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From my comment on this thread
Re the issue of the prices charged for things like apples etc.--see my post Imagining the Fate of Copyright in a Future World.
Imagine 1000 years from now, if we still have these ridiculous IP laws .... Say you need some music--to play in your department store's elevators, to go with a scene in a movie, etc.--you can choose between an almost infinite supply of older, public domain work, or pay for a new tune that is still under copyright. That will force new works' price to be almost zero.
One concern I have is that the IP socialists would at that point come up with a new IP right--basically a renewal of copyright held by someone who "rediscovers" older work forgotten in the almost infinite pile of public domain work. Imagine living in a world where Michael Jackson's work, or the music of the 70s, had been basically forgotten and lost, a needle in a haystack, surpassed by all the music over the ensuing centuries ... then some DJ starts playing it, people rediscover it anew.. shouldn't he get credit for this? After all, it takes a lot of work to loook thru all the old stuff and find "what to recommend" (a lot of IP law is based on the Marxian labor theory of value, the idea that you should be rewarded if you labor on something, as in the old "sweat of the brow" copyright law doctrine). Shouldn't the discoverer be rewarded for this? After all, if he's not, you consumers would never have heard of Michael Jackson, would not have the pleasure of knowing what (free) tracks to play at your party. What's the harm of awarding the DJ a monopoly? After all, you would never have found that needle in an infinite haystack, so no one is worse off, and everyone is better off. Copyright can never die; it only gets reincarnated. O brave new world! That has such laws in't!
[Posted at 12/07/2009 02:13 PM by Stephan Kinsella on IP as a Joke comments(0)]
Well, not exactly, but this delightful anecdote by Taki
has a quasi-Galambosian ring to it (Galambos
, you may recall, was the hyper-IP libertarian fringe personality from "California").
When the Marx Brothers announced in 1946 that their upcoming film was called A Night in Casablanca, Warner Bros threatened to sue for breach of copyright. Warner had produced the great hit "Casablanca" four years earlier, and insisted the funny men were trying to cash in on it. But Groucho was no slouch. He had his lawyer threaten Warner Brothers with breach of copyright for using the word brothers. The Marx boys won, as they were brothers before the Warners had formed the company. A Night in Casablanca turned out also to be a great hit.
[Posted at 12/07/2009 07:15 AM by Stephan Kinsella on IP as a Joke comments(1)]
As I mentioned in Radical Patent Reform Is Not on the Way
, in in In re Bilski
, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) modified previous holdings regarding the patentability of software or business-method patents in upholding the rejection of patent claims involving a method of hedging risks in commodities trading. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court and oral arguments were heard earlier this month. This entire area of patent law is very arcane, but the main issues and the oral arguments are explained very well by the heroic IP-abuse reporter Joe Mullin in Bilski v. Kappos Oral Arguments: Supreme Skepticism Toward Method Patents
Take a look at Mullins' discussion of the oral arguments--it's fascinating seeing the Justices grapple with the absurdity of patent law. A few choice excerpts below.
I suspect the Court will choke back a bit on software and business method patents--but not too much, as I argued in Radical Patent Reform Is Not on the Way. One reason is that although the law is, as the Justices seem to be realizing, completely unjust and absurd, it is the law. Or, as Bilski's lawyer said, "That's our system ... We do grant exclusive rights in exchange for disclosure." Yes, we do. And when you implement such an abomination, that's what you get: absurd, unjust results, such as granting monopolies on "fundamental ways of conducting business or organizing human behavior" (and yes, patents are monopolies, despite the shrill denials by patent shills and other pro-monopolists).
Excerpts from oral arguments:
Across the board, the justices indicated a deep skepticism toward the invention described in the patent application at issue, which was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and describes a method for trading commodities. Some of the justices went even further expressing both a fair amount of disdain for the idea of granting broad "method" patents and a concern that ruling in favor of the petitioners would lead to patent grants on fundamental ways of conducting business or organizing human behavior. ...
Based on the justices' attitude during the arguments, it not only seems extremely unlikely that Bernard Bilski will ever get the patent at issue, it also seems clear that the court is poised to establish a new, and most likely stricter, test of what is patent eligible.
One after another, the justices prodded Bilski's lawyer, Michael Jakes of Finnegan Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, in search of some idea about where to draw the line. The thrust of the questions: Does absolutely everything fall within the domain of the U.S. patent system?
"So, an estate plan?" asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "A tax avoidance method? How to resist a corporate takeover? All of these are patentable?"
