Is IP another bubble about to burst? A view from another civilization. | Opensource.com

Is IP another bubble about to burst? A view from another civilization.

Posted 16 Dec 2009 by 

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As a child growing up in India, one of the first things I learned is a hymn to Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, which says that:

Wonderful is your gift of knowledge
the more we share, the more it grows
the more we hoard it, the more it diminishes

As a grown-up living in a globalized world, I am constantly bombarded by the the term, “intellectual property.”

Policy makers keep saying that India should create more IP. Countless seminars extol the virtues of IP even as patents are granted for “Method for swinging on a swing,” "Method for Concealing Partial Baldness." In the computer industry, patents are routinely granted for things that are obvious and have been known for years. Things have come to such a pass that even an industry veteran like Andy Grove was forced to say that,  “The true value of an invention is its usefulness to the public. Patents themselves have become products. They're instruments of investment traded on a separate market, often by speculators motivated by the highest financial return on their investment....

“The patent product brings financial derivatives to mind. Derivatives have a complex relationship with an underlying asset. While there's nothing wrong with them in principle, their unfettered use has damaged the financial services industry and possibly the entire economy."

“Do these patent instruments put us on a similar road? I fear our patent system increasingly serves those who invest in the patent products.” When a veteran like Andy Grove becomes paranoid, you and I better watch out!

Patents were meant to reward innovation, so the question is, "How did we lose our way?"

The current model of trying to "propertize," "privatize" and "commoditize" knowledge comes from a very mercantile, reductionist model of treating knowledge. That may be OK for other countries, which have "intellectual propertized" their knowledge and hold the balance of power in IP Rights, but not for India which has had a long, rich tradition of free knowledge cultures like yoga, ayurveda, mathematics and many other disciplines. It would not be far-fetched to say that many Indian traditions place a moral imperative on sharing knowledge.

One of my favorite stories illustrates the importance accorded to the sharing of knowledge. After the brutal battle of Kalinga, the Emperor Ashoka was so overcome with remorse that he renounced bloodshed and embraced Buddhism. As part of his penance, Ashoka went to monasteries across the country. At each monastery, he would leave munificent donations of gold coins. At one monastery, the emperor left behind one solitary gold coin. When his perplexed followers asked him to explain, Ashoka said that the abbot of the monastery was a great man but he did not share his knowledge with others.

This is a deep-seated ethos that is thousands of years old. This is the ethos that created open knowledge traditions like yoga, ayurveda etc, that are freely used by all. However, when India seeks to use "their" "intellectual property" (allopathic medicine, software and business method patents etc.) we are told, "pay up or else...." Talk about an unequal exchange!

The contrast is best illustrated by what happened with Bikram Yoga taught by celebrity yoga teacher, Bikram Chowdhury who makes a fortune teaching yoga to Americans. Bikram copyrighted a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises practiced in a room heated upto 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Note that Yoga is a body of knowledge which has been free from copyrights, patents and "intellectual property" for more than 2000 years. When asked why, Bikram said that he sought legal protection because "it's the American way."

Each society evolves systems that suit its own needs. Most of India's traditions of knowledge spring forth from a spiritual base whereas America's treatment of knowledge has a mercantile bias. This is not to pass a value judgment on either. The problem arises when, in a globalizing society the two systems clash and are unable to harmonize with each other.

Sadly most of India's thinking around legal protection of knowledge has been "derivative" in nature, a shoddy cut and paste job from the "mature IP systems" of the West. However, as the Bilski case shows, even these "mature IP systems" are having second thoughts on how they treat knowledge, or in this specific case, business methods. As I have argued in my previous blog entry, "The Practical Problem with Software Patents," the litigation-ridden path followed by US in granting software and business method patents is something India must avoid at all costs.

I could go on and on, but let me just end with one small piece of evidence. As I mentioned earlier, I have grown up in an Indian tradition that believes that knowledge grows by sharing. Does this wisdom hold true in the Internet era?

In September 1991, Linus Torvalds released 10,000 lines of code for building an operating system, under the General Public License. The GPL license encouraged people to take this 10,000 lines of code, modify it and share the resulting improvements with the rest of the world. A recent study by the Linux Foundation estimated that the code base for the Fedora 9 Linux distribution is now 204 million lines of code!

This is one of the finest examples of Collaborative Innovation that has been made possible by the growth of the Internet. With 1.4 billion people connected to the Internet and another 600 million set to join up in the next two years, the Internet is the greatest collaborative platform in the history of mankind. The attempt to "propertize" knowledge in the Internet era is doomed to fail. Instead, we will see knowledge returning to its rightful place in the commons and the open source principles of collaboration, community and the shared ownership of knowledge being applied to thousands of disciplines. As the commercial distributions of Linux demonstrate, even when knowledge lives in the commons, it is possible to build profitable business models around it.

When we look back on our times, we may find that the term, "Intellectual Property" has taken its place along side another archaic term, "Horseless Carriage." Both were attempts to impose metaphors of the past on the future. And the folly of our times is that we treat inexhaustible resources like knowledge as finite resource and treat finite resources like oil and forests as infinite resources. The sooner we turn these attitudes around, the better it will be for the future of mankind.

Venkatesh Hariharan is Corporate Affairs Director (Asia-Pacific), Red Hat.

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114 Comments

KaruppuSwamy Thangaraj

I agree with your opinion100%. This is one of the great posts in recent times I have read. Definitely India can't digest totally closed knowledge.
The current model of trying to "propertize," "privatize" and "commoditize" knowledge comes from a very mercantile, reductionist model of treating knowledge. That may be OK for other countries, which have "intellectual propertized" their knowledge and hold the balance of power in IP Rights, but not for India which has had a long, rich tradition of free knowledge cultures like yoga, ayurveda, mathematics and many other disciplines. It would not be far-fetched to say that many Indian traditions place a moral imperative on sharing knowledge
This is the core of this article.

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PeniWize

"In September 2001, Linus Torvalds released..." should read "In September 1991, Linus Torvalds released..." (unless I'm confused).

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Gary Hottinger

It is rare to see this kind of insight from an information technology "executive." While you are right--right from a human perspective, not only Indian--the wisdom tradition has long depended on the ravages of an age of selfishness to make wisdom evident and desirable.

Here in the US, the selfishness dominates, and yet it claims that without its greed to innovate, there would be no technological advancements. is there not an element of truth in this? The tension of opposites.

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Venkatesh Hariharan (Venky)

@KaruppuSwamy Thangaraj: Thanks for the appreciation. The paragraph that you highlighted is definitely the core of my article.

@PeniWize: Thanks for pointing the error. Linux was launched in Sept. 1999 and not September 2001. Will have it corrected at the earliest.

@Gary Hottinger: Thanks for the appreciation. I would phrase things a little differently. From my perspective as an Indian, I feel that America's policies are driven by an individualist creed and also a huge emphasis on the private sector. Therefore, America tends to lean heavily towards the privatization of knowledge. (I am not trying to pass a value judgment here; merely trying to understand the forces shaping policy). Societies that are more community oriented probably tend to value knowledge being in the commons rather than private hands. Every society has some knowledge in private hands and some in the commons. The real tension is where do you draw the line between shat should be in the commons and what should be private property. Apart from globalization, I feel that cultural forces play a huge role in how each society draws this line.

