Another Libertarian Argument Against Patents Bites the Dust

Posted by dbhalling 7 years ago to Philosophy
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Libertarians and Austrians, including such organizations as the CATO Institute, Von Mises, and the Wall Street Journal, have put forth a number of arguments against patents and intellectual property. These arguments include that ideas (an invention is not just an idea, but I will let that go) are not scarce and therefore patents are not real property rights, patents are monopolies, patents inhibit the growth of technology, patents require the use of force to enforce one’s rights, patents are not natural rights and were not recognized as so by Locke and the founders, among other arguments. I have discussed most of these arguments earlier and will put the links in below. One of their favorite fall back arguments is that patents limit what I can do with my property. For instance, a patent for an airplane (Wright brothers) keeps me from using my own wood, mechanical linkages, engine, cloth, etc. and building an airplane with ailerons (and wing warping). This according to the libertarian argument is obviously absurd. After all it is my property.
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  • Posted by wmbelljratty 7 years ago
    Patents are not incentives. They are a recognition that the products of our minds belong to us, to use as we see fit. The only incentive part to a patent is that the government agrees to protect this right as long as the idea is made public, for others to learn and improve. That is what happens when you file a patent. The incentive is to make it public. Otherwise, all ideas would need to remain secret in order to protect them under current laws.
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    • Posted by khalling 7 years ago
      You make a great point. The patent is the property right. However, the economic consequence is that inventors are incentivized to invent-AND become inventors as a profession. That is the incentive as I see it- the ability to make it your job or business. Rand as well agreed. John Galt's profession was inventor. db is giving a talk on that very subject at the Atlas Summit this June.
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    • Posted by Maritimus 7 years ago
      It seems to me that the invetors' incentivs are to enhence their productivity, profitability and competitiveness. The goverment wishes that others profit from the invention and offers a limited protection in exchange for publication.
      Inventors have a decision to make. If the invention is not detectable (difficult to reverse engineer) from the product, once it reaches the market, why would any sane inventor publicize the invention and alert competitors?
      If there is no government protection offered, why would anyone spend the precious lifetime inventing, if the next day a competitor can copy with impunity? For public good? Hello, moochers.
      Personally, I think that patents should last quite a bit longer. Why is copyright so much longer than a patent? I do not know.
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  • Posted by Robbie53024 7 years ago
    db: Why do you insist on attacking "libertarians" vis-à-vis IP? There is no one universal codification of libertarianism. Why instead, don't you identify the objection that you have, your rational for why you believe that it is right, and how you believe that others - named individuals please, not general categories - are incorrect, and then cite examples.

    Just as you cannot take the orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic Church as speaking for all Christians, nor even the Foundation for Freedom of Religion as speaking for all atheists, you cannot attribute all libertarian thought merely to a few libertarian think tanks.

    While those identified are major libertarian organizations, not even those who work for and in those organizations have unified thoughts on this matter.
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  • Posted by $ ObjectiveAnalyst 7 years ago
    Patents are essential incentive for the creative to bother creating... for investment to occur. Without those incentives we would be still using stone knives... The time frame for protection, in my mind, is the only thing worthy of even debating. Today the government puts so many roadblocks up, I feel that some will require even more time. Better to remove the roadblocks...
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    • Posted by 7 years ago
      In fact, the Industrial Revolution would not have occurred when and where it did without patents. When Japan adopted the US patent system in the 1860s or so, their per capita GDP began to grow for the first time. Property rights in inventions are absolutely necessary for real per capita incomes to grow.
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    • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 12 months ago
      Actually, OA, both Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises said just the opposite: the creative need no incentive as they are self-motivated, internally motivated - and they work even as the world rejects them. As for patents, though, yes, holding one does bring investors. However, even the electric knife in your kitchen as two claimants - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_kn...

      How their independently produced intellectual property is to be protected is not clear. And what does it do for the chainsaw?
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      • Posted by $ ObjectiveAnalyst 6 years, 11 months ago
        Hello MikeMarotta,
        I find the assertion regarding Rand difficult to square with what I know.
        http://aynrandlexicon.com/searchresults/...

        http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/patent...

        Could you provide substantiation for a contrary position?
        I would be pleased to review any quote, from any source you have and add it to the context of my knowledge.
        Respectfully,
        O.A.
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        • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 11 months ago
          Dear ObjectiveAnalyst:
          Yes, I have citations from both Rand and Mises. I know that Rand said that if one man beats another to the Patent Office by a fraction of a day, that is the outcome of free and open competition. I note only that patents are JUST ONE factor for the creator. I had a graduate class in "Technology and Society" taught by Ron Westrum, a recognized authority. We did not agree on the modern instantiations, but I had to accept his presentation of history.

          Dr. Westrum taught that the professional inventor is not a "Gyro Gearloose" but a grounded, practical, and creative person who systematically works at several to many successfully patented ideas that meet actual, marketable needs.

          He taught that patents were invented in Venice in 1450. The state protected your right to control your idea on the agreement that upon your death, rights go to the state. Thus the Republic of Venice ultimately owned all patents to its own further enrichments - on behalf of the people, of course...

          My citations:

          The Creative Genius
          Far above the millions that come and pass away tower the pioneers, the men whose deeds and ideas cut out new paths for mankind. For the pioneering genius12 to create is the essence of life. To live means for him to create. The activities of these prodigious men cannot be fully subsumed under the praxeological concept of labor. They are not labor because they are for the genius not means, but ends in themselves. He lives in creating and inventing. For him there is not leisure, only intermissions of temporary sterility and frustration. His incentive is not the desire to bring about a result, but the act of producing it. The accomplishment gratifies him neither mediately nor immediately. It does not gratify him mediately because his fellow men at best are unconcerned about it, more often even greet it with taunts, sneers, and persecution. Many a genius could have used his gifts to render his life agreeable and joyful; he did not even consider such a possibility and chose the thorny path without hesitation. The genius wants to accomplish what he considers his mission, even if he knows that he moves toward his own disaster.