"They are eligible for patenting under section 101," replied Jakes, referring to the section of the 1952 patent statute that governs what is patent-eligible subject matter.
... "Your argument is that anything that helps business succeed is patentable," Breyer said. Would the framers of the Constitution, he asked, really have wanted everyone with a new idea to run to Washington to get a patent, in the process enabling them to "stop the wheels of progress" unless competitors got permission?
"Why not patent a method of speed dating?" Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked.
There are a few, limited areas, Jakes said, where patent protection isn't available; he pointed to the fine arts as one example. Otherwise, he argued, patents encourage people to innovate, and it is via the patent system that they disclose their new creations to the public.
... Justice Sotomayor took issue with Jakes's suggestion that patents are always a manifestation of innovation.
"A patent limits the free flow of information," she said. "It requires licensing. You can't argue your position is enhancing the free flow of information."
Jakes replied: "It does, because of the disclosure requirement."
"Even though the public can't use [the patented invention]," noted Scalia.
"That's our system," said Jakes. "We do grant exclusive rights in exchange for disclosure."
Time and again, Jakes refused to draw a line that ruled anything off-limits to the patent regime. His position left the justices questioning whether he was advocating the "ownership" of basic human activities.
"Let's take training horses," said Justice Antonin Scalia. "Don't you think that some people, horse whisperers or others, had some ... insights into the best way to train horses? Why didn't anybody patent those things?"
"I think our economy was based on industrial processes," responded Jakes.
"It was based on horses, for Pete's sake!" said Scalia. "I would really have thought somebody would have patented that."
... Chief Justice Roberts pushed back on an inconsistency in Stewart's briefing of the case. On the one hand, he said, the government claims Bilski's method just describes a way of doing business, and therefore isn't patentable but then posits that a computer with an "interactive website" doing the same thing might be. "That's like saying if you use a typewriter to type out the process, then it's patentable," said Roberts.
If the website scheme was part of a computer program, Stewart said, "the computer would be at the heart of the innovation."
"No, no," said Roberts. "That's just saying instead of looking in the Yellow Pages, you look on a computer."
[Mises blog cross-post; SK.com cross-post]
[Posted at 11/25/2009 01:57 PM by Stephan Kinsella on IP as a Joke comments(2)]
See the great post from Mike Masnick, Professors Claiming Copyright Over Their Lectures
, about the ridiculous case of some Harvard Professors claiming copyright in their lectures
, jeopardizing the rights of students to take notes (this is so opposite the approach of the heroic MIT
). I mused in an email, "what idiot can ever think this is libertarian," and my compadre Manuel Lora
replied, "it's tricky. We've been told that we should get the fruits of our labor for hundreds of years. IP opposition goes against the grain."
Great point. I think this has been a "dark horse" issue for so long for a few reasons. First, most non-libertarians are so statist and legislation-accepting, that they accept the common wisdom. Second, IP law is so arcane and convoluted that it's not understood well by most non-specialist libertarians--so they sort of just assume it's part of property law but just some boring, specialized area. The few libertarians who try to justify it on principle, like Rand or Galambos or Schulman, are so overboard or passionate that libertarians who only casually look at this assume they are right.
And a third reason is that until the digital, Internet revolution the abuse and injustice has been more limited and less visible. But I think with the increasingly visible examples of increasingly unjust applications, principled libertarians can see more and more easily that IP is poppycock. So that when they hear nonsense like "two copyrights" and just envisions students being sued for ... taking notes, they know it's all baloney.
We just need to persuade them it's not fixable--it's inherently screwed up. It can't be fixed. It has to go.