Finally, I would agree with you that there is a grain of truth in the statement that, "without its greed to innovate, there would be no technological advancements." However, it is a grain that has been excessively marketed and even mythologized. What percentage of innovation happens because of "greed" is a subject worthy of objective analysis and if you come across such research, feel free to point them out to us.

Personally, I think innovation is more of an inner drive. (I speak here more as an IT person, and I am sure people in the pharma industry would disagree with me, perhaps with valid reasons.)

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Philip Quinlan

I'm pretty sure I was using Linux prior to 1999
1999 was the year of RedHat's IPO, but Linux was a viable OS for a while prior to that

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runbei

A study recently found - sorry, I don't have the source at hand - that people who were offered a monetary reward produced work that was less creative and generally shoddier, and took less satisfaction in the work itself.

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carl

greed is an unsatisfying motivator for many reasons. Daniel Pink went into some detail on the subject in his book. You can find relevant extracts here: http://www.connectedprincipals.com/archives/2202

Carl

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Max Sinklair

Great read, thank you.

"In the middle of December 1992 he published version 0.99 using the GNU GPL"

Quoted from Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Linux#Linux_under_the_GNU_GPL

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Contrarian

I cannot disagree more.

A patent is an enticement from government [i.e., a society] to its members to disclose their knowledge about how to make and use inventions. In exchange, the inventor is granted the exclusive right to sell the inventions for 20 years.

Quibble all you want about the quality of patents or even the proper monopoly term, but patent databases compile mountains of commercially useful information that would otherwise be scattered in the ether or not disclosed at all. Those mountains of information can be -- and are -- mined very effectively to advance useful technologies.

You may prefer that the motivation to invent will be the good karma that comes from spending scarce time and money to create and share a useful thing but that is simple childish folly -- what best motivates man is the reward that results from doing work. And that is as it should be.

As for the alleged US penchant for hoarding information, the facts are clearly otherwise. There are countless academic, technical, and industry journals published in the US every week that form the wellspring of a raging river of information. We have too much publicly-available information to digest and manage effectively, not too little.

India has compiled what it calls "its" traditional knowledge in a database that it makes available under a non-disclosure agreement to patent offices around the world as a source of prior art. Two things: if knowledge is meant, as you say, to be shared, why is India claiming this knowledge as its own and why isn't it freely sharing this knowledge with the world?

It doesn't because there is a tradition throughout the world and time of adopting the view that what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours [yours, at least for now]. It is apparently spiritually fine for India -- the country -- to hoard "its" information but not fine for any one individual or company to do so. If there is a reasoned distinction, however, I've yet to hear it.

Capturing knowledge that defines useful things [which is a very, very small subset of "knowledge"] as "property" is a very efficient mechanism to incentivize its creation and to compile that information in a societally beneficial way.

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W^L+

A patent is an enticement from government [i.e., a society] to its members to disclose their knowledge about how to make and use inventions. In exchange, the inventor is granted the exclusive right to sell the inventions for 20 years.

In theory, this is true. In reality, patents are not written to make it easy for "one skilled in the art" to reproduce, as they should be. Instead, they are written to obfuscate their true content, and to be overly-broad, in order to prevent similar ways of accomplishing similar tasks from being used [without first licensing the patent].

As for the alleged US penchant for hoarding information, the facts are clearly otherwise. There are countless academic, technical, and industry journals published in the US every week that form the wellspring of a raging river of information. We have too much publicly-available information to digest and manage effectively, not too little.

There is plenty of theoretical information being published in those journals. But practical, useful information, the kind that real people in real jobs can use, isn't available there. In a sense, those journals are a firehose of useless information, with an occasional useful nugget that slips into them. And if this information ever was useful, they'd need to buy licenses.

Fortunately, regular people, the kind that actually do work and create things, often post such information online.

Capturing knowledge that defines useful things [which is a very, very small subset of "knowledge"] as "property" is a very efficient mechanism to incentivize its creation and to compile that information in a societally beneficial way.

In fact, that property often encompasses knowledge that was already known and in use. In this case, all that propertizing does is burden society with "rent" for using what was already in use. In the real world, several people typically "invent" or create the same thing around the same time. Generally, only one of them is able to obtain the patent or copyright. This leaves the others with the potential of having to pay to use something they invented on their own. It might be acceptable if the exclusivity period was five years or less. But overly-long exclusive periods not only affect competing inventors and companies, they also hinder follow-on inventions. In effect, patents as presently practiced in the United States act as brakes on genuine invention. (We substitute "innovation", which is merely productizing someone else's ideas, in order to avoid looking foolish for insisting on stronger and longer "intellectual property" protection.)

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Contrarian

You write "... patents are not written to make it easy for "one skilled in the art" to reproduce ..." and are "overly-broad."

Response: If the disclosure that describes an invention is not "enabled" then it doesn't issue as a patent. If you're arguing for dumbed down patent specifications that rule would, I submit, hamper the transfer of useful information. As for overly broad patents issuing, you are most certainly correct -- especially in your field of software. The solution, however, is tightening the patent grants [which is being done by the courts] not ignoring -- or denying -- the incentivizing and disclosure value of patents.

You write: "... There is plenty of theoretical information being published ... "

Response: We'll just have to agree to disagree on this point. I can tell you first hand that companies and academia disclose enormous amounts of useful -- and patentable -- information routinely in all technology fields.

You write: patentable "property often encompasses knowledge that was already known and in use."

Response: Patent folks talk about two kinds of patents when thinking through their value. "Pioneer" patents disclose technology that has never been disclosed before. These are very valuable. "Improvement" patents build on what has come before -- either by improving on the pioneer tech or combining in some non-obvious way tech that has existed before. As for the latter, the unique combination of what came before IS an inventive step that merits reward. Yes, the "obviousness" standard is sometimes too low -- but, again, the courts [and lately the Patent Offices] are handling that issue very aggressively.

As for a subsequent person "inventing" what another has already invented -- true concurrent inventorship does not happen -- the subsequent person has NOT invented anything. He may have independently created something useful but the very definition of "invent" is to be the first to create. A rule that says the subsequent creator is ALSO an inventor because he did not know about the first creation is not, in practice, manageable.

There are economic and and other public policy reasons against a strong patent protection scheme. But you haven't made them.

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W^L+

You write "... patents are not written to make it easy for "one skilled in the art" to reproduce ..." and are "overly-broad."

Response: If the disclosure that describes an invention is not "enabled" then it doesn't issue as a patent. If you're arguing for dumbed down patent specifications that rule would, I submit, hamper the transfer of useful information. As for overly broad patents issuing, you are most certainly correct -- especially in your field of software. The solution, however, is tightening the patent grants [which is being done by the courts] not ignoring -- or denying -- the incentivizing and disclosure value of patents.

Take an actual look at the USPTO site (or Google's patents site). Clearly, patents are not written in a way that discloses the useful idea to those who work in that field. They are written (1) to obscure that information and (2) to block others from using similar ideas.

There is hardly any large business, particularly in software, that hasn't been bitten by patents written to cover an area the size of New Jersey that affect products that have been in the market for twenty years. At least they have patents of their own and large purses. Smaller companies haven't got a shot at keeping the doors open in that situation.

