Saturday, March 03, 2007

Techdirt takes on IP lawyer

Some arguments against "patent reform" can be found at

It begins:

A reader sent in a defense of patent trolls, written by (surprise, surprise) an IP lawyer. He trots out a number of different points which not only conflict with each other, but don't make very much sense. He flat out says that "Far from stifling innovation, [patent] trolls foster it," though he fails to actually back up that statement.

The meat:

The success of a product usually doesn't have very much to do with the inventions, but the innovation of how it was brought to market.

Previous discussion of Techdirt on IPBiz:

Do patents tend to harm inventors?--part 3

This previous discussion related to a "working paper" by Jim Bessen which had been mentioned on Techdirt as supporting the proposition that patents harm innovation.
[see Innovation Is An Ongoing Process -- Not A Single Event, May 11, 2006. Some comments therein: Franklin purposefully refused to patent his "Franklin Stove" for the very reasons Mike has opinionated. (...) (Just not the crap about Switzerland in 18.. something you used to quote here, which is completely untrue by the way)(...) For someone who keeps saying how much more intelligent than us you are, I would have thought you could have followed some links. However, here you go:

Again, name the source for such a conclusion.

Well, first off the case in Switzerland does prove the point, but since you don't like that one, how about the pharmaceutical industry in Italy.]

LBE had discussed the Switzerland / Netherlands theme on TechDirt in November 2005:

Let's see, you meant to say both economies thrived by becoming piracy centers.

From George Monbiot's 2002 "Patent Nonsense":

But in 1859 a small company based in Basel "borrowed" the aniline dying process which had been developed and patented in Britain two years before. The company, later called Ciba, soon became a massive industrial enterprise, swiftly outstripping competing firms in Britain. Monbiot neglects to mention that the giants of dyes (later I.G. Farben) were located in Germany, with strong patent protection.

In the 1890s, Gerard Philips, unhampered by intellectual property laws, started manufacturing the incandescent lamps developed by Thomas Edison in the United States.

Monbiot gives the periods of "no patents" as 1850-1907 in Switzerland; 1869-1912 in the Netherlands.

Given that this is Einstein's "centennial" year of the three big papers, we know that there was a Swiss patent office in 1905, because Einstein was working there. Thus, the numbers may be a bit suspect. Otherwise, it might be a bit surprising that the Swiss and the Dutch didn't steal the Wright Brothers work, too. They certainly were after pharma.

And, of course, somewhere along the line they decided to cease being patent-free.

Another discussion on Techdirt is
Patent Panel Offers No Real Solution To Patent Problem

It drearily brings up past themes: There were arguments about how countries can't advance industrially without stronger IP protection (which ignores the history of places like the Netherlands and Switzerland), but no one on the panel was willing to note that the patent system all too often represents a net negative to innovation.

Ironically, the patent system illustrates something not learned at TechDirt. Once you've publicly disclosed something in a patent, you don't get to "disclose" the same thing again. That's called promoting the progress.

One comment referred to Rollerball:

I think the way our society handles the patent/business/antitrust issues will probably lead to Corporate Wars like those referred to in the movie Rollerball. It truly is based on greed and that just will not change. The term Corporate Lemmings comes to mind.

Another comment evoked even earlier (1960's) thinking:

I would contend that the main reason for the increase in patenting in the US is the 'arms race' mentality that has been forced on companies. 'Everyone else has dangerous patents, so we should get as many as we can too, to defend ourselves'. The whole thing is a phenomenal waste of time and money, but the system currently gives US companies little choice.

If we can keep this craziness out of the rest of the world the US will hopefully eventually suffer the consequences of the extra costs and difficulties they are heaping on the otherwise straightforward process of inventing new cool stuff.

IPBiz notes: can the apes in the beginning of 2001 be far behind?


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