          Von Mises, Human Action, "Action Within the World" (1966 ed., pg 139)

          "Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light, but he left them a gift they had not conceived, and he lifted darkness off the earth.

          Throughout the centuries, there were men who took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision. The great creators - the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors - stood alone against the men of their time. Every new thought was opposed; every new invention was denounced. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered, and they paid. But they won.

          No creator was prompted by a desire to please his brothers. His brothers hated the gift he offered.

          His truth was his only motive.

          His work was his only goal.

          His work - not those who used it.

          His creation - not the benefits others derived from it - the creation which gave form to his truth.

          He held his truth above all things and against all men. He went ahead whether others agreed with him or not, with his integrity as his only banner. He served nothing and no one. He lived for himself. And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement."
          -- Howard Roark's "Courtroom Speech" in The Fountainhead.
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          • Posted by $ ObjectiveAnalyst 6 years, 11 months ago
            Dear Mike Marotta,
            I concur with your appraisal of Von Mises position, but I find it more difficult to accept the contradictions regarding Rand.
            It is true these were the words of Howard Roark's courtroom speech from the Fountainhead. And, I believe people pursue their work for many reasons and rewards, but Roark felt ownership of his work, his designs, to such a degree that he blew up the distortion of it, because he felt such a deep ownership. That is why he was in court. Certainly one may pursue their work for the sheer driving desire to create, but once created and recognizing the value, the desire to protect that value and reap the benefits are not contradictory to these words, IMHO. Some, like Franklin, would create and give away their creations freely (e.g., the lightening rod), but that is their choice. Speaking historically as Roark does, he is expressing the basic desire even prior to such protections. I do not see his words as explicitly or implicitly contrary to support for patent rights. The modern Patent protects that ownership so that one does not have to blowup a building to protect one's intellectual property. He has recourse in court.
            Well, that is the way I see it; for what it is worth.
            Respectfully,
            O.A.
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          • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
            Mike what a bunch of BS. It is a complete contradiction to Atlas Shrugged and all historical evidence that incentives do not matter to creators. See Zorina Khan and others that have shown incentives are clearly important to inventors.

            Please spread you socialist nonsense somewhere else.
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            • Posted by Maritimus 6 years, 11 months ago
              May I suggest that there is probably a difference between incentives and motives. Also, if each human is an unpresedented and irepeattable individual and I think they are, there is likely to be a nearly infinite variety in the balance between incentives (external) and motives (internal).
              Hey! This is my 100th comment!! I deserve an award. Something more valuable than the Nobel Peace Prize, please.
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              • Posted by Lucky 6 years, 11 months ago
                Martimus-
                This comment- Fundamental principle of economics, people respond to incentives. Yes, but what are incentives? Money, property rights, the chance of money, the acclaim of others, the internal sense of achievement, are on the list. So the way I think agrees with your comment.
                100 posts- careful, it may be habit forming. You will note that there is no member with exactly 100 posts proving it is not possible to stop (I got this argument from climate science).
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                • Posted by Maritimus 6 years, 11 months ago
                  Thank you, Lucky! [I wish I were like you. I always had to work very hard for everything I ever earned ;-)]

                  My point was that there are incentives and motives. Some creators may not need any incentives, only motives. Others may grumblingly respond to incentives. I just thought that the picture DB was painting was too much black and white.

                  If I were not so undisciplined I could click "unsubscribe" couldn't I? I enjoy the company and am willingly paying for it with my precious lifetime, or what's left of it (another wink).
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                  • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                    You should read Zorian Khan's "Democratization of Invention" and Jacob Schmookler Inventions and Economic Growth. Both of these economists studied motivations of inventors in depth. Almost all inventors are motivated by the ability to monetize their inventions. Partly, because that is the only way to obtain enough capital to actual build most inventions.

                    That said there are several papers on the rate of inventing before patent laws. These papers show that there is some natural (background) rate of invention and it is proportional to population and to a lesser degree population density.
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                    • Posted by Robbie53024 6 years, 11 months ago
                      When I worked at Deere we were installing new diesel engine test cells. The brother of the quality engineer was a drag car racer - he lived for that sport. In order to fund his "hobby" he developed an improved carburetion system. Since drag car engines have a very finite life - measured in hours - demonstrating this carburetor was a challenge given the sensor tools available at the time. So, to show of the incremental improvement that he created he had to create a new sensor to be able to capture the marginal improvement. Of course the other race teams were not so much interested in his new carburetor system, but in the sensor which would allow them to tune an engine much more quickly thus saving tremendous amounts of costs. And we licensed the sensor and pulled complete torque curves, fuel usage, etc. data from diesel engine test cells in 3 mins at a resolution 100 times better than before that took 30 mins and could only be done on a sample of engines.

                      The upshot of the story is that this guy didn't invent for the money, other than it was able to fund his passion - racing. He did enough to fund his passion, but that was about it. He was an engineering genius, just had a habit that prevented him from realizing what he could achieve. So, it's not always money to keep inventing.
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                      • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                        Actually you have no idea why he invented. Most people who invent have to pay other bills. Your point of view constrains inventing to the wealthy. Your example is anecdotal cherry picking. And you don't know that he didn't invent to make money. Are you saying he could not use the money to further his race career.

                        Your example is fantasy altruistic nonsense.
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      • Posted by 6 years, 12 months ago
        I disagree that Rand said any such thing. This would disagree with the whole premise of Atlas Shrugged - what do you think the phrase galting means?