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W^L+

The first two paragraphs are quoted from above.

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Roy Langston

contrarian writes:

"As for a subsequent person "inventing" what another has already invented -- true concurrent inventorship does not happen -- the subsequent person has NOT invented anything."

Obviously, that statement is a bald lie. Just as one example, the bow and arrow was invented independently a number of times in widely different locations. To claim that only the first person to make one invented it is self-evidently absurd.

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." -- Voltaire

The above absurdity is promulgated to make people commit atrocities such as forcibly depriving people of access to cheap drugs they need to survive.

All apologists for unjust privilege promulgate such absurd and evil lies, without exception.

"He may have independently created something useful but the very definition of "invent" is to be the first to create."

That is a bald lie about the definition of "invent":

"invent, v.t., 1. to originate as a product of one's own contrivance" -- Webster's New Universal Unabridged

No dictionary definition of "invent" that I am aware of specifies that only the first to invent something has invented anything.

"A rule that says the subsequent creator is ALSO an inventor because he did not know about the first creation is not, in practice, manageable."

I see. So, facts of objective reality are to be deleted because they do not support your false and evil belief that legal enforcement of private property in the knowledge contained in peoples' minds must be "manageable."

Somehow, I kinda figured it'd be something like that...

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Contrarian

Roy, you've come unglued. Flamers such as yourself inhibit civil discourse. If you have an argument to make then make it, otherwise just sit quietly on the sidelines.

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venky
Newbie

Contrarian, I think you have missed the point of my article. When the government grants a 20 year monopoly, thus creating "intellectual property," it is taking what was previously in the "knowledge commons" and turning it into private property. How far should such privatization and propertization go? Should there be absolutely no limits on such propertization? Should children have to license the patent for "Method for swinging on a swing" before they rush out to the playground?

You say that, "what best motivates man is the reward that results from doing work." By reward, are you implying "financial rewards" or also including the reputation, satisfaction, fun and other intangible rewards that accompany innovation? Read the works of people like Richard Feynman and you realize that the drive to innovate is an intrinsic drive. The propaganda that financial motivation is the biggest motivation has been repeated ad nauseam. If that were the only (or primary motivation) much of open source software would not have existed. It's not a random thing that Linus Torvald's biography is titled, "Just for Fun."

"the alleged US penchant for hoarding information" are your words not mine.

India's traditional knowledge database compiles what is already public knowledge in disciplines like yoga and ayurveda. As to why they require an NDA, you should ask them since I am not their spokesperson.

I like the distinction you make between, "capturing knowledge that defines useful things" and knowledge itself. If used well, I agree with you that it can be, as you say, "a very efficient mechanism to incentivize its creation and to compile that information in a societally beneficial way." Unfortunately the evidence from sources far more authoritative than I am, is that the system that was meant to create incentives is now actively creating disincentives.

For further reading, I would suggest:

"Innovation and Its Discontents: How Our Broken Patent System Is Endangering Innovation and Progress, and What to Do About It" (Princeton, 2004).

http://www.pupress.princeton.edu/chapters/i7810.html

Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk

http://www.researchoninnovation.org/dopatentswork/

Regards,

Venky

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Nayaswami Rambhakta

"You may prefer that the motivation to invent will be the good karma that comes from spending scarce time and money to create and share a useful thing but that is simple childish folly -- what best motivates man is the reward that results from doing work. And that is as it should be."

Implied is that there is one kind of "reward" only. And that is plain simplistic. According to the ancient wisdom of India - which, by the way, was not speculative but derived from looking squarely at life and seeing what worked and what did not - the greatest satisfaction comes from actions that expand a person's awareness. This kindness, cooperation, and service produce greater happiness than hoarding, selfishness, and using others.

The implications for the patent quandary are obvious and clear: when investors hire lawyers to buy up patents from a motivation of pure greed, everyone will suffer.

And, by the way, WHERE did you get the idea that India is hoarding its ancient wisdom, or claiming that it is India's alone? The name for India's religion is not "Hinduism," a name that was coined by the British, but "sanaatan dharama" - the "eternal religion." That is, those eternal principles that "work" in every time and place.

If you want to learn more about these traditions, I recommend Swami Kriyananda's books, Out of the Labyrinth (published under his American name, J. Donald Walters), and The Bhagavad Gita Explained.

Oh, and by the way, both Swami Kriyananda and I are American-born swamis whose gratitude to India is boundless for sharing her ancient wisdom openly and freely.

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Contrarian

"Implied is that there is one kind of 'reward' only. And that is plain simplistic."

Hmm. You're reading a limitation into my statement, for some reason, even though the supposed "implication" you perceive obviously contradicts my statement. I suggest you meditate on why.

The reward of good karma can, as I said, motivate creativity. But as social policy, to motivate creativity it is best and most efficient, as I said, to create a rewards system -- yes, a system that grants the creator a time-limited exclusive right to commercially exploit his or her creation. Imagine that, money as motivator.

Call that greed if you want. But what it really is is the exchange of value for value. If you think that's immoral then argue the position.

If you're really a knowledge-seeker then I suggest you read Ayn Rand's book The Virtue of Selfishness. Or do you prefer to read only what supports your already-existing worldview?

"And, by the way, WHERE did you get the idea that India is hoarding its ancient wisdom, or claiming that it is India's alone?"

Here: http://goo.gl/j9OJv As I've already posted, the Indian Gov't has compiled what it believes is its "traditional knowledge" into a database that it shares ONLY with Patent Offices around the world and ONLY on the condition that those Offices not disclose that "traditional knowledge." It is India's hard copy version of what is mine is mine and ... I ain't gonna share it.

Have boundless gratitude to whomever shares wisdom with you but don't get caught selling anything that India believes is -- or is derived from -- its "traditional knowledge" or else its Gov't will sue you.

American swamis eh? And you don't think that's not just a little too pretentious? I prefer my truth seekers to be more modest -- like Larry Darrell in Maugham's book The Razor's Edge. But to each his own.

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Roy Langston

Contrarian wrote:

"But as social policy, to motivate creativity it is best and most efficient, as I said, to create a rewards system -- yes, a system that grants the creator a time-limited exclusive right to commercially exploit his or her creation."

No, that is known to be false. If Contrarian knew any economics, which he plainly does not, he would know that the granting of monopoly rent seeking privileges is KNOWN to be one of the least economically efficient production incentives. A combination of established prizes for solving particular problems (like the X Prize and Kremer Prize), recognition of scholarly priority (which has been so unambiguously effective in stimulating scientific progress in areas where patent monopolies don't apply) and ex post facto prizes (e.g., the Nobels) for exceptional achievement in unexpected or serendipitous invention and discovery, would achieve far better incentives at a fraction of the economic cost of IP monopolies, and without violating people's rights.

"But what it really is is the exchange of value for value."

No, it plainly is not, as the value of a monopoly privilege is value taken from others in the first place, like the value appropriated by a protection racket. The permission to produce that an IP monopolist "provides" is not value any more than the "protection" a protection racketeer provides to a business is value.

"If you think that's immoral then argue the position."

I have, and you have been unable to respond.

