Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Intellectual Property Monopoly Regime

Thomas Jefferson wrote:
If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.
What is the Idea Monopoly Regime, then? Joseph E. Stiglitz, who served on the Clinton Administration's Council of Economic Advisors, wrote:
An intellectual property regime rewards innovators by creating a temporary monopoly power, allowing them to charge far higher prices than they could if there were competition. In the process, ideas are disseminated and used less than they would be otherwise.

The economic rationale for intellectual property is that faster innovation offsets the enormous costs of such inefficiencies. But it has become increasingly clear that excessively strong or badly formulated intellectual property rights may actually impede innovation – and not just by increasing the price of research.
The Idea Monopoly Regime consists of all those entities that seek to tip the balance further in favor of monopoly control, further away from innovation and free dissemination of ideas. This is commonly referred to as IP-maximalism, and it strikes at the core of your right to create.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Gerald Holmes said...

Whaaaat? You intelectuals thinks you are so smarts that you want to ruins the patents systems for all the rest of us inventerors huh huh huh? oh man you are askings for some troubles and you calls it a regimes just like sadam hesians regimes and you want regime changes just like W bush well then you betters bring the guns coz you ar in for some fightings yessir!! without the patents how can I mkae my moneys just like bill Gates did and Ill do it too!!!

9:36 PM  
Blogger marroncito said...

How do I make money without a patent? It's a fair question, but one that implies laziness or entitlement on the part of the inventor.

We no longer live in a time of limited resources or limited ideas. It is very possible now for hundreds of people to have access to the same information and the same information and reach the same result.

Value has moved away from the inventor. It use to be that the average person didn't have access to the same information, tools, etc that the inventor (professional or not) did. So the inventor was not only providing their idea, but indirect access to all the resources they used to reach that idea. Now these same resources and prior art leading to a particular invention are available to more or less everyone.

So let's make money. Money now comes to those who build value on top of free. For example, Encyclopedia Britannica or any other fine reference. I would wager the vast majority of the raw data contained in such works is free. So why should anyone ever buy or even use an encyclopedia? Because the writers and publishers have built additional value on top of the free data that they use.

Another example is weather data. In the United States the government provides weather data free to services such as Accuweather as well as Yahoo Weather, etc. Pretty much to anyone who asks. Why do people pay (either through subscirptions or branding/advertising) to get this "free" information? Because the sites presenting it have added additional value on top of the free information.

So in review. Inventors no longer have a natural monopoly on ideas because resources, both physical and intellectual, are no longer limited. Resources have become essentially unlimited, thus allowing anyone anywhere to independantly reach the same idea you just did.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

marroncito might be ok as far as he goes, but he mistakes the proliferation of communications options for effective degrees of freedom for a given "value-adder"; the patent system was constructed both to allow inventors a way to profit from contributions to society and as a way to organize the social participation of bringing such an enterprise to life: the threat of damages and ability to extort profits from others who use the ip for a given period of time is a tradeoff for the passage of improvements into general culture (let's leave aside the issue that patents were traditionally arranged and adjudicated through royal courts and thus favor feudal regimes established to extend spheres of influence through the creation of corporate charters). The value in a public approval process is that the "value-adder" has a central source of social contention and existing public record to examine in order to educate themselves as to the myriad side-proceses that make commercialization of patent property successful. Having said that, the patent game is really not worth it for marketplaces of less than $12M (I agree the number is a bit arbitrary, but this guy makes a good case for it if you sift through his ramblings: http://www.tinaja.com/patnt01.asp). Finally, I should note that extortion tricks and business scams are hardly limited to predatory use of patents; the general public usually does it's business just fine without patents, using, as marroncito rightly pointed out -- public domain materials: when in doubt, rout around.
Some numbnuts once said something about the necessity of the corporation and doubted the usefulness or validity of academia in patent generation; here, it's trickier -- the same patent imperialism that has stimulated quasipublic research in the sciences (and big business biopiracy) is part of the general thrust of patent imperialism that has been unfolding since 1982 or so. Biopiracy is under the radar now, but not so long ago, the "terminator gene" was big news in farming circles. I also remember when code used to be considered "protected speech" under the first amendment. Not to mention the extension of copyright lifetime robbing the public till for corporate gain, much the same way they've done with universities who have been forced to partner up with corporate benefactors when public monies helped develop the research they so profitably use and increasingly dictate the trends of. As to bill gates, the point of regulating monopoly power is so that it does not distort things which should be of common benefit -- learn linux instead.
Inventors never had a natural monopoly on ideas and resources aren't really unlimited. If you really want to make money, establish a transnational to protect cyberspace prior art claimant rights and persuade a large enough chunk of lawyerdom to dedicate an insurance fund warchest to pursue these miscreants for patent fraud. Force them to stall the issuance process pending public review of claims. But, oh wait, then you'd have to be running a commercial enterprise, not just applying for a patent so you could turn around and sell enforceability rights (most usually make less than 1-2% gross unless they're heavily involved in marketing and manufacturing). Think about it.

5:20 PM  

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