        The wikipedia article is the sort of stupid article you get from people who do not understand how inventions work. Both Swan and Edison created an incandescent light bulb. Many people got other patents on incandescent light bulbs. This does not mean they were simultaneous, this does not show independent invention. Edison invented the high resistance long(er) filament life light bulb, whereas Swan invented the impractical low resistance incandescent light bulb. Edison is given credit by historians, because his invention made the incandescent light bulb practical. But he certainly built upon the work of Swan and lost a patent infringement suit to Swan.
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        • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 12 months ago
          Read Howard Roark's "Courtroom Speech." And do you agree that Mises said that more or less the same thing? I agree that intellectual property rights are important, but I do not find them OBJECTIVELY instantiated in present US law. The first patent law was in Venice c. 1450. English patent laws go back to the 1600s. Like magnetism and gravity and disease, they sort of had something of an idea but really were not modern in their thinking. It just seems to me that in defending present US patent law, you are only feathering your own nest, not actually making new intellectual discoveries in a difficult area of law. So, let me ask you, "In the best of all worlds, what would intellectual property look like?"


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          • Posted by Robbie53024 6 years, 11 months ago
            What you will find lacking in this discussion is that "ownership" of an idea can exist with two different persons, developing the same idea totally independently. In such a case, both should have equal rights to ownership (if you truly believe that the fruits of ones own mind and labor are owned by the one creating them). This may require the purportedly aggrieved idea owner to prove that the second individual had prior knowledge of the existence of the idea prior to their development or some other mechanism.

            It is astounding to me that some who hold the tenets of AR so dearly are so fast to discard them when it does not suit their own personal livelihood.
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            • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
              No this has been well covered. The USPTO had a procedure for this for over 150 years and it rarely occurred. Almost always there are differences in the the near simultaneous inventions. Simultaneous invention is a myth used to attack patent laws and inventors. Most so-called simultaneous inventors are much later, and used the work of the inventor or absorbed the inventors ideas in the culture. Any patent or patent applied for is published 18 months after it is filed and second handers who refuse to undertake a patent search should not be rewarded. This is completely consistent with AR. Perhaps you should read her piece in Capitalism The Unknown Ideal again.
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              • Posted by Zenphamy 6 years, 11 months ago
                My problem in observing these discussions seems to center on the claims by some that an idea can be owned. I understand copyright to apply to the published writing of that idea and patent to apply to the verifiable demonstration of an idea.

                Many individuals can have the same idea or conceptual thought at the same time, but the genius of the inventor is the ability to turn that idea into a workable and demonstrable thing.

                Am I missing something in all of this argument?
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                • Posted by khalling 6 years, 11 months ago
                  I don't buy it. That's like saying someone at the same time was creating an Emily Dickinson poem. not likely. Let's give credit where credit is due. In highly competitive and disruptive industries, time and time again it's shown that yes, the same idea will be reproduced-but not at the same exact time. The PTO has a fail safe process for this and over the years it just doesn't pan out. This is a fallacy. A fairy tale.
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                • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                  Depends on what you mean by an idea. An invention is an idea that is described in enough detail to practice an invention. It is not just I want a flying car. That can and should be the property rights of the inventor. An invention is always a class of things, not a specific instance.
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                  • Posted by Zenphamy 6 years, 11 months ago
                    So, let's try this again. I would take the position that the source of all creation by humans is a human that forms an idea, then puts the mental/physical effort into that idea to turn it into something perceptible or tangible to other humans. That would imply that an idea of a schizophrenic implanted by his secret voice would be patentable.

                    Are you saying that the idea alone, without the effort of the mind to work it into a song, piece of art, writing, or working machine or thing is copyrightable or patentable, and someone else can come forward with a similar idea as the basis combined with the mental/physical effort producing the perceptible/tangible thing and is prevented from copyrighting or patenting or even using his work?

                    I don't think that's what you're trying to say. If you are, please explain how I can patent an idea alone, without developing the idea into at least a comprehensible and communicable plan, description, and/or demonstration.
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              • Posted by Robbie53024 6 years, 11 months ago
                But it did occur. And since it does occur, then ipso facto we have multiple valid owners of the same intellectual property. This must be addressed.
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                • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                  Yes and there was a procedure for it and invention was never simultaneous. There is an infinite number of things to invent. Not everyone win in every business and not everyone wins when inventing. Reality is not a socialist pipe dream of equality.
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              • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 11 months ago
                Robbie said INDEPENDENT not "simultaneous." For me the classic case is Srinivas Ramanujan who independently discovered many things that were already known. That he did that on his own was the fact. Also true, you cannot patent a mathematical theorem. However, the corrupt patent system does allow for software patents which are only mathematical statements. You need to address the core issues, here, Dale. Instead you changed the subject in order defend present US patent law.
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                • Posted by Lucky 6 years, 11 months ago
                  MM's point about Ramanujan is good. Ramanujan was a simply educated person who came across a geometry book, not a text but a summary, saw the statements of the theorems, and worked out the proofs for himself without help. He thus invented proofs for the fundamentals of geometry independently and went on to do original work himself in other areas of mathematics. He was 'discovered', taken to England, and died young of TB.

                  Suppose that sort of work was patentable or given copyright, what are the implications? You may argue that however brilliant, it had been done before and the law does not give prizes for second place. I would argue, it ain't necessarily so, by asking, what is 'it' in this case? The result- a proof of a theorem, or is it the method, in this case undoubtedly original?

                  Only mathematical statements- Only! As I suggest for considering Ramanujan, it is not statements that matter, it is the proof, or for software a specific sequence of statements/instructions that have a purpose, that fulfill an objective.
                  I do not see any definitive resolution coming out of Objectivism, development of existing law, or libertarianism. It is not that Rand was wrong, I do not see the kind of thinking going anywhere.