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Contrarian

Roy,

You assert that "... the granting of monopoly rent seeking privileges is KNOWN to be one of the least economically efficient production incentives."

You're unglued, my man.

First, "monopoly rent seeking privileges?" Really? What, are you trying to impress or are you really a first year law student?

What you're trying to say is what I did say: in exchange for information disclosure [via copyright law or the patenting process] a person is granted a time-limited right to commercially exploit that information. Yes, by gov't "fiat" -- which, in our democracy, I [wistfully] assume you agree is the collective wisdom of the people even though you, personally, do not like the scheme.

Second, you're just plain wrong. Cite a study that identifies any society that has benefited more via innovation by choosing to grant to everyone the right to exploit everyone else's creations. You cannot. The societies that incentivize creation through monetary reward are those that are most free and prosperous.

Even more fundamentally, your conclusion that as soon as a person discloses an idea it is owned by everyone -- and, therefore, no one -- is diametrically opposed to what "liberty" means. Liberty is freedom. But it is more: it is the RIGHT to be free. As applied here, the right to be free from hangers-on and interlopers who reap what they do not sow -- to put a fine point on the matter, to exploit knowledge and information that they had no part in creating.

I don't have time to explain how wrong your thinking is so I'll re-post a part of what I've said before:

"The purpose of our intellectual property laws is to motivate the creation of more, and more, and more useful and artistic things. THAT is what is meant by 'To promote the progress of science and the useful arts ... ' the creator has the exclusive right to exploit his or her creations for a limited time.

No one ever has a claim on the creator's actual physical creation or, for a limited time, on the "intellectual property" that underlies it.
Copies of the thing -- i.e., the invention, the sculpture, the book, etc. -- can be [if the creator so chooses] distributed throughout society. If that is the "benefit" you believe flows to society then, of course.

But that is a secondary effect after what MUST come first -- the actual creation of the thing.
Your "let's create laws to benefit society as a whole" assertion highlights our divergence of thought: where you apparently see intellectual property laws as a mechanism to transfer products and creations to society, I [and our founders] see intellectual property laws as a mechanism to motivate their production. The difference is significant because in your case you assume that what's to be transferred already exists. I assume that our laws are a means to motivate their creation.

In short, the "benefits" to society are not, in the first instance, the usefulness of the thing but rather the conditions necessary to create the thing."

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Roy Langston

Contrarian wrote:

> "First, "monopoly rent seeking privileges?" Really? What, are you trying to impress or are you really a first year law student?"

OK, so your ignorance of economics extends even to its terminology. No surprises there.

> "What you're trying to say is what I did say: in exchange for information disclosure [via copyright law or the patenting process] a person is granted a time-limited right to commercially exploit that information."

No, stop lying. What they are granted, as I stated in plain English, is a time--limited PRIVILEGE of STOPPING OTHERS from commercially exploiting -- or even using -- that information.

> "Yes, by gov't "fiat" -- which, in our democracy, I [wistfully] assume you agree is the collective wisdom of the people even though you, personally, do not like the scheme."

Slavery was also the collective wisdom of the people -- until the opposition of those who "personally did not like the scheme" ended it. Did you imagine you were making an argument of some kind?

> "Second, you're just plain wrong."

No, I am indisputably correct.

> "Cite a study that identifies any society that has benefited more via innovation by choosing to grant to everyone the right to exploit everyone else's creations. You cannot."

Wrong again. See "Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens," by Josiah Ober. Classical Athens was, per capita, by far the most intellectually productive society that has ever existed. And it had no intellectual property laws whatever.

You are destroyed.

> "The societies that incentivize creation through monetary reward are those that are most free and prosperous."

But contrary to what you always implicitly assume, THAT DOESN'T IMPLY THAT GRANTING MONOPOLY PRIVILEGES IS THE ONLY POSSIBLE, OR THE MOST MORAL OR EFFECTIVE, INCENTIVE TO CREATION.

Please try to get that through your head.

> "Even more fundamentally, your conclusion that as soon as a person discloses an idea it is owned by everyone"

I said no such thing. Stop lying about everything I write.
Is that all patent lawyers know how to do?

> "-- and, therefore, no one -- is diametrically opposed to what "liberty" means."

Another idiotic lie.

> "Liberty is freedom. But it is more: it is the RIGHT to be free. As applied here, the right to be free from hangers-on and interlopers who reap what they do not sow -- to put a fine point on the matter, to exploit knowledge and information that they had no part in creating."

You have now come unglued and are just raving idiotically. To put a fine point on the matter, EVERY holder of intellectual property reaps what they never sowed, and exploits knowledge and information they had no part in creating. EVERY SINGLE ONE -- because no one can exist in society without doing so.

> "I don't have time to explain how wrong your thinking is"

IOW, you have no facts or logic to offer, just your shrieks of outrage that the justification for your immoral, despicable, parasitic and economically destructive livelihood is being questioned.

> "The purpose of our intellectual property laws is to motivate the creation of more, and more, and more useful and artistic things. THAT is what is meant by 'To promote the progress of science and the useful arts ... ' the creator has the exclusive right to exploit his or her creations for a limited time."

Right. Monopoly rent seeking privileges such as patents and copyrights are just an economically inefficient and morally indefensible way of doing so. I have identified other, more moral and effective and less costly ways of achieving better results.

> "No one ever has a claim on the creator's actual physical creation"

That is the only real property involved: the physical product of his labor.

> "or, for a limited time, on the "intellectual property" that underlies it."

Garbage. "Intellectual property" is nothing but arbitrary legal fiat. As soon as the knowledge, idea or expression exists in anyone else's mind, they have every right to use it, unless they have explicitly undertaken not to. Your "limited time" of "intellectual property" is nothing but an arbitrary legal privilege.

> "Copies of the thing -- i.e., the invention, the sculpture, the book, etc. -- can be [if the creator so chooses] distributed throughout society. If that is the "benefit" you believe flows to society then, of course."

No. The legal monopoly of IP violates people's rights to use what is in their own minds, and you have failed utterly to enunciate any plausible justification for it. Period.

> "But that is a secondary effect after what MUST come first -- the actual creation of the thing."

But as the book I pointed you to proves, IP monopolies BLOCK the actual creation of the thing.

> "Your "let's create laws to benefit society as a whole" assertion highlights our divergence of thought: where you apparently see intellectual property laws as a mechanism to transfer products and creations to society, I [and our founders] see intellectual property laws as a mechanism to motivate their production."

Wrong again. The Founders were well aware that production of inventions, literature and art would proceed anyway. They wanted to ensure they were widely DISSEMINATED. They knew that much ancient invention, art and literature had been lost to secrecy and exclusivity, and wanted to make sure that didn't happen in the USA.

> "The difference is significant because in your case you assume that what's to be transferred already exists. I assume that our laws are a means to motivate their creation."

But even if you were right about that, which you certainly are not, monopoly rent seeking privileges are an economically inefficient and immoral way of doing so. They were just a quick and dirty solution that happened to be known at the time, like royal patent monopolies on the cinnamon trade. In one of history's most exquisite ironies, far better ways have been invented since then, but they are NOT USED because monopoly IP privileges have taken on a legal and economic life of their own.