[Mises post; SK post]
[Posted at 10/06/2009 05:25 PM by Stephan Kinsella on IP as a Joke comments(3)]
Taken from the Appendix to my Mises Daily article Radical Patent Reform Is Not on the Way:
Examples of Outrageous Patents and Judgments
Examples of (at least apparently) ridiculous patents and patent applications abound (more at PatentLawPractice
- Amazon's "one-click" patent, asserted against rival Barnes & Noble
- Cendant's assertion that Amazon violated Cendant's patent monopoly on recommending books to customers (since settled)
- The attempt of Dustin Stamper, Bush's Top Economist, to secure a patent regarding an application for a System And Method For Multi-State Tax Analysis, which claims "a method, comprising: creating one or more alternate entity structures based on a base entity structure, the base entity structure comprising one or more entities; determining a tax liability for each alternate entity structure and the base entity structure; and generating a result based on comparing each of the determined tax liabilities"
- Apple's patent application for digital Karaoke
- the suit against Facebook by the holder of a patent for a "system for creating a community for users with common interests to interact in"
- the "absurdly broad patent [issued to Blackboard] for common uses of technology if that technology is employed in the context of education" (see also Patent Office Rejects Blackboard E-Learning Patent One Month After It Wins Lawsuit, Techdirt (Mar. 31, 2008)
- Compton's (now Encyclopedia Britannica's) patent that "broadly cover[s] any multimedia database allowing users to simultaneously search for text, graphics, and sounds basic features found in virtually every multimedia product on the market"
- Carfax's patent on a "method for perusing selected vehicles having a clean title history"
- Acacia's patent for putting a unique transaction number on a receipt
- Pat. No. 6,368,227, covering swinging sideways on a swing
The Supreme Court, in the 1882 case Atlantic Works v. Brady
, 107 US 192, itself lists examples of patents
issued to "gadgets that obviously have had no place in the constitutional scheme of advancing scientific knowledge … the simplest of devices." These included
- a particular doorknob made of clay rather than metal or wood, where differently shaped doorknobs had previously been made of clay.
- making collars of parchment paper where linen paper and linen had previously been used.
- a method for preserving fish by freezing them in a container that operates in the same manner as an ice-cream freezer.
- rubber caps put on wood pencils to serve as erasers
- inserting a piece of rubber in a slot in the end of a wood pencil to serve as an eraser
- a stamp for impressing initials in the side of a plug of tobacco
- a hose reel of large diameter so that water may flow through the hose while it is wound on the reel
- putting rollers on a machine to make it movable
- using flat cord instead of round cord for the loop at the end of suspenders
- placing rubber hand grips on bicycle handlebars
- an oval rather than cylindrical toilet paper roll, to facilitate tearing off strips
Below are a few notable or recent examples of large, significant, troubling, or apparently outrageous injunctions, damages awards, and the like:
- Qualcomm has been enjoined from importing chips that help conserve power in cell phones (discussion; latest developments). See also Eric Bangeman, ITC to Bar Import of New Handsets in Patent Dustup, ars technica (June 7, 2007); Nokia's Patent-Licensing Case against Qualcomm Dropped by Dutch Court, engadget (Nov. 14, 2007); Broadcom Wins Major Injunction against Qualcomm, engadget (Dec. 31, 2007); ITC Upholds Ruling, Reiterates that Nokia Didn't Violate Qualcomm Patents, engadget (Feb. 29, 2008).
- Texas-Sized Patent Win, Texas Lawyer (Feb. 21, 2008). A New Jersey doctor was awarded $432 Million as a "reasonable royalty" against Boston Scientific for infringing his "Method and Apparatus for Managing Macromolecular Distribution."
- Smartphones Patented … Just About Everyone Sued 1 Minute After Patent Issued, Techdirt (Jan. 24, 2008).
- Farmer David Reaps What He Has Sown: A Patent Suit, Patent Baristas (Feb. 13, 2008) Even though "the practice of saving seeds after a harvest to plant the next season is as old as farming itself," patents prevent farmers from saving patented seeds.
- Apple, Starbucks Sued over Custom Music Gift Cards, AppleInsider (Feb. 20, 2008) A Utah couple sue Apple and Starbucks over their "'Song of the Day' promotion, which offers Starbucks customers a iTunes gift card for a complimentary, pre-selected song download." The suit is based on a patent on a "retail point of sale for online merchandising" which allows customers to buy a gift card from a brick-and-mortar store and then go home and redeem the card online.
- Apple Sued Over Caller ID on the iPhone, Techdirt (Feb. 27, 2008). The patent is on "matching up the phone number of an incoming call with a local contact database to display who is calling."
- The new 802.11n Wi-Fi standard (which promises to significantly increase Wi-Fi speed and range) is in jeopardy due to patent threats. See Bill Ray, Next Generation Wi-Fi Mired in Patent Fears, The Register (Sept. 21, 2007).
- SanDisk Sues 25 Companies for Patent Infringement: "Suits have been filed against 25 companies by the SanDisk corporation this week, as the company looks to stop businesses from shipping products it alleges are infringing on its work. SanDisk has filed suits against everyone from MP3 player manufacturers to USB hard drive creators. The list of defendants is staggering, and MacWorld notes if Sandisk succeeds it could have repercussions outside of the courtroom.… The court … complaints could affect the prices and availability of products made by companies targeted in the suit if SanDisk wins and the companies are barred from importing products into the U.S."