                  Do these rights, a type of or a sort of property right,
                  a) lead by logic to rules that can be put into law, or,
                  b) are there things related to certain human desires/objectives that we want to achieve, such as economic growth, reduce the power of the state, preserve property rights, liberty of the individual, or promotion of the common good?
                  I am suggesting the latter. So, I think for progress we need to use utilitarianism (no apology for the rude words).
                  I could be quite wrong.
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                  • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 11 months ago
                    I judge regional science fairs and I have seen bright kids from small towns in the middle of nowhere who got no mentoring but did good, original work... that had been done before. The so-called "Lockean theory" that you create value by "mixing your labor" would validate such independent inventions and discoveries as the rightful property of such creators as well.

                    Regarding Ramanujan, how many proofs of the Pythagorean theorem have you seen? The Wright Brothers wanted to patent everything derived from the idea of the airplane. Applied to the Pythagorean Theorem only one person would be allowed to own all of the possible proofs no matter how derived or presented. The analogy to physical objects is quite clear. It is generally true that in order to be a faithful copyist, a true second-hander, you must slavishly follow the original model and not put a single nuance into it. That seldom happens. In fact, the general rule appears to be that every so-called "copy cat" puts something new and different of themselves in the derivative work.
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                    • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                      Mike,

                      Once again you prove your ignorance of patents. The Wright brothers did not try to patent everything about an airplane, only those things they invented - lateral control system most importantly
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                      • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 11 months ago
                        Dale, once again, you jump on a detail and miss the wider truth. We already discussed the fact that the Wrights tried to claim that their "wing warping" covered Glenn Curtiss's ailerons. And that was all I meant. I already pointed out that they failed to identify their propeller as a true invention. So, everyone else could use the same concepts and basic designs with impunity. Imagine if the Wright Brothers had controlled the propeller via patent.
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                        • Posted by Robbie53024 6 years, 11 months ago
                          The issue seems to be one of whether an idea is a unique and limited item or whether it is in essence limitless. db often uses the argument that once I have homesteaded a piece of land (analogous to creating an idea) that you cannot come and claim it for yourself. That is not an appropriate analogy. He often dismisses that a second person (or more) can create the same idea but because of some instance of timing, the development by the later person is somehow not valid nor worthy of acceptance of ownership.

                          db seems to think that an idea is like a stack of paper with carbon paper between the sheets. The first person to have the idea and writes it down creates all other impressions. That is clearly false. He has actually acknowledged that the US Patent office has examined this and found that it happens, but rarely (I question whether it is really as rare as they purport, or whether they just haven't been able to identify it). But regardless of the abundance or scarcity, if it has happened even once, it is worthy of protecting.
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                          • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                            Right and you should be able to make copies of Atlas Shrugged I and II with you're own equipment and steal their creation. You should be able to sell Atlas Shrugged the book as long as it is your own paper.

                            You make a great apologist for the second hander.

                            GET SERIOUS
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                  • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                    The inventor, just like the discovery is the first person. You cannot discover something after it has been discovered.

                    I am not sure I understand you questions:

                    But,
                    a) Mathematics is copyrightable but not patentable.

                    b) Utilitarianism always leads to a dictatorship. However, there are no contradictions between what is right and what is good for humans under Rand's ethics.

                    Creation, not recreation or rediscovery is the source of property rights including patents and copyrights.

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                    • Posted by Maritimus 6 years, 11 months ago
                      First, I am confused between the two of you (Lucky and DB). You are probably professionals in this field and use some terminology that I ignore, at least in part.
                      What I would like to say is this. If I am able to create, which means effort, and if I am a free man and able to think, I must decide, before I embark on that effort, why am I doing this? If I wish to sell it, I need to know if what I acheave is legally sellable. If I am doing it just for my own satisfaction, why would I care if somebody else copies my work? If he then starts selling it and I envy him, I have found out that I am not a very goof thinker. Why would the government want to help me attack the other guy? Just because I changed my mwhat I am trying to say make sense to you?
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                      • Posted by Lucky 6 years, 11 months ago
                        Hey- what could be a compliment to me could invite legal action from DBH for a demeaning comparison!
                        This is a brilliant thread, it enables all kinds of philosophy to come out, some it relevant.

                        If there is a question of who should get legal protection for discovering America, it is not relevant to argue about Columbus, Leif Ericcson, or the tens of thousands of years earlier groups who crossed over from NE Asia, all were independent of the others. I have to disagree with DBH, many discoveries and inventions have many parents, it a result of some questions being topical, so many solutions get offered. But as to sharing the results equally, or even according to the value of the work put in, no.

                        The Wright Bros did not invent flight, they got airborne from their own power, they made the first powered controlled sustained flight (I think it is defined). The difference between the Wrights and many predecessors is that their work enabled flight for trade. Many deserve accolades and medals, but only the Wrights should get legal protection.
                        So, what I reckon the role of law should be is to protect intellectual property but only with respect to the ability to earn money income.
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                    • Posted by Maritimus 6 years, 11 months ago
                      Sorry, I garbled teh last part.
                      It should read: ... changed my mind? Does what I am trying to say ...
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                      • Posted by Robbie53024 6 years, 11 months ago
                        You make a very good point that it is clearly possible that more than one person can develop the same invention totally independently.

                        Objectivism seems to state that since one owns oneself, and by extension the fruits of one's labor and mind, then whatever is created by one is their personal property.

                        I cannot for the life of me see any moral argument that says that one person who develops an invention on Monday and another person who develops the same invention on Friday in a manner that was totally independent do not have equal rights to ownership. Time does not seem to be a salient factor. Whether I develop the invention on Monday or Friday is immaterial as to whether I used my mind to create the invention. By the premise of Objectivism, that should be my property regardless of whether someone else created the same thing at an earlier or later time, so long as the developments were done independently.

                        Now, there are practical considerations in how to demonstrate that the developments were truly independent that would need to be created. However, the current system which rewards the first and not the second, seems anti-thetical to Objectivism. I'm baffled as to the position that db takes - other than to realize that he is a patent attorney and vested in the system.
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                        • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                          Nonsense, you can't develop my land after I own it. I might be using it for ranching, but you come along and turn it into a farm. You argue that you were the one that developed it with your own labor and materials.