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Stuart Gathman

I'm all against software patents, and copyright turned patent (broad interpretations of "derivative work" like all stories about boy wizards infringing on Harry Potter).

I also concur that fame and respect are much bigger spurs to creativity than money (with a concurrent problem similar to patents in that first to publish gets the glory).

However, have you two addressed the classic justification for patents - to prevent losses like the Stradovarius? Guilds would keep their knowledge secret, often to be lost forever. A patent was supposed to convince a would be guild to publish their secrets in return for a temporary monopoly. Of course, this assumes that there actually *is* a secret.

I have a crazy blue sky idea. What if patents had to be initiated by a 3rd party? If a company or guild has a really cool trade secret, and competitors or researchers really want to know it, they could petition for granting a patent in return for disclosing the secret. That procedure would avoid all the granting of patents for obvious crap that makes the current patent database useless (and not just for software anymore).

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Roy Langston

Stuart Gathman wrote:

"However, have you two addressed the classic justification for patents - to prevent losses like the Stradovarius?"

I already informed Contrarian that contrary to his provably false and ahistorical claims, the true purpose of IP monopolies is not to protect some non-existent property in knowledge, ideas and expressions, but to encourage their disclosure and development. That is a valid goal, but monopolies are just the wrong tool to achieve it. As I mentioned in a previous message, a system of priority recognition and prizes would be far more effective, and orders of magnitude less costly.

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Contrarian

Roy, it's unfortunate that you’re so petulant and petty. If you really want to communicate then you need to learn how to package your message so the listener will hear it -- and then, hopefully, take it seriously. Ranting is childish and, worse, it undermines the value of what you have to say.

Back to patent law. You need to reassess your position after you grasp the fundamental fact that a patent is NOT a state-created monopoly. Your sloppy language reveals, and perhaps cause, sloppy thinking – which you share with uniformed economists.

A state [which, let’s not forget, is “the people”] at times grants monopoly rights to a particular company to perform a particular service which the state has decided its people requires and which can be best provided if by only one company. Think of TV cable services when that industry was just starting out, utility services such as gas, electric, and water to homes and businesses, and railroads. Each of those companies are legal monopolists. But if the company granted those monopoly rights fails to adequate perform then the state replaces it with another because those services are required.

Contrast that marketplace dynamic with the grant of a patent: when the state grants patent rights those rights can only be used by the patent owner to exclude others from selling the patented product. It is only a “negative” right – i.e., the right to exclude. It does not confer on the patent owner any power, or obligation, to provide the patented product to the marketplace. There is, in fact, often no market if the patent owner himself doesn’t create one – through his ingenuity, effort, and money.

So stop mischaracterizing patents as evil, state-created monopolies. A state-created monopolist provides the state’s people with required services. A patent owner, by contrast, is an innovator who’s been granted a time-limited exclusive right to sell his invention, if he can, in exchange for explaining to the world how to make and use his invention.

In short, a monopoly and a patent are not legal, marketplace, or moral equivalents. Regardless of what the economists literature says. What you should be reading is The Economic Structure of Intellectual Property Law by Landes and Posner.

Now that you know what a patent ISN'T re-think why it's wrong for the state to motivate creativity and marketplace risk-taking by granting patents.

And if you're going to knee-jerk to that old chestnut that inventors should not be rewarded with patent rights because they rely on knowledge learned by their predecessors that's an argument for fine tuning the novelty prong of patent law -- not an argument against patents as creativity-motivators or as incentives to take risks in the marketplace.

At the end of the day, Roy, all you're saying is that the state should not grant patent rights. But that's just petulantly pissing in the wind -- for no reason. Should the mechanics of patent law be changed? Sure, the damages calculations are off, third parties should be able to provide input during the initial examination, a fast track patenting process should be set up in exchange for time-shortened rights, etc. etc. etc.

But your position is that there should be NO patents at all. And if it's not, then what is your position?

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Roy Langston

Contrarian wrote:

> "You need to reassess your position after you grasp the fundamental fact that a patent is NOT a state-created monopoly."

That is just another bald lie from you. A patent is self-evidently and indisputably a state-created monopoly.

> "A state [which, let’s not forget, is “the people”]"

Lie. People have lived without states, so a state cannot logically be identical to the people. A state is an institutional (usually sovereign) AUTHORITY over a definite territory and the people residing therein. It may or may not act for or in the interests of "the people."

> "when the state grants patent rights those rights can only be used by the patent owner to exclude others from selling the patented product."

Thank you for agreeing that you lied, and a patent IS a state-created monopoly.

> "It is only a “negative” right – i.e., the right to exclude."

Lie. The right to exclude is not a negative right, it is a privilege. Negative rights are the kind of rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights: the right not to be interfered with by others, especially government. Patents VIOLATE negative rights.

> "It does not confer on the patent owner any power, or obligation, to provide the patented product to the marketplace."

And you may even imagine that to be relevant to the definition of "monopoly." But it isn't.

> "There is, in fact, often no market if the patent owner himself doesn’t create one – through his ingenuity, effort, and money."

Creation of a market is just brand development, and while that may require trademark protections, it does not require patent monopolies.

> "So stop mischaracterizing patents as evil, state-created monopolies."

That is what they in fact are, as I have shown.

> "A state-created monopolist provides the state’s people with required services."

Lie. When kings issued royal patent monopolies on the trade in spices, slaves, etc. (the privileges on which invention patents were modeled), there was no "requirement" for those services, and the patent holders occasionally ended up not providing them.

"A patent owner, by contrast, is an innovator who’s been granted a time-limited exclusive right to sell his invention, if he can, in exchange for explaining to the world how to make and use his invention."

More lies. Most patents are owned by corporations, not the innovators who developed the inventions; and the right to exclude others extends not only to selling the invention but to producing and using it, AND "derivative" inventions.

> "In short, a monopoly and a patent are not legal, marketplace, or moral equivalents."

While not all monopolies are patents, all patents are indisputably legally, economically and morally monopolies.

> "Regardless of what the economists literature says."

I.e., regardless of the facts...

> "What you should be reading is The Economic Structure of Intellectual Property Law by Landes and Posner."

ROTFL!! That book is nothing but an apology for IP monopoly rent seeking privileges that relies on question begging and other fallacies, just as you do. Have you read "Against Intellectual Property" by Boldrin and Levine yet?

> "Now that you know what a patent ISN'T re-think why it's wrong for the state to motivate creativity and marketplace risk-taking by granting patents."

I know what a patent is and so do you (though you pretend you do not), and I know why it is wrong and economically harmful for the state to enable rent seeking by violating people's rights without just compensation.

> "And if you're going to knee-jerk to that old chestnut that inventors should not be rewarded with patent rights because they rely on knowledge learned by their predecessors that's an argument for fine tuning the novelty prong of patent law"

No, it is not. Stop lying. It is proof that all your silly shrieking that people have no right to use knowledge and ideas they had no part in creating is nothing but absurd, self-serving, dishonest crap, because civilization could not exist if people did not use knowledge and ideas they had no part in creating.

> "-- not an argument against patents as creativity-motivators or as incentives to take risks in the marketplace."