- Patent Office Upholds Tivo's "Time Warp" Patent, EchoStar Not so Happy, engadget (Nov. 29, 2007); see also Tivo Inc. v. EchoStar Communications Corp. (S. D. Tex., Dec. 2, 2006); and TiVo Wins on Appeal: Permanent Injunction against EchoStar to be Reinstated, Patently-O (Jan. 31, 2008).
- Jacqui Cheng, U R SUED: Patent Holding Company Targets 131 Companies over SMS patents, ars technica (Nov. 13, 2007).
- The International Trade Commission (ITC) may ban imports of many popular hard drives that "are alleged to infringe on patents owned by California residents Steven and Mary Reiber related to a 'Dissipative ceramic bonding tool tip.'" Jacqui Cheng, Hard Times for Hard Drives: US May Ban Popular Imports, ars technica (Oct. 11, 2007).
- The VoIP phone service Vonage may be put out of business by patents. Sprint recently won a patent case against Vonage in which $69.5 million was awarded in damages. Sprint had planned "to ask the court to permanently ban Vonage from using its patented technology," but the case was subsequently settled for $80 million. However, in a separate patent lawsuit between Verizon and Vonage, the jury found that Vonage had violated three Verizon patents, and awarded Verizon $58 million in damages plus ongoing royalties. Vonage claims it has developed workarounds for two of the patents. See Kim Hart, Sprint Wins Patent Case Against Vonage: Reston Firm Awarded $69.5 Million in Second Blow to Internet Phone Company, Washington Post (Sept. 26, 2007); Peter Svensson, Vonage Settles Patent Suit with Sprint, BusinessWeek (Oct. 8, 2007). Latest: Vonage Settles with Verizon, Owes Up to $117.5 Million; Vonage, Nortel Call a Truce No Cash Changing Hands, engadget (Dec. 31, 2007).
- Kinsella, Revolutionary Television Design Killed by Patents (2007).
- BlackBerry's manufacturer, RIM, was forced to cough up $612.5 million after NTP used patent law to threaten to shut RIM down.
- Microsoft was on the receiving end of a $1.5 billion jury verdict for infringing an MP3 patent held by Alcatel-Lucent (which was recently overturned).
- After Kodak sought more than $1 billion in damages from Sun Microsystems for patent infringement, Kodak finally settled for $92 million. (And according to one colleague, the verdict resulted "in the immediate shutdown of Kodak's entire instant photography division, with the immediate loss of 800 jobs. And, some say, the eventual failure of Polaroid due to lack of any real competition to keep them on their toes!")
- In another recent case, Freedom Wireless obtained a $150 million damages award against Boston Communications Group, Inc., which at the time had revenues of only about $100 million. In this case, the judge also refused to stay the injunction issues against BCGI (and by extension, its customers) pending appeal.
- Smith International was forced to pay Hughes Tool Company $204.8 million for infringement upon Hughes's patent for an "O-ring seal" rock bit, which led to Smith filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (this was in 1986, when $200 million was considered a large patent verdict).
- As of March 2003, the top 5 patent infringement damage awards ranged from $873 million (Polaroid v. Kodak, 1991) to $204.8 million (Hughes Tool v. Smith International, 1986). The top 5 patent settlements ranged from $1 billion to $300 million. Damage Awards and Settlements, IP Today (March 2003); see also Gregory Aharonian, Patent/Copyright Infringement Lawsuits/Licensing Awards. Sadly, a $200 million verdict seems normal nowadays. The recent $156 million patent-infringement verdict against AT&T, for example which could possibly be trebled by the judge now looks like small potatoes.
- Other recent cases include a $1.67 billion patent infringement verdict in favor of Johnson & Johnson against Abbott; a $400 million settlement paid to Abbot, by Medtronic, regarding stent devices; and a $716 million settlement paid to Johnson & Johnson by Boston Scientific (cardiac stents again).
- See also Company that won $585M from Microsoft sues Apple, Google, ars technica (Oct. 6, 2009) (about Eolas, which won a huge patent case against Microsoft in 2003, , and which has now sued 23 other high-tech companies including Apple, Google, Adobe, Amazon, eBay, Playboy, Yahoo, and YouTube for implementing browser plug-ins).