                          Robbie you are not serious.
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                          • Posted by Robbie53024 6 years, 11 months ago
                            You seem to want to equate a fixed quantity item with a boundless one. The fact that you have an idea does not limit me from having the same idea, unlike the fact that you homesteaded a piece of land that I cannot subsequently then claim for myself.

                            A better analogy would be for you to erect a windmill behind which I could erect a separate windmill - both of us using the same wind to turn the blades and creating power from it.
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                        • Posted by Maritimus 6 years, 11 months ago
                          It seem to me that Objectivism correctly recognizes that your two inventors own each their inventions. The patent system, I think, wishes to avoid getting into discernig between the genuin second inventors and criminal copiers. The first inventor "won the race" and there are no second prizes. If there were, can you imagine the multiplicity of criminals claiming that they are the silver medalists? It might look like Boston marathon. I am certainly not a lawyer (thank Heavens!) but, to me, the logic of practicality seems pretty straightforward.
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                          • Posted by Robbie53024 6 years, 11 months ago
                            Practicality should not trump morality. The moral thing to do would be to recreate the system to allow the dual ownership in an equitable manner.
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                            • Posted by Maritimus 6 years, 11 months ago
                              The moral thing would be for everybody to behave morally. We cannot find even just 535 of them who would all behave morally. It would be even more immoral to have no property protection for the inventors.
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                          • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                            Wrong. There is no such thing as the second inventor anymore than there is the second discoverer of Newtonian mechanics. But yes, having settle property rights is important. If anyone who comes along and improves your house can claim ownership in it, who will build a house, who will lend to buy a house, who will rent the house.

                            You are not serious, you are pushing an Libertarian altruistic rant.
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                            • Posted by Maritimus 6 years, 11 months ago
                              I guess we will have to agree to disagree.
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                              • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                                You guys want an altruistic version of property rights for inventor. Everyone can be considered an inventor no matter how they created someone else's invention. You want a system where everyone gets a trophy and no one gets a return for their efforts. I reject altruism in all areas.
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                                • Posted by Maritimus 6 years, 11 months ago
                                  There are independent "second' inventors. Did you see what I said about "no second prize"? I also claimed that investigating "second" claims to separate independenys from criminal impostors would be impractical and got accused of being immoral. You just accused me of promoting altruism and not being serious. I dislike that style od discussing things very much, so I will not discuss with you any more. Parting friends.
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                                  • dbhalling replied 6 years, 11 months ago
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                • Posted by Robbie53024 6 years, 11 months ago
                  Thanks. It seems that db is corrupted in that he has a direct interest in the perpetuation of the current system (or something very similar). When a single filer has singular rights, it makes for very good legal business - both for those researching the existence of IP for those looking to obtain a patent, and for those looking to block others from using their independently developed IP by filing lawsuits.
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                • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                  I have dealt with both. Independent is also a myth. Patents are published, to suggest independent invention is to suggest you failed to do you due diligence. That is exactly the worst sort of second hander that provides nothing.
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              • Posted by $ CBJ 6 years, 11 months ago
                "A Yale study found that the U.S. patent office is approving new software patents at an approximate rate of 40,000 a year. That's more than 100 new software patents every day. Tracking every software patent to make sure one is not in violation would be an utter impossibility without a full-time team of lawyers on staff."
                http://reason.com/reasontv/2013/02/20/to...
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                • Posted by khalling 6 years, 11 months ago
                  that is nonsense. This isn't IRS code. Obviously, if you're in a space, you know your competitors, you know basics about why you are coming up with a solution. These are fairly easy to do a simple google patent search on. Basically, it might come down to a few that might be close if you are in a competitive space and you may need professional advice at that point. But anyone wanting to build a business wants to make sure the basics are covered before they proceed. What alarmist nonsense by Yale. A real surprise-NOT. DB is probably all ove the comments section of that article.
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                • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                  This is nonsense. That is like saying you cannot know who your competitors are. The number of webpages about new software products and features is easily 10 times that number. In a country of 313 million people, having 0.0125 percent of the population invent something in software is too low, not too high.

                  The objective evidence is that GDP per patent, R&D per patent, and citations per patent have increased over the last 50 years. http://hallingblog.com/patent-quality-no...

                  As the US becomes more of an information economy, you would expect the number of patent per GDP, and per R&D dollar to be decreasing, not increasing. The number of patents issued is being arbitrarily suppressed and this is hurting the US economy.
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                  • Posted by $ CBJ 6 years, 11 months ago
                    GDP per patent and R&D per patent have not increased nearly as much as stated, because the U.S. government systematically understates the true rate of inflation. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-01-06...

                    GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is itself a misleading government statistic: http://economyincrisis.org/content/why-g...

                    It would be interesting to do an analysis of how much economic growth is due to the expiration of patents and removal of the threat of "infringement" lawsuits.
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                    • Posted by khalling 6 years, 11 months ago
                      you want to attack patents. Ok. you have to be serious about the evidence. You are hunting and pecking for anything when evidence is over-fuching-whelming against your stance. bring some Objectivism into the discussion, someone, pleeeese
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                    • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                      If you were serious all you would have to do is overlay the economic freedom indices and the strength of patent laws in those countries. It's almost a perfect correlation. Then look at technological/scientific advances in countries versus the strength of their patent systems. The evidence is overwhelming.

                      It would be interested if you were actually interested in the truth.
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                      • Posted by $ CBJ 6 years, 11 months ago
                        1) I am serious.
                        2) I am interested in the truth.
                        3) Way too much emphasis on attacking my alleged motives and not enough on responding to my arguments.
                        4) Correlation is not causation. The top five countries in the Heritage index of economic freedom all have government-controlled health care. Should we conclude that socialized medicine is desirable because it correlates well with an economic freedom index?
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                        • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                          4) No but just shouting correlation is not an argument. And socialized medicine does not correlate with economic freedom. Because it would include Venezuela, North Korea, the USSR or Russia, so your argument does not follow and you have not shown that it is correlation. I have provide overwhelming evidence for causation, but will repeat it once again.