It just flat-out REFUTES your claim -- crucial to moral arguments for intellectual property -- that people do not have a right to use knowledge and ideas they had no part in creating. I have already shown you the proof that IP monopolies BLOCK creativity; and ANY kind of immoral, economically destructive rent seeking privilege will motivate "risk taking in the marketplace." Drug dealers and protection rackets "take risks in the marketplace."

You simply have no arguments. None.

> "At the end of the day, Roy, all you're saying is that the state should not grant patent rights. But that's just petulantly pissing in the wind -- for no reason."

Stop lying. I have stated the reasons, as have many others, and you have been unable to refute ANY of them. Blithely to ignore the facts and logical implications I have identified and superciliously dismiss them as "petulantly pissing in the wind -- for no reason" is not an argument, sorry.

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Contrarian

Wipe the froth from your mouth, Roy. I won't bother your odd little world anymore.

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Roy Langston

Contrarian wrote:

"I won't bother your odd little world anymore"

You know your ridiculous, self-serving lies have been conclusively refuted, and you have no answers. Simple.

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Roy Langston

Contrarian also wrote:

"If you're really a knowledge-seeker then I suggest you read Ayn Rand's book The Virtue of Selfishness."

I read that when I was still in high school. But unlike some, I've learned quite a bit since then...

"Or do you prefer to read only what supports your already-existing worldview?"

Let us know when you've finished this:

http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/against.htm

Or do you prefer to read only what supports your already-existing worldview?

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Satya
Newbie

Thanks for this wonderful article. By the way, the Indian values depicted here are more true if we go back to thousands of years.
The only secrets that were closely guarded by Indian sages, seers of the ancient times were the disastrous weapon technology that was equivalent to modern nuclear weapons. Everything else was an open source!

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Andy

Satya, your mention of ancient weapon technology is intriguing to this open-minded skeptic. Have seen allusions to, and hints of, what you mentioned here in various sources. There does seem to be a little validity to the idea of a highly developed civilization existing during the last ice-age. Seems like quite a stretch, but not totally impossible. This would probably be a more appropriate topic to take off-line, but I would be very interested in more information. The Vedas contain such references, but are there other sources?

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CustomDesigned
Open Minded

I am ignorant (and intrigued) concerning ancient Indian weapons, but in the Byzantine Empire, "Greek Fire" (similar to napalm) was a closely guarded weapons technology.

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Andy

Hi Stuart,

Yes, and apparently the Romans were quite familiar with steam based technology, but they didn't grasp its significance and basically used it to open large temple doors to awe the peasants, etc. Since humans have had pretty much the same physical brain for about 4 million years, it seems logical that someone somewhere along the way was as inventive as "modern" man, and may have devised some means of dealing with their environment that would raise a few eyebrows back at the archaeologist's club. The more we learn about the distant past, even back to the ancient Greeks (seen the info on the little mechanical calculator dug up from a Mediterranean wreck?), the more we find we may have underestimated those folks. Some would say many of the worlds great myths spring from a kernel of fact in the dim past. I'm inclined to think much of the ancient astronaut mythos should perhaps be attributed to our ancient elders who probably deserve more credit. Certainly food for thought, and a lot of fun to contemplate isn't it? Thanks for the note.

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Boris

There is, in fact, a fascinating tradition in the ancient Indian lore, long buried but now re-emerging, that world history proceeds in 24,000-year cycles, i.e., 12,000 years of ascent and descent as the solar system moves progressively closer to and farther away from the tremendous energy emerging from the galactic center. A book is due to be published about this tradition - for information, visit the publishers' website: www.crystalclarity.com.

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Contrarian

You write: "When the government grants a 20 year monopoly, thus creating 'intellectual property,' it is taking what was previously in the 'knowledge commons' and turning it into private property."

Response: That statement is not only false, it is the false premise upon which your opposition to intellectual property lies.

Bach's concerto's, Shakespeare's sonnets, Picasso's paintings, Rodin's sculptures --- NONE of those works simply existed in whatever is this "knowledge commons" that you so admire. All were created by the combination of money, time, talent, and inspiration and, because of those efforts, all were exclusively owned by their creator -- that is, all were the intellectual property of their creator.

You will say, "Ah, but that is art. The creator of art is entitled to his rewards. No one should be allowed to reproduce a Shakespeare sonnet and call it his own. Shakespeare alone has that right." Of course.

But inventiveness is quite literally the "useful art." Should Edison's work be less protected than Shakespeare's simply because people can use his light bulb but can only read Shakespeare's sonnets? Is that what underlies your abhorrence to intellectual property -- that people desire new material things and therefore have a right to them?

Like Edison's work, extraordinary work has been, and is, being done around the world which constantly breaks new ground in our understanding of our world. The result is NEW knowledge -- not factoids that resides in some ethereal "knowledge commons" that you believe exists somewhere.

When that NEW knowledge is applied to create new products, processes, or plants -- or is used to improve on those that are existing -- then the person who spent his time and talent to create that something new is entitled to own it.

What is your rationale for allowing someone to step in at the end of that creative process and benefit by making the product, using the process, or growing and selling the plant? To each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities? Hmm. We've seen how that has played out throughout history.

You write: "By reward, are you implying "financial rewards" or also including the reputation, satisfaction, fun and other intangible rewards that accompany innovation? Read the works of people like Richard Feynman and you realize that the drive to innovate is an intrinsic drive. The propaganda that financial motivation is the biggest motivation has been repeated ad nauseam. If that were the only (or primary motivation) much of open source software would not have existed."

The drive to create is, of course, an inherent part of the human psyche -- and soul. That's obvious.

The question is not WHETHER there will be inventions and artistic works created (by individuals and by collaborations), the question for society is how best to motivate their creation. Rejecting the fact that creators are motivated by financial reward is Pollyanna school girl fantasy. But it's much more than that: it is a rejection of the premise that the creator of the work has the RIGHT to exclusively own the results of his labors. No one else -- and certainly not "society." If you deny that premise that you deny the theory of property.

Read Ayn Rand. As for your suggested readings, there are many folks who share your view that the patent system is fundamentally flawed. And some even believe it rests on a false foundation -- that there simply is no intellectual property. Of course man-made systems can be improved. Which is a silly thing to have to grant because it's obvious but if that helps there you go.

As for there being no intellectual property, just go ahead and make that argument to any inventor or artist and then tell him that you have just as much as he to make his invention or recreate his art and then sell them. That is disgusting.

What a world you live in where what is mine is yours and what is yours is ... well, is it mine? When through your efforts you create the tools and methods that permit the mass market to make 3D images am I going to be allowed to sell them? And call them mine -- because, now that they're made, they reside in the "knowledge commons?"

Your position on intellectual property is fashionable but philosophically bankrupt and socially bad policy.

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venky
Newbie

Contrarian, I'd be interested in your take after you have read the resources listed below.

"Innovation and Its Discontents: How Our Broken Patent System Is Endangering Innovation and Progress, and What to Do About It" (Princeton, 2004).

http://www.pupress.princeton.edu/chapters/i7810.html

Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk

http://www.researchoninnovation.org/dopatentswork/

Venky

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W^L+

I'm an American, and the sole legal basis for patents and copyrights is in the Constitution. It clearly tells us that the reason for allowing creators and inventors to have limited exclusivity is in order to motivate them to produce benefits for society as a whole.