[Posted at 10/05/2009 12:29 PM by Stephan Kinsella on IP as a Joke comments(1)]
As noted here
(see also here
Texas Instruments has issued a DMCA notice to United TI, a group of enthusiasts. They had been cracking the keys that sign the operating system binaries in an attempt to gain access and possibly expand on the features.
Suing your own most dedicated fans of your increasingly outmoded device (its calculators), for trying to modify it to make it more useful to them. It's hard to decide what's more ridiculous: IP law, or the way companies use them.
; mises cross-post
[Posted at 09/25/2009 07:26 AM by Stephan Kinsella on IP as a Joke comments(3)]
My buddy Iceberg
proposed a delicious test for IP proponents:
Here is a scenario to test a IP statists' resolve--what would he say if one day aliens visited Earth to enforce intergalactic patents for devices which were patented 600 million years prior by that alien culture that mankind has been "stealing."
Ha. That is indeed the logic of their position. Of course the IP advocates would find a slippery way to weasel out of it. They would say that this is another government--except the logic if their non-anarchist view implies one-worldism; and anyway, if something is real property, it's property everywhere. They would say that they don't believe patent rights should apply to independent inventors--even though patent systems have no such exception and would be largely declawed if they did.
[Posted at 09/24/2009 11:18 AM by Stephan Kinsella on IP as a Joke comments(4)]
Apparently, it can. Link here
. I'm glad I was young in the '70's.
[Posted at 09/18/2009 06:15 PM by Stephen Spear on IP as a Joke comments(1)]
[Posted at 09/04/2009 11:46 AM by David K. Levine on IP as a Joke comments(2)]
You can't make this stuff up.
As reported on Patently-O,
Earlier this week, the USPTO issued a design patent to Google that covers the "ornamental design for a graphical user interface [GUI] … as shown and described." Pat. No. D. 599,372. Design patent coverage is essentially defined by the images include in the issued patent. Here, the image looks roughly the same as the company's ubiquitous Google.com homepage. (See image below.)
To be clear, many patent professionals would argue that it is misleading to ever simply call this "a patent." Rather, it is a design patent. Design patents have severely limited scope, only cover ornamental designs rather than technological advances, and are very frequently found invalid when challenged in court. The USPTO has been granting design patent protection for screen shots and icons for many years. However, to my (limited) knowledge, none of those design patents have ever been enforced in court. ...
Dashed or "ghost" lines in the drawing indicate features that are not claimed. Thus, patent would be infringed by someone using an identical layout even if they replaced the "Google" mark with their own mark. You can note at the bottom that the design patent drawing is marked with a circle-c ©. That indicates that Google is also claiming copyright protection for this layout. In addition, in the design patent, Google indicates that it is also claiming trademark protection for portions of the layout and - perhaps - for the layout as a whole.
[Posted at 09/04/2009 07:52 AM by Stephan Kinsella on IP as a Joke comments(2)]
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Most Recent Comments
Killing people with patents
I'm not really commenting the post, but rather asking if this blog is going to make a comeback
at 01/09/2018 03:46 AM by Anonymous
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
at 05/08/2015 08:35 AM by Dan Dobkin
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
at 04/10/2015 10:44 AM by Stephan Kinsella
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
at 04/10/2015 10:34 AM by Stephan Kinsella
Do we need a law?
@ Alexander Baker: So basically, if I copy parts of 'Titus Andronicus' to a webpage without
at 01/08/2015 08:58 PM by Sheogorath
Do we need a law?
The issue is whether the crime is punished not who punishes it. If somebody robs our house we do
at 11/17/2014 04:48 AM by David K. Levine
Do we need a law?
1. Plagiarism most certainly is illegal, it is called "copyright infringement". One very famous
at 10/29/2014 10:49 AM by Alexander Baker
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.
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at 05/05/2014 01:03 PM by Sheogorath
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at 11/28/2013 05:03 PM by Stephanie Smith
at 11/28/2013 09:23 AM by Anonymous
at 11/28/2013 09:22 AM by Anonymous
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
at 11/24/2013 10:48 AM by SpaceCorp Technologies
at 11/20/2013 03:18 PM by Anonymous
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
at 11/02/2013 08:09 PM by Anonymous
Does the decline in total factor productivity explain the drop in innovation?
I wondered about TFP, because I had heard that TFP was increasing. Apparently, it depends on who
at 11/02/2013 08:08 PM by Anonymous