                          a) All real per capita increases in wealth are due to increases in the level of technology. See Robert Solow and others - New Growth Technology.
                          b) The industrial revolution, which was really about a perpetual invention machine, started in England and the US around the time of the advent of modern patent systems. Note this is the first time that large groups of people escape the Malthusian trap (real incomes start to grow).

                          c) Japan copies the US patent system in 1860s and that is when their real per capita incomes start to grow.

                          d) Those countries with the strongest patent systems create most of the new inventions and have the greatest dissemination of new technologies and vice versa.

                          e) Every time a property right is enforced for an asset people invest more in that asset, e.g., private land rights and pilgrims, USSR and Red China's restoring private plots of land.. The same is shown to be true for inventions.

                          THE EVIDENCE IS OVERWHELMING IF YOU ARE WILLING TO LOOK.
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                          • Posted by Robbie53024 6 years, 11 months ago
                            I'm guessing you'll say that the study "Of Patents and Property", BY JAMES BESSEN AND MICHAEL J. MEURER ( http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/fi... ) is complete hogwash.
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                            • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                              Surprise Surprise it is from CATO. There are many studies on point and the rate of technological growth correlates roughly to the population for millennia. Then with the advent of recognized rights in invention real per capita incomes take off, where there are property rights for inventions. Not where the largest populations are and disconnected from population for the first time in history. And what do you know it occurs where there are property rights for inventions.

                              Their point of view is completely inconsistent with Economist Zorina Khan http://www.amazon.com/The-Democratizatio..., in which she shows inventors and investors are motivated by patents. And we already know that the only way to increase real per capita incomes is by increasing your level of technology (which means inventions).

                              They also ignore the work of William Rosen's book the Most Powerful Idea "http://www.amazon.com/The-Most-Powerful-Idea-World/dp/0226726347

                              Their statement about property rights being the source of the Industrial Revolution is historical nonsense. Is inconsistent with the well established fact that new technologies are the only way to increase your standard of living.

                              So the connection is clear and JAMES BESSEN AND MICHAEL J. MEURER are ignoring the overwhelming evidence.



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                              • Posted by Robbie53024 6 years, 11 months ago
                                Thought so.
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                                • Posted by khalling 6 years, 11 months ago
                                  well he does spend lots of time on all of these related studies because it's not only his field but he also is in a battle over ideas. There are very few studies or articles from respected libertarian sources on the issue he has not gone over with a fine tooth comb. The Libertarian think tanks are letting us all down on this issue.
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                          • Posted by $ CBJ 6 years, 11 months ago
                            a) Only partly true. Rises in per capita income can also occur if technology is stable and (non-patent) property rights are given more recognition, for example by lowering tax rates, stepping up enforcement against crime, and repealing economic regulations on business.

                            b) The industrial revolution coincided with the expanded recognition of property rights in general. Patents can’t take all the credit, and possibly not any of it.

                            c) Japan’s per capita income started to grow when it began adopting already existing technology on a wide scale. This would have occurred even if Japan had not copied the U.S. patent system.

                            d) The same can be said about countries that have the strongest recognition of non-patent property rights.

                            e) It’s true that enforcement of property rights for an asset will result in more investment in that asset, but it does not automatically follow that the asset in question is legitimate property. In early America, the institution of slavery led to the enforcement of property rights in slaves and to a high level of investment in slaves. This did not make them property in any moral sense.
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                            • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
                              a) No. Because you hit a limit. So real per capita increase ONLY come from new technology.

                              b) NO, there had been property rights for hundreds of years in England - at least as strong or stronger than today.

                              c) No there is absolutely no evidence for you point of view. Yes you can start growth by copying other peoples technology, but only until you catch up.

                              d) Yeah, you can't have patent rights in the absence of property right in general. So what. France had more people, a stronger scientific base and the Industrial Revolution started in England and the US, because of property rights.


                              CBJ you are just like the AGW prophets and the Creationists. You can always make up another excuse, but you are immune to logic and reason on this subject.

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          • Posted by 6 years, 12 months ago
            Patents are based on the same thing as all property rights. They are based on the metaphysical reality of creation. The are incredibly modern. Teaching you all of patent law is beyond the scope of this discussion, but if you want to argue that are present patent laws do not live up to Locke, I agree.
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  • Posted by Rozar 7 years ago
    I'm confused about the bull dozer and the Apple Orchard. He asks if you can use your bull dozer to tear down his Apple Orchard. But that would of course be a violation of clear property rights. I fail to see how this relates to intellectual property.

    I may need to brush up on my concept of what property is, but from what I understand it's something that you either acquire from the person who owns it, or it's something that becomes yours after no one has used it for a certain amount of time and you have worked to bring value to it.

    I'm on the fence with how I feel about property rights but I'm heavily leaning in favor of the libertarian side of this argument.

    I think you should be allowed to do whatever you want with your property as long as you aren't violating the property rights of others. I think that's what it comes down to: I own my mind and the things my mind produces, so I should be able to do whatever I like with those ideas. Stating it like that I can see why this is such a complex issue though. But for now I'm fairly firm in the concept that when the mind produces something, it is only by discovery. You discover a concept or a pattern, and I would say regardless of the means of discovery, it's within your mind that the discovery is formed.
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    • Posted by 7 years ago
      Rozar,

      If patents are property rights then it is exactly the same.

      This quote begs the question "I think you should be allowed to do whatever you want with your property as long as you aren't violating the property rights of others." What are property rights? A question libertarians have failed to answer. Patents are property rights and you cannot use your property to violate my property - this is not unique to patents.

