Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Alexander the Great to Aristotle on publications vs. trade secrets


It would appear that Alexander the Great received from Aristotle not only his doctrines of Morals and of Politics, but also something of those more abstruse and profound theories which these philosophers, by the very names they gave them, professed to reserve for oral communication to the initiated, and did not allow many to become acquainted with. For when he was in Asia, and heard Aristotle had published some treatises of that kind, Alexander wrote to him, using very plain language to him in behalf of philosophy, the following letter -->

Alexander to Aristotle, greeting. You have not done well to publish your books of oral doctrine; for what is there now that we excel others in, if those things which we have been particularly instructed in be laid open to all? For my part, I assure you, I had rather excel others in the knowledge of what is excellent, than in the extent of my power and dominion. Farewell.

IPBiz notes the greatest value to a society of patents (as distinct from trade secrets) IS that they ARE LAID OPEN TO ALL. Alexander understood what happened when knowledge was laid open to all. Patent reformers in the 21st century need to understand the point recognized by Alexander centuries ago.

**Also, from What the Story of the Invention of the
Transistor Teaches Us About 21st Century Patent Practice,
8 J. MARSHALL REV. INTELL. PROP. L. 80 (2008):

The primary benefit to the public of the patent system is the public disclosure of
useful information
.33 In the case of the invention of the transistor, Bell Labs
scientists promptly and accurately disclosed their information, both through
patenting and through scientific publication, so that other scientists could build upon
their work.34

Bruce Alberts wrote in the September 5, 2008 issue of Science on the importance
of having an accurate repository of science articles, which comments apply equally to
the importance of having an accurate repository of issued patents:

The publication of a scientific article is less a way for scientists to earn
recognition and advance their careers than it is an engine of scientific
progress. Science continually advances only because many cycles of
independent testing by different scientists allow new knowledge to be built
with confidence upon old knowledge, thereby creating a repository of
reliable understandings about the world.35

Patents are an engine of scientific progress, just as publications are.36 We want
the information in both patents and publications to be accurate, and we want people
to read them, so that wasteful, duplicative work is avoided.37 The prompt and proper
documentation of the research effort by Bell Labs gave timely information to
scientific peers, and enhanced advancement, rather than duplication, of an important


Blogger Michael F. Martin said...

Nice post.

7:28 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home