Escape Pod Flash: Patent Infringement

By Nancy Kress
Read by Steve Anderson

Kegelman-Ballston Corporation is proud to announce the first public release of its new drug, Halitex, which cures Ulbarton’s Flu completely after one ten-pill course of treatment. Ulbarton’s Flu, as the public knows all too well, now afflicts upwards of thirty million Americans, with the number growing daily as the highly contagious flu spreads. Halitex “flu-proofs” the body by inserting genes tailored to confer immunity to this persistent and debilitating scourge, whose symptoms include coughing, muscle aches, and fatigue. Because the virus remains in the body even after symptoms disappear, Ulbarton’s Flu can recur in a given patient at any time. Halitex renders each recurrence ineffectual.

Rated PG after intensive clinical testing.

Comments (12)

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  1. Redon White says:

    Hey this podcast seems broken! Either that, or “flash” fiction is now 400B or less 😉

  2. Redon White says:

    is OK now, thank you!

  3. Redon White says:

    Yay! More epistolar (is that the word?) fiction!

  4. phignewton says:

    arrr.. lawyers!… drug companies!… patent attorneys!!!!

  5. Connor Moran says:

    Must…restrain…urge…to legally nitpick.

  6. MasterThief says:

    Argh… this is what I get for putting actual links in my comments.

    I don’t have Connor’s restraint, so here goes with the nitpicking…

    1. Patent law is civil, not criminal.

    2. Destroying evidence in anticipation of a court case is a good way for a lawyer to get disbarred.

    3. Meese would not have been represented by your average suburban, there are famous lawyers and law professors who would be all over this case.

    4. The doctors who took the sample could still be held liable for malpractice for not disclosing their financial interest as part of the informed consent.

    5. The patent might not be valid anyway.

    6. Michael Crichton’s Next covered this same ground, in much greater detail, and with a much more realistic story.

    7. Just as physicists complain when authors mangle the physics, lawyers should get to complain when authors mangle the law. We read sci-fi too, you know.

  7. Ken_K says:

    I’ve always liked Cress’ work but I never realized how anti-business she was. Cress has “evolved” since I first read her stuff.

  8. Angela says:

    Interesting comments, but I have a different take.

    Often science fiction is written as a warning about the direction society is taking or could take. I don’t see how a story about the way the law might work in the future constitutes the same sort of offense as mangling physics. It does seem hard to imagine a future in which patent law violations could be considered in a criminal court rather than a civil court, but what kind of society would do that?

    Nor do I see how this is anti-business. A warning about how corporations could end up with more power in the courts than individuals doesn’t even take prescience at this point. It’s bad for business to crush the individual. Who’s going to be left to buy their stuff if they do? It’s more of a warning to business rather than being anti-business, in my opinion.

  9. Dave K. says:

    I was sort of thinking Meese would have had a good defense.

    Although unrealistic, there is that feeling of hopelessness that is completely real when it comes to what a large corporation is capable of…

    Supposedly, in the discovery phase of a trial, these kinds of things would come out.

    Of course various bush era “reforms” to the civil system make this just a tad more possible… at least they make it a bit harder for the little guy or the whistle blower to have their day in court.

  10. yicheng says:

    I found the story itself pretty hamfisted and predictable. Evil single-mindedly greedy corporation? Wow, never heard of that before!!! The reading was quite excellent though, and saved the story from what would have otherwise been a preachy yawnfest.

  11. OldGuyPaul says:

    I think it would have been fun to have the story go full circle. Since Kegelman-Ballston Corporation has the patent ownership of the very Ulbarton’s Flu itself those who suffer the disease get a good downhome under estimated lawyer who proves Kegelman-Ballston owner of the patents is in fact responsible for the pandemic and must pay everyone including the government for damages and the smuch SOB running the place get sentanced to life in the Ulbarton’s Flu wing of the prison hospital

  12. Gwen says:

    I liked this story. Given that corporations have already 1) privatized water, 2) marketed baby formula to women in countries without a safe water supply, knowing it would result in babies getting dysentery and other water-born illnesses, and 3) begun operating private prisons, I found it eerily plausible.