      You also have not defined an invention. An invention is a human creation that has an objective result, such as a incandescent light bulb always produces light when a voltage is applied. An invention is a creation and therefore you have a natural right - property right in your creation.
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      • Posted by Zenphamy 7 years ago
        I happen to agree with patents and IP, but your argument brings up a question I'm not sure of.

        In the case of the light bulb with the objective result of producing light, what happens to the use for heat as an application, i.e. brooders, pump house freeze protection, etc.?
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        • Posted by 7 years ago
          Hi Zen,

          I am not sure I understand the question. If you are asking about, if an incandescent light bulb is used for heat would that infringe a patent for a light bulb talking about light, the answer is generally yes. However, that does not mean that you could not obtain a patent on that application. This sort of overlapping rights are common. Edison could not practice his ILB (incandescent light bulb) without infringing Swan's patent on his ILB.
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      • Posted by Rozar 7 years ago
        So my disconnect is happening because I don't see how a patent qualifies as property. I see the paper it's written on as property and the idea itself as property, but if someone else creates the same invention I don't see how he is destroying the other persons idea or their property.

        Property rights is the concept that an individual owns what he creates or receives and should be allowed to do as he wishes with it. For the concept to work in the real world it has to be universally applied. If I'm using my property to prevent you from using yours then I'm violating your rights to your property. In no way am I preventing you from using your property when I have an idea and act on it. Stating otherwise would mean that an individual on the other side of the planet could be violating someone's rights without ever coming into contact with the person or his property.

        An invention is a new arrangement of atoms previously unknown to an individual. Yes you have a property right to the object you created, but how do you claim the right to another's invention? If someone invented a telephone, and later someone else invents a telephone, why do you get to take the product of his effort?
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        • Posted by 7 years ago
          Rozar,

          If I build a house or your land it does not destroy your land. Property rights often overlap and I think that is the source of your confusion. If you build an airplane with my material, who owns it? IF you build an airplane with my invention (patented), who owns it? You still own the stuff used to make the plane, but you cannot configure it to infringe my property right.

          Why do you think you have the right to use the work of others for free? If you copy a book and sell it isn't it clear you have stolen their property rights? You have not come into contact with the author. They may be on the other side of the world. And of course you have hurt them, you have taken money that should have been theirs.

          "Property rights is the concept that an individual owns what he creates or receives and should be allowed to do as he wishes with it."
          As explained numerous times herein you never have the right to do whatever you want with your property. This is a straw man argument.
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          • Posted by Rozar 7 years ago
            The flaw with the house analogy is that it isn't about destroying my property, it's about severing my control over my property. For the airplane the owner should probably be agreed on before the plane was built. If I knew how to build a plane I would buy the parts from you, if you had parts for a plane you would hire me to assemble them. The analogy is to vague to find a conclusion to the question of ownership.

            I'm not saying I have the right to use their property for free. I bought a book and I used it to make copies of it to sell. If we didn't have an agreement on how I was supposed to use the book before I bought it, it's mine. Now if you sold me the book with a terms and agreements stating I can't reproduce this book for commercial profit, then I have no problem with you suing me if I break those terms.

            I disagree that I took money that should have been there's, I took money that COULD have been there's. And at no point did I stop them from trying to sell their book to the same customers.

            Ok maybe I'm not explaining my view of property rights well enough. When I say that you can do whatever you want with it, I mean within the context of both what the property is capable of doing, and the context that you aren't preventing some one else from using their property. That's what I meant when I said it has to be universally applied.
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  • Posted by mckenziecalhoun 7 years ago
    I can make an airplane.
    I can make any kind of patented device I wish.
    I can go to the patent office online, look through the patents, and make any of the devices or ideas there with my own hands.

    I just can't sell it to others.
    My freedom isn't infringed at all.
    Just my income, and I have no right to sell their idea.