I'm not (and I don't think anyone else is) arguing for *no* patents or copyrights at all. The argument is that they are being stretched far beyond their intended scope, which is having a negative effect on the creation of new goods, services, and works of art & music. And that "inventions" are covering items that were already "invented", known, and used, boxing up common property into corporation-owned packages.

I believe the original article is contrasting the grab-it-and-claim-it-for-your-own American copyright / patent system with India's historic system of freely-shared knowledge. I haven't any knowledge of India, but the time is long past when the US system was beneficial in any way. We are slowly letting the IP system strangle our society. I can see someone patenting a method of delivering dihydrogen monoxide to the body ("hydrating") using the mouth as the entrance to the alimentary canal. After that date, everyone who consumes a water-containing product must buy a license.

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venky
Newbie

I couldn't have said it better, though I would have phrased it differently. And I cannot help repeating my disclaimer that I am not interested in value judgments of Indian or America societies. The larger debate is striking the right balance between "intellectual property" and "knowledge commons."

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Contrarian

You wrote: '"... the sole legal basis for patents and copyrights is in the Constitution. It clearly tells us that the reason for allowing creators and inventors to have limited exclusivity is in order to motivate them to produce benefits for society as a whole."

Response: There's the rub. You apparently think that our intellectual property laws are for the purpose of producing "benefits" to society -- by which I take you to mean that those laws confer on society some claim of right to the results of its members' inventiveness and creativity. You're flat wrong.

The purpose of our intellectual property laws is to motivate the creation of more, and more, and more useful and artistic things. THAT is what is meant by "To promote the progress of science and the useful arts ... " the creator has the exclusive right to exploit his or her creations for a limited time.

No one ever has a claim on the creator's actual physical creation or, for a limited time, on the "intellectual property" that underlies it.

Copies of the thing -- i.e., the invention, the sculpture, the book, etc. -- can be [if the creator so chooses] distributed throughout society. If that is the "benefit" you believe flows to society then, of course. But that is a secondary effect after what MUST come first -- the actual creation of the thing.

Your "let's create laws to benefit society as a whole" assertion highlights our divergence of thought: where you apparently see intellectual property laws as a mechanism to transfer products and creations to society, I [and our founders] see intellectual property laws as a mechanism to motivate their production. The difference is significant because in your case you assume that what's to be transferred already exists. I assume that our laws are a means to motivate their creation.

In short, the "benefits" to society are not, in the first instance, the usefulness of the thing but rather the conditions necessary to create the thing.

As for our patent laws fencing off what you think is public domain information that, of course, happens occasionally. But there are mechanisms even outside the Patent Office to keep that in check [during examination anyone can file a letter of protest or submit prior art and after issuance anyone can -- even anonymously -- demand reexamination and, if the patent is being asserted against a person, then that person can challenge its validity].

If all you are squabbling about is that the patent system is not perfect then you're howling at the moon. Makes you feel good but it doesn't do a damn thing.

If you're saying, however, that because the US intellectual property scheme is so fundamentally flawed that India would do well not to recreate it, then you have not come close to making that argument.

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Natanael L

"You apparently think that our intellectual property laws are for the purpose of producing "benefits" to society -- by which I take you to mean that those laws confer on society some claim of right to the results of its members' inventiveness and creativity. You're flat wrong."
Why encourage creation if nothing is done with it? As I said earlier - what good are medicins, the LHC, cars and whatever else if nobody gets to use it? Then why would you ever want it's inventor to invent it?
How can you be so sure that the people who invent for the sake of it wouldn't have made it better, even if they did it 10 years later (10 years before the ultra-capitaltist's one was available)?

"The purpose of our intellectual property laws is to motivate the creation of more, and more, and more useful and artistic things. THAT is what is meant by "To promote the progress of science and the useful arts ... " the creator has the exclusive right to exploit his or her creations for a limited time."
As the only one? No, I've responded to this several times. The creator should be encouraged to share, not to restrict. Sure, they deserve rewards - but not 10x the budget spent on inventing the thing while preventing wide spread use.

"Copies of the thing -- i.e., the invention, the sculpture, the book, etc. -- can be [if the creator so chooses] distributed throughout society. If that is the "benefit" you believe flows to society then, of course. But that is a secondary effect after what MUST come first -- the actual creation of the thing."
If the creator not chooses to distribute it, I see no meaning in encouraging it's creation. If he does, then the system works, And yes - inventing it must come first. That's why we want a system in which EVERYBODY are encouraged to create.
This system is more and more turning to a class system, where there are inventors/creators, distributers and their laywers who get most of the money, and users. That's the biggest issue.
And inventors WILL (!!!!) keep inventing even without patents!
Just look at free and open source software and Creative Commons!

"Your "let's create laws to benefit society as a whole" assertion highlights our divergence of thought: where you apparently see intellectual property laws as a mechanism to transfer products and creations to society, I [and our founders] see intellectual property laws as a mechanism to motivate their production. The difference is significant because in your case you assume that what's to be transferred already exists. I assume that our laws are a means to motivate their creation."
As I said before - what use are the laws if the tings they protect aren't used? If things are created at a slow pace by a few inventors of which fewer get rich, why not just remove that system?
And no - none of us assumes that the inventions already exists - we assume THAT THEY STILL WILL BE MADE without patents!!!
Maybe not in the way they are now, but so what? There are plenty of old industries who where destroyed by smaller and more efficient systems. And suddenly things were made in a completely different way. And more people got to share the benefits. Is there anything wrong with that?

"As for our patent laws fencing off what you think is public domain information that, of course, happens occasionally"
No, it's all the time. The next time you look at a pile of patents, go and search randomly for a few in some random areas. Look for about 50 of them. Now, tell me, please, how many of them that covers actual inventions and are written in such a way that somebody like me could use it (and who's license costs are low enough)?
And how do I know who owns the patent? (It's rarely the person who's name is on it, and I guess you know that)

"But there are mechanisms even outside the Patent Office to keep that in check [during examination anyone can file a letter of protest or submit prior art and after issuance anyone can -- even anonymously -- demand reexamination and, if the patent is being asserted against a person, then that person can challenge its validity]."
How do I find a filed patent that covers what I'm working and and potentially could start working on in a few months if what I work on change direction, and how do I challange a patent application that is flawed? And can I do that from Sweden? Because if the patent is granted, my software could be banned in the USA if the users don't pay for licenses.

"If all you are squabbling about is that the patent system is not perfect then you're howling at the moon. Makes you feel good but it doesn't do a damn thing.
If you're saying, however, that because the US intellectual property scheme is so fundamentally flawed that India would do well not to recreate it, then you have not come close to making that argument."
No? Haven't you understood already what's wrong with the system? And why would anybody want to import a system that ain't working into a country with a much bigger population at a lower level of development?

And did you know that the real leap in development when all the airplane patents where forced into a patent pool that was cheap to license?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wright_brothers_patent_war

And read this (mostly about copyright, but touches patents): http://www.ibiblio.org/ebooks/Lessig/Free_Culture/Free%20Culture.htm#p183

Your move - why would India want the US patent system?

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Contrarian

Natanael, only good things flow from frank, honest exchanges of ideas when -- but only when -- the minds of both sides are open. As is yours.

