[ExI] Problem with Pattents
kevin at kevinfreels.com
Fri Feb 22 20:31:08 UTC 2008
I don't recall exactly who said it earlier, but there was mention of the
"obvious" nature of certain inventions. I agree it would make a lot of
sense to exclude things that are both obvious, and that require very
little real ingenuity. Also, I think a patent should not be issued until
the research and development has been done to actually manufacture the
product. The "patent pending" process is sufficient for that and should
only be valid to protect the company while they are investing in the
manufacture of the product. Once products are brought to market, patent
terms relative to the R&D investment would make a lot of sense. Of
course how you quantify this and keep these guidelines from being
entirely arbitrary would have to be worked out.
On IP it becomes a bit different since the investment is minimal, the
risk of no return is high and the cost to recreate it from scratch is
about the same as the cost to the original creator. Some different
categories come to mind but they all have similarities.
1.) Photography: I owned a photography business for several years so
understand this one the most. The idea is that I take a camera out and
through my experience and training I create a unique piece of work that
I "own" the rights to. So no one can reproduce it without my permission.
I can decide to give permission if someone pays me what I think it is
Of course there is nothing stopping someone from going to the exact same
spot with the same equipment and recreating the same scene since I don't
own the scene itself, just the image on the media used to store it. So
the cost for someone else to recreate the scene is about the same as the
cost to me. So the value to a buyer is only a matter of convenience. It
is EASIER to pay me for my work than to recreate it or obtain an
otherwise sufficient similar image from someone else.
Since it is becoming easier to do such a thing, the overall value is
dropping in photographic images. The market has not yet figured this
out. Take school photos for example. My kids come home with an 8x10 and
I am told that if I want a copy of it, I must pay $15.00. This is
outrageous. I can take better photos and print them on my computer for
50 cents. So I pack them up and send them back. No doubt many people
scan them and print them. I don't simply out of respect for the
photographer, but I am sure it happens a lot. The company of course
knows this which is why they charge so much for those who do choose to
buy them. What they don't realize is that if they simply sold them for
$5.00 I would have gladly bought them because it was EASIER.
2.) The same is true with paintings. In the past, the only way to have a
good quality rendition of something was to hire a painter. Photography
devalued the price of paintings. But at the same time, the best of the
painters still commanded high payments for their work despite the
cheaper and more accurate reproductions made by cameras.
And the ability to photograph a painting and make prints has devalued it
even further. Only a select few with lots of money are willing to pay
top dollar for a painting.
Notice that copyright laws don't really apply to this. Laws are only
useful if they can be enforced and in this case, the laws are useless.
3.) Music. Again it has lost value because it has become easier to
reproduce. The music and movie industries are still in denial. DRM for
example doesn't really help. It's difficult to deal with so I only by
DRM free music. I am willing to pay money for convenience and good music
but I won't buy music when the price is inconvenience+ money. The key to
keeping me paying has nothing to do with IP rights. It's about it being
easier to go to amazon.com and download a song to my library than it is
to copy it from a friend. The price of 89 cents with no DRM is worth it
to me for most songs. No song is worth the trouble of DRM. I have to ask
again, do IP rights even weigh into my purchasing decisions? There are
often tribute bands that can recreate the songs in a similar fashion and
are even occasionally better. Here one must ask if the writer "owns" the
"instructions" for the performance or the recorded performance
itself.....Here again, convenience and the ability to reproduce are key
to buying decisions.
4.) Movies: Just about the same as music but much more expensive to
produce initially. I can see much more justification here, but as VR
gets better I expect the cost of movie productions to come down
dramatically at which point we're about the same place as music. Still,
no matter the technology, it would cost another studio roughly the same
to create a similar rendition of another film. Again, does the writer
own the "story" or just the "script"?
5.) Literature: A lot of time and effort go into producing a good piece
of work, but what is to keep someone from coming behind that person and
writing something nearly identical - but not quite? Here again, the
investment is minimal and the ability to recreate a similar story would
require similar investment.
In all of these, I think IP rights are pretty much useless. Their only
purpose is to increase the cost of obtaining specific material. If it
increases the cost of an original work, it decreases the demand.
Computer software is a mixture of both. Some things require a
significant investment while others are simple pieces of art easily
replicated. Still others are "obvious" improvements. The only way to
properly categorize such things would be to set an arbitrary investment
threshold that says that if X dollars are spent in R&D on a product then
it is protected for N years. How such a thing would fit into existing
laws and the details are beyond me.
Stefano Vaj wrote:
> On Fri, Feb 22, 2008 at 4:26 PM, <ablainey at aol.com> wrote:
>> I can't see how introducing a barrier or set of hoops can accelerate it. If
>> you mean that two inventors working on the same problem rush in order to
>> beat each other to the clerks office, then this would be no different from
>> them rushing to market. Only they would have extra work in order to secure a
>> patent before going to market. This can take a long time, time which could
>> increase as more inventions are registered and need to be checked against
>> any new inventions.
>> I would be interested if you have any links to support patents speeding
>> innovation. And I agree that IP systems cannot be reduced with just a quick
>> bit of banter. If they could, I wouldn't have posted.
> Any manual of IP law would serve the purpose. The theory behind the
> patent system is that, very roughly:
> - it provides an incentive not to opt for the alternative and more
> traditional protection offered by industrial secrets, when the latter
> is an option, that may in turn end up in monopolies of undetermined
> duration or loss of technologies, and prevent them from becoming part
> of the state of the art after a predetermined period;
> - it compensates for the higher marginal costs of the developer, which
> in a perfectly efficient market would never be otherwise recoverable,
> thus effectively preventing the economic sustainability of any R&D
> Of course, all that comes at a cost for the society. It remains to be
> seen whether the cost is higher than the utility. I suspect the latter
> to be the case for pure software patents, for instance. But we are
> discussing issues that can be *measured*, at least to an extent, so
> personal hunches are not so relevant.
> Stefano Vaj
> extropy-chat mailing list
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
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