.. stuffs, all came from their respective universities).
  3. Because universities need to have assurance in terms of employee (=lecturers) (=researchers) loyalty.
  4. Because the burden (responsibility) to improve humanity through research is on the shoulders of universities, who collectively represent a body, that has the image of being “society nurturer” – not the duties of individual researchers (=lecturers) one by one, at any rate.
  5. Because we care about the sustainable development of a university. A university going bankrupt from not enough positive public image or exposure is worse towards a country, compared to an underperforming researcher (=lecturer).
  6. Because when two universities share the same lecturer (=researcher), the “competition” among these universities is a good thing.