Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.

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All Our Patents Are Belong You

The way the patent system functions is very different than people imagine. In early stages of a new technology growing the market is crucial - and encouraging competitors much more important than trying to suppress them. Hence patents can play only a negative role. Tesla has figured this out: especially interesting to read is how Elon Musk's thinking about patents evolved as he came to understand how different is the reality from the rhetoric.

The New Hampshire Rebellion

Larry Lessig is says we should ask politicians just one question "What will you do to end this corruption?" I'm not sure I will trust their answers, but it is a good question. You find the details and help him here.

Periodic Update

As Congress gets ready to pass a greatly watered down patent reform act - watered down largely due to the lobbying of the two biggest patent trolls, IBM and Microsoft - and the Supreme Court begins to contemplate abolishing software patents, there are a few other news items.

First, there is the letter of Cecil D. Quillen, Jr. whose efforts on behalf of patent reform we have mentioned here before. Needless to say, despite the thoughtful comments he has received little response.

Next, Salvatore Modica send us this link to an article documenting how patents on the human genome have reduced research in the area. There is a message here, especially for people like Andrew Sullivan who exaggerate the role of pharmaceutical companies in saving their lives.

Finally I'd like to draw attention to the excellent paper of Bessen and Nuvolari in which they nail the reason for widespread knowledge sharing: the existence of a competing existing technology.

Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

Bilan takes them on...if you read French.

A monopoly over numbers?

Are you familiar with the ISBN? A unique identifier issued by the U.S. Government to identify books? Did you know that the U.S. Government has granted a private company Bowker a monopoly over issuing them? They are very proud of it...as if it is a good thing!

Mark Cuban and small business

Do we want to innovate our way out of crisis? How about government getting out of the way of innovators? Real innovators and small businesses are obstructed not helped by patents. Don't listen to me. Listen to someone in business.

3D Printing

If you read this blog you must have an internet connection, so presumably have heard of 3D printing. It is a very disruptive technology with potential to change manufacturing in a variety of ways - and indeed even things such as medicine. I recently had some correspondence with Joshua Pearce whose engineering group is working on materials for use in 3D printing. He is concerned about a patent arms race in this area being drag on innovation. He is looking at creative ways to preempt some of the patent nonsense.

Joshua has also been active in nanotechnology, another important areas of innovation. His article in Nature highlights how patents are helping to obstruct rather than help progress - again with innovative ideas for an open source model for key building blocks that will enhance rather than hinder innovation.

It is not a tribute to our system that genuine innovators have to spend their time trying to figure out how to avoid the hindrance of patents rather than devoting their effort to innovation.

Do we need a law?

In the dimension of copyright, the issue of plagiarism often comes up. There is a common misunderstanding that there is a connection between copyright or plagiarism. Plagiarism is not generally a violation of copyright law - although in some cases where extensive copying takes place it may be. Rather it is a failure of attribution. Basically plagiarism is not illegal - but it is heavily punished through contract law. It is a good example of "why we don't need a law for that" contrary the oft expressed opinion if something is bad we need a law against it.

The key point is that if we got rid of copyright the existing penalties for plagiarism would continue unchanged. The recent story of the economist Brian Swart is a case in point. It involves Theoretical Economics a journal which I helped to found, and my friend and colleague Martin Osborne who is editor of the journal. The key point is that Swart while violating no law, lost his job and had his PhD rescinded as a consequence of his plagiarism. So be warned: the punishment for plagiarism is severe.

The Libertarian

I wanted to draw attention to a Libertarian Blog. It covers a lot of ground, but also IP issues from a libertarian perspective, including a recent interview with Stephan Kinsella.

Catching Up

Been very busy with other things, so this is a "catching up" post.

1. I was offered the opportunity to syndicate an article. Usually these things are scams, but in this case it seems to be legitimate. The article in question seems to have some interesting stuff about non-practicing entities (i.e. patent trolls).

2. Ruth Lewis has a nice post pointing to yet more example of innovation that thrives without effective IP.

3. Riccardo DiCecio points to a long and detailed article about the original of patent trolling in Wired...

4. and Sylvain Ribault directs us to an article in Nature that the Chinese are headed down our same bad path - but luckily for both us and them, haven't arrived yet.

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Most Recent Comments

Killing people with patents

Questions and Challenges For Defenders of the Current Copyright Regime Subject Very controversial Gráfica em

The right to rub smooth using a hardened steel tool with ridges Finally got around to looking at the comments, sorry for delay... Replying to Stephan: I'm sorry

Let's See: Pallas, Pan, Patents, Persephone, Perses, Poseidon, Prometheus... Seems like a kinda bizarre proposal to me. We just need to abolish the patent system, not replace

The right to rub smooth using a hardened steel tool with ridges I'm a bit confused by this--even if "hired to invent" went away, that would just change the default

Do we need a law? @ Alexander Baker: So basically, if I copy parts of 'Titus Andronicus' to a webpage without

Do we need a law? The issue is whether the crime is punished not who punishes it. If somebody robs our house we do

Do we need a law? 1. Plagiarism most certainly is illegal, it is called "copyright infringement". One very famous

Yet another proof of the inutility of copyright. The 9/11 Commission report cost $15,000,000 to produce, not counting the salaries of the authors.

WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece P.S. The link to Amazon's WKRP product page:

WKRP In Cincinnati - Requiem For A Masterpiece Hopefully some very good news. Shout! Factory is releasing the entire series of WKRP in Cincinnati,

What's copywritable? Go fish in court. @ Anonymous: You misunderstood my intent. I was actually trying to point out a huge but basic

Rights Violations Aren't the Only Bads I hear that nonsense from pro-IP people all the

Intellectual Property Fosters Corporate Concentration Yeah, I see the discouragement of working on a patented device all the time. Great examples

Music without copyright Hundreds of businessmen are looking for premium quality article distribution services that can be

Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

Patent Lawyers Who Don't Toe the Line Should Be Punished! Moreover "the single most destructive force to innovation is patents". We'd like to unite with you

Bonfire of the Missalettes!

Does the decline in total factor productivity explain the drop in innovation? So, if our patent system was "broken," TFP of durable goods should have dropped. Conversely, since