So, although I don't have the time to continue this dialogue, thanks for sharing your ideas.

Something for you to consider: how men should behave and how they do are very different things.
When creating law we must assume the latter and, as importantly, not be enticed into falsely believing that law can change our base human motivations -- rather, law can only characterize our conduct as lawful or not and establish the penalties for that which is not. And so law is not truth -- that is, it is not objective but rather a negotiated collective agreement among people [at that time] about societal conduct. That agreement changes dramatically over time and is structured very differently among different peoples.

All of which is to say that you -- and the rest of us -- have a contribution to make when discussing how the US should fashion its intellectual property laws. This very dialogue has been going on since the founding of our nation. I commend you to read some of it before you set your position in stone.

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Roy Langston

Contrarian wrote:

>You write: "When the government grants a 20 year >monopoly, thus creating 'intellectual property,' it is >taking what was previously in the 'knowledge >commons' and turning it into private property."

>Response: That statement is not only false, it is the >false premise upon which your opposition to intellectual >property lies.

It is not false. It is indisputably true.

>Bach's concerto's, Shakespeare's sonnets, Picasso's >paintings, Rodin's sculptures --- NONE of those works >simply existed in whatever is this "knowledge >commons" that you so admire.

They all did, as soon as they were performed, published or sold. That is an indisputable fact of objective physical reality. You just refuse to know such facts, because you have realized that they prove your beliefs are false and evil.

>All were created by the combination of money, time, >talent, and inspiration and, because of those efforts, all >were exclusively owned by their creator -- that is, all >were the intellectual property of their creator.

No, that is just another lie on your part. The moment those works existed in anyone's mind but their creators', they were indisputably not, repeat, NOT exclusively owned by their creators. That is a self-evident and indisputable fact of objective physical reality. You just refuse to know such facts, because you have realized that they prove your beliefs are false and evil.

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Contrarian

Te audire non possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.

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carl

that explains much. Perhaps you should check into having it removed....

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Contrarian

It takes all the fun out of wit and parry when you have to engage on both sides of the skirmish.

The banana, Carl, is in its rightful place because that was what was available to hamper Roy's irrational screeching. My error,clearly, was removing it too soon.

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Roy Langston

Contrarian wrote:

"It takes all the fun out of wit and parry when you have to engage on both sides of the skirmish."

Huh?? This, from the guy who has been unable to muster even a response to my demolition of his ludicrous claims?

"The banana, Carl, is in its rightful place because that was what was available to hamper Roy's irrational screeching."

I have provided facts and logic that prove your claims are false and absurd. You have been unable to refute anything I have written -- indeed, have been unable even to respond to it. Simple.

Dismissing facts and logic that prove you wrong as "irrational screeching" is not an argument, contrarian, sorry.

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Contrarian

You're being ignored, Roy, because what you have to say is not only mean-spirited it is, more fundamentally, so dumb that a proper response would have to start at zero and build all the constructs necessary for an intelligent dialogue to occur. Life's too short to carry mean folks on my back.

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Roy Langston

Contrarian wrote:

"You're being ignored, Roy, because what you have to say is not only mean-spirited"

I see. So, when I oppose an unjust privilege that forcibly deprives millions of desperately ill people of treatment they could otherwise have accessed, that's me being "mean-spirited." And when I identify the fact that millions of those innocent people are DYING because of the indefensible monopoly patent privileges you try to defend, rationalize and justify, that's me being "mean-spirited" again.

Somehow, I kinda figured it'd be something like that...

"it is, more fundamentally, so dumb that a proper response would have to start at zero and build all the constructs necessary for an intelligent dialogue to occur."

Translation: I will not let you get away with begging the question, and you consequently have no argument at all to offer. Simple.

"Life's too short to carry mean folks on my back."

I'm not the one who tries to rationalize KILLING millions of innocent people by forcibly depriving them of their liberty, sunshine. You are.

Stick a fork in yourself. You're done.

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Natanael_L
Community Member

"Bach's concerto's, Shakespeare's sonnets, Picasso's paintings, Rodin's sculptures --- NONE of those works simply existed in whatever is this "knowledge commons" that you so admire. All were created by the combination of money, time, talent, and inspiration and, because of those efforts, all were exclusively owned by their creator -- that is, all were the intellectual property of their creator."

Uhmm... The physical items where of course the property of the creator, but I doubt that any of them could do anything about copying at the time besides accusing those people for plagiarism and have them mocked for it in case they claimed it was theirs.

"You will say, "Ah, but that is art. The creator of art is entitled to his rewards. No one should be allowed to reproduce a Shakespeare sonnet and call it his own. Shakespeare alone has that right." Of course. "
Huh? Of course I won't prevent anybody from selling their creations. But I disagree when they try to prevent people from mimicing it to such an extent that they try to have them put in jail for years.

"The drive to create is, of course, an inherent part of the human psyche -- and soul. That's obvious.
The question is not WHETHER there will be inventions and artistic works created (by individuals and by collaborations), the question for society is how best to motivate their creation."
No. The question is what gives the biggest benefit to the society. What meaning would it be with an HIV vaccine that nobody can use? The LHC if the data was inaccessible? Anything, really?
If it's not going to be available to the public when created, I see no benefit in encouraging it's creation. Rather the opposite.
I see a much bigger benefit in encouraging sharing.

"Rejecting the fact that creators are motivated by financial reward is Pollyanna school girl fantasy. But it's much more than that: it is a rejection of the premise that the creator of the work has the RIGHT to exclusively own the results of his labors. No one else -- and certainly not "society." If you deny that premise that you deny the theory of property. "
1: Many inventors are not motivated by money at all.
2: What says he has the exclusive right? The law which has been written by people like you?
3: No, you do. The "theory of property" is that if you've made an effort to get something, you get to keep it.

"When through your efforts you create the tools and methods that permit the mass market to make 3D images am I going to be allowed to sell them? And call them mine -- because, now that they're made, they reside in the "knowledge commons?""
There are tool for everybody to make 3D images, such as Blender. The GPL says you can charge anything you want, just provide the source too. And you can't remove the GPL. And no, you can't claim you made it, that's a huge no-no among all serious artists and programmers.

"Your position on intellectual property is fashionable but philosophically bankrupt and socially bad policy."
Linux, Firefox, OpenOffice, Jamendo.com with Creative Commons... Your move.

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Natanael L

I didn't have time to finish the post because I was interrupted, and I don't have time now either. I'm gonna write some more about property and other stuff later.

(I didn't write in chronological order or anything, I just commented randomly and then changed the order to match the post I commented)

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Juraj Ferianc

I find it very interesting to explain "Intelectual Porperty" as a matter of philosophical or theological point of view. I can just add that maybe the origin of it we can find in history as a knowledgebase hid from public in cloisters or else as a power for minority to rule over majority

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Venkatesh Hariharan is Corporate Affairs Director (Asia-Pacific) at Red Hat. In this role, he works with industry, academia, government and the community to accelerate the growth of the global open source movement. In 2006, he was awarded the "Indian Open Source Personality of the Year" by the organizers of Linux Asia 2006.

Hariharan is a former Executive Editor of Express Computer and the first
Indian to be selected for the prestigious Knight Science Journalism