[ExI] Problem with Pattents

Tom Tobin korpios at korpios.com
Tue Feb 26 04:10:02 UTC 2008

On 2/25/08, Rafal Smigrodzki <rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com> wrote:
> ### It looks like you are saying something like this: "Jeez, these
>  uppity inventors, stop asking for money, just do some work, will ya?
>  Be glad that I don't just come and smack you around." You are applying
>  a gut feeling rather than an explicit analysis of incentives and
>  inputs that is needed to predict outputs. If your feelings about the
>  issue are more important to you than the outcome, all you get is a lot
>  of aggravation. No inventor will offer you an invention if the only
>  incentive you offer him is a scornful "well, guess what - you need to
>  *keep inventing".

I think you discount the potential of open-source, collaborative means
of invention and authorship; given the currently available body of
ideas and a mandate to go nuts (and maybe a RepRap), why shouldn't the
same blooming of useful creative work happen in other fields just as
with computer programming?

Insofar as *feelings* go, I actually believe that all IP is unethical;
just as a conviction that all slavery is unethical, this doesn't stem
from reason or a cost/benefit analysis.

>  Just imagine how your baker would treat you if you helped yourself to
>  his bread and told him to "just keep baking".

Conflating IP with physical property gets far too messy for the point
of any analogy to shine through.

>  Your feelings mean nothing by themselves, what matters are the
>  incentives you present to others.

Yes and no; my feelings don't help me reach goals, but they're also
the reason I *have* goals in the first place.  If my desire is a
zero-IP world, then all the cost/benefit analysis in the world doesn't
really do me any good.

>  >  This is one of the most awful ideas I've ever encountered.  (I've
>  >  encountered it before, but, still.)  I'd rather have zero IP than
>  >  forever-IP; progress would be *faster* without the chilling effect of
>  >  having to constantly come up with ridiculous workarounds to avoid
>  >  running afoul of a patent.
> ### You mean I beat Christianity and John Maynard Keynes? Wow!

You're up there with 'em.  ;-)

>  Now, since you seem to speak with a great degree of conviction,
>  claiming that IP limits innovation, how can you explain the plain fact
>  that innovation is fastest in countries with strong IP laws? How does
>  that play into your thesis?

The economist's mantra: Correlation does not imply causation.

>  Secondly, the whole notion of perpetual-competitive IP that I am
>  proposing is designed to put an immediate and perpetual *market price*
>  on each and every piece of IP, as opposed to the current practice of
>  temporary monopoly price followed by free availability. Do you
>  understand what it means in economic terms, and especially in terms of
>  incentives to innovators and customers?
>  Your concern about needing "workarounds" is precisely one of the
>  problems addressed by the proposal: Since currently during the patent
>  period the price is monopolistic, it will be high, frequently
>  exceeding the marginal utility of the invention to many users, and
>  prompting them to avoid using the innovation. At the same time, the
>  temporariness of the price forces the patent owner to try to recoup
>  his investment as soon as possible, therefore preventing him from
>  lowering the price. Under the perpetual IP regime, the owner would use
>  the market clearing price (see my previous response to Bryan), which
>  would leave the consumer with a significant consumer surplus. You
>  would not try "workarounds" because the patented IP would be cheaper
>  than the workaround (or else the patent owner would give you a
>  discount so as to entice you to use his patent, instead of something
>  else).

Analogous to the calls for mandatory licensing schemes for, e.g., music?

Besides the current unfeasibility (which I won't hold against it —
we're on a transhumanist list, after all), what happens to those who
don't want to play the game?  What happens to people who want to
dedicate their work to the public domain?  If they "reinvent"
something, are all the royalties to the other inventors cancelled?

Anything involving mind-scanning strikes me as horrid; I'm even in
favor of laptops and other mental prostheses receiving complete
privacy protection from all outside parties, including governments
with search permits.  So as a means for figuring out who "reinvented"
something, err, I'd pass.

Ultimately, I'll readily admit that I wouldn't care *how* cheap IP
might be under this system: the notion that I might hear about an
invention and be forever tainted is simply too awful.

>  You might find it easier to think about IP like you do about bread.

Except that I can't think bread into existence, or, more aptly, I
can't create a clone of a piece of bread (or a Platonic ideal of
bread) that exists somewhere else already by thinking it up.  And with
bread, the baker no longer has it if I take it.  (Can you tell I don't
like analogies with physical property?)  ^_^

>  Imagine that there was a monopoly on baking bread, but only on
>  alternating weeks. One week the baker would be able to charge anything
>  he wanted but the next week he would have to give bread away for free.
>  Would that be an efficient system? Obviously, no, yet the current IP
>  system works just like that. The perpetual-competitive IP (PC IP)
>  system would make the pricing of inventions much more like the pricing
>  of bread today, and therefore if would make inventors and consumers
>  better off.

Again, ideas are *nothing whatsoever* like bread.  Hell, we need to
stop using the term *IP* (I've been guilty of it, too), because it's
not *property*, it's a government-granted monopoly right.

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