[Ip-health] Microsoft, Gates Foundation Timeline

Outterson, Kevin mko at bu.edu
Tue Nov 30 09:11:10 PST 2010

I read the entire link on the KEI website.  I knew much of this history, but was surprised by the significant grants to media.  They are a significant potential conflict of interest.  It would be interesting to have a public list of which journalists and reporters benefited (directly or indirectly) from these multi-million dollar grants.  Perhaps Senator Grassley's office can ask.

Kevin Outterson

On 11/30/10 5:22 AM, "James Love" <james.love at keionline.org> wrote:


Microsoft, Gates Foundation Timeline

November 29, 2010


This timeline contains a number of selected data points concerning
Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The
motivations for this timeline, which features entries for both Microsoft
and the BMGF, are several.

Both Microsoft and BMGF are important and extremely powerful in their
core areas of operation. According to some estimates, Microsoft has a
greater than 90 percent global market share for the operating system
used in personal computers. Despite the modest needs of most users, and
the availability of several plausible alternatives, Microsoft continues
to enjoy a global market share of 80 to 90 percent for applications such
as word processing, spreadsheets and presentation graphics. Microsoft is
also an important provider of a variety of other products, including
software for databases and web hosting services. In the areas where
Microsoft enjoys monopoly power, the margins are high and the profits
are large. This has not only made Microsoft's largest shareholders
extremely wealthy, it has provided enormous resources to lobby
governments and influence institutions and the public. While no longer
as intimidating a presence in the technology world as it was in 1997, in
part due to the moderating influence of antitrust laws, Microsoft has
enormous power, and it uses that power to shape policies in the public
and private sector in ways that few are aware, including not only
government policies on intellectual property, procurement, innovation,
the regulation of telecommunications and competition, but also topics
such as climate change and public health. In many of these areas,
Microsoft promotes policies that harm consumers and block innovation,
such as Microsoft's well documented attacks on open software standards.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has enormous assets and is growing
in size, in part due to a generous 2006 pledge stock from Warren
Buffett, the investor. In 2009, the BMGF reported more than $3 billion
in grants, and $409 million in operating expenses, mostly directed at
projects to improve the lives of poor persons living in developing
countries. In the area of public health, there is no donor as
influential as the Gates Foundation except the U.S. government.
Globally, everyone who seeks a career in public health must anticipate
the importance of developing a good relationship with the Gates
Foundation, or at least a low profile. The Gates Foundation is doing
much good, and Bill Gates is admirably showing leadership in encouraging
others to do what he has chosen to do -- give away most of his wealth.
And while few would say his philanthropy is too much of a good thing,
there are clearly significant consequences and indeed also risks in such
an enormous concentration of power. The fairly rapid demise of public
sector policy-making in key areas of public health, and the reliance
upon the Gates family and its staff, creates an impoverished debate over
public health priorities, and leads to unchallenged policy changes in
others. One area that is quite important concerns the debate over
intellectual property rights, and the testing of new models to de-link
R&D incentives from product monopolies. While Gates made his money from
a software monopoly, he also insists that strong legal product
monopolies are the best instrument to fuel innovation for new medical
technologies, including drugs, vaccines, diagnostics and medical
devices. Despite massive empirical evidence of the failures of the
current systems of financing medical innovation, many public health
officials correctly anticipate their careers will be harmed if they
openly embrace needed reforms.

The centralization of decision-making in the area of R&D for neglected
diseases is thought by many to lead to "group think" and other
bureaucratic flaws that undermine innovation -- an issue that may seem
more relevant once one considers the paucity of successful new products
(outside of its two areas of monopoly power) that Microsoft has launched
in the past twenty years and the durable hostility of Microsoft to open
collaborative models of innovation, including those that involve open
licensing of intellectual property rights. There are also concerns about
the lack of transparency, stakeholder voices and accountability for a
system of public health that in some areas has become effectively
privatized by one entity. Finally, it is regrettable that the Gates
Foundation is a staunch opponent of discussions at the World Health
Organization of a possible treaty on medical R&D --- an initiative that
would create new global norms for sustainable funding of priority
medical R&D, promote access to knowledge, and bring needed transparency
and new ethical standards to medical research and development system.

The following timeline combines entries involving selected events and
actors for these two different, but related entities -- Microsoft and
the BMGF.


 [snip] The timeline is at the link below:

James Love, Director, Knowledge Ecology International
http://www.keionline.org | http://www.twitter.com/jamie_love
Wk: +1.202.332.2670 | US Mobile +1.202.361.3040 | Geneva Mobile +41.76.413.6584

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