    Is my understanding in error?
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    • Posted by 7 years ago
      Legally, you cannot make any of the inventions that still have an active patent (20 years from the date of filing with some caveats). You can certainly make any of the inventions of the patents that have expired. Practically, no one is going to care in most cases if you make a single version of the invention for your own use.
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      • Posted by evlwhtguy 7 years ago
        I think that by the letter of the law you may be absolutely correct in that one cant even make a patented item for their own use. I suspect that in a practical sense, unless there is some commerce, it would be hard to bring suit and prove damages unless there is some commerce involved. IE: One has to be able to prove damage in order to bring a civil suit. If I merely make an airplane to Orville's design it is hard to prove Orville lost any money. If however I start ferrying people around for a fee, Orville can easily say that I gained revenue that could not have been there but for his invention. Ergo, he didn't get it and is damaged as a result.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 7 years ago
    I used to publish comic book biographies of rock stars. They were unauthorized because they told the truth rather than only what the subject wanted published. We were sued by some of the rock stars but they lost because it was judged that comic books were as legitimate literature as any book, and as such, was protected under the 1st amendment. We were not allowed to duplicate their logos without their permission. However, our books were copyrighted. In order to put out the book, it had to be researched, written, illustrated, colored and edited. The thought of anyone being able to duplicate our product without going to the expense, and hard work that it took, would be maddening, and would have kept us out of the business to start with. Without patents and copyrights there is no incentive to create the product.
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  • Posted by RobertFl 7 years ago
    Just because someone holds a patent, does not prevent you from implementing it. It only prevents/restricts you from selling it as your invention without compensating the original works owner. use the Wrights bros, example, You could build your own plane, just don't mass produce them as your work, unless you make significant improvement.
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    • Posted by $ Thoritsu 7 years ago
      DB is right; however, if practiced for purely personal use, a patent monopoly is unlikely to be pursued or even have a legal avenue for pursuit; therefore, your concept of non patents regarding personal use is practical, if not precisely legal.
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    • Posted by 7 years ago
      It's a little more complicated than that. A patent gives the owner the right to exclude others from making, selling, using, and importing their invention. A patent does not give the owner the right to do any of these things with their invention however. It is a bit complicated, but I have a post on Edison and Swan that illustrates these points if you are interested.
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  • Posted by $ jbrenner 7 years ago
    Maybe I am not as libertarian as I thought. I have always supported patent rights and have filed a patent before.
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    • Posted by 7 years ago
      I remember in my early 20s being disappointed that Rand was so critical of Libertarians. I resolved the issue by saying that libertarians are a political party not a philosophy. While I now understand why Rand was so critical and agree, I still follow my earlier policy to some extent. For instance, I would vote for Rand or Ron Paul before any of the candidates in the last several presidential elections. And most libertarians have to run on the constitution which is pretty clear about patents.
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      • Posted by $ ObjectiveAnalyst 7 years ago
        Hello dbhalling,
        Good points. However, don't you think that today's Libertarians also seem to be of a slightly different strain than those of the days when Rand commented? I still see some problems, but I believe they are less severe. What say you?
        I would certainly agree on voting comfort level.
        Regards,
        O.A.
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        • Posted by 7 years ago
          Maybe I am biased by the IP issue, but I see it the other way around. In my opinion, libertarians are always trying to short cut philosophy and this leads to the problems. For instance, a big libertarian argument is the Principle of Non-Aggression. Libertarians think this solves all the problems, but without a clear definition of property rights it is impossible to tell who the aggressor is. For instance, if I am a hunter gatherer and I run a across a cow wandering on the plains and shoot it and then you come along and say the cow is yours and point a gun at me, I will not recognize your property rights and you are the aggressor to me. This is a real issue as the American Indians did not understand property right in land.
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          • Posted by $ ObjectiveAnalyst 7 years ago
            Interesting. Perhaps I am listening to too few libertarians. I listen to Stossel quite a bit and he professes to be one, but he disagrees with others on his own show that also claim the title. I do not believe he would shoot your cow, or lay claim. I think there is much diversity of thought among them. This could be because of what you say. They are not all grounded upon the same philosophic foundations... Of course, not all those that appreciate objectivism adhere to all tenets either...
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            • Posted by khalling 6 years, 12 months ago
              Stossel is highly critical of the patent system.
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              • Posted by $ ObjectiveAnalyst 6 years, 11 months ago
                Yes. We must work on him... I think we can bring him around. He just did a show on NSA and internet spying and has hardened his position some. Previously he took it much lighter, but claimed after researching for the show he has become more concerned. Still he isn't quite there... But...
                “My eighty-percent friend is not my twenty-percent enemy" Ronald Reagan
                For me if you are eighty-percent I hold out hope...
                Am I too forgiving?
                O.A.
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            • Posted by $ puzzlelady 7 years ago
              Stossel often plays devil's advocate so as to bring both sides of an issue into the open. He uses Socratic method of questioning to get his guests to provide the answers. Otherwise his shows would be naked propaganda rather than journalism.
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          • Posted by $ jbrenner 7 years ago
            The principle of non-aggression solves most, but not certainly not, all problems, and your example of property rights, dbhalling, is a perfect counterexample. Point well made. In fact, the Range Wars in late 1800's Wyoming (and perhaps even the Cliven Bundy situation recently in Nevada) are historical examples of the same issue.
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        • Posted by $ jbrenner 7 years ago
          Libertarians are definitely different than in Ayn Rand's time, but as dbhalling notes, recently some of today's libertarians are being inconsistent with what I would have expected. I'm beginning to feel like Ronald Reagan when he expressed dismay over how the Democrat Party had left him. Is the Libertarian Party abandoning me?
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          • Posted by Robbie53024 7 years ago
            There has always been a strain of libertarians that are really anarchists at the core. They do not believe that any organizing mechanism in society is needed, other than voluntary interactions. This seems plebian to me, and naïve of human nature. Unfortunately, it seems that there is some portion of humanity that will always seek to dominate/rule their fellow man.

            I just re-listened to the Libertarian Manifesto by Murray Rothbard. This was originally written in the early 70's and the first 3/4's of the book is spot on to what is happening in our society today. The solution, however, is anarcho-capitalism and the last 1/4 of the book describes how that system would function. As I said, it seems naïve at best.

            I think that there is a different way - Constitutional Libertarianism. This would return to the form of government initially established by our founding fathers. If it wasn't a power explicitly enumerated in the Constitution, it would not be permitted. The Supreme Court would return to a body that adjudicated fact based on law and nothing else - no, "interpreting the Constitution" and no creation of "rights".
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            • Posted by 7 years ago
              Robbie,

              I think K would like you to make this into another post, because she thinks it would be interesting on its own.

              That said, I have met/read some interesting thoughtful anarcho-libertarians who have come up with some interesting ideas. Including the novel Alongside Night. But some of them start sounding exactly like Marxists, including Stephen Kinsella who leads the Austrian charge against patents.
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              • Posted by Robbie53024 7 years ago
                You can tell K that she's certainly free to start such a post. Not sure that I have the time anymore to do so.

                Anarcho libertarians (capitalists) fail to take into account that in any age (going back to the ancient Greeks) there have been the uber-rich that can create mechanisms of force (be they armies or weapons) that can dominate their fellow man. This has increased in capability and expanse over time and requires that there be a protection mechanism to prevent such a dominance. With, perhaps, that one exception, I think the remainder of their proposals have merit.
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      • Posted by khalling 7 years ago
        you have recently been heard to say you are following Ted Cruz's remarks and policy/platform building which surprised me a little, considering his Conservative roots. However, he has quoted Rand several times, including in his filibuster. Have you heard him say anything about intellectual property rights, patents specifically-and is that a deal breaker for you in voting for a candidate?
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        • Posted by $ jbrenner 7 years ago
          Dear Khalling,
          Were you referring to me regarding Ted Cruz? I think so, but I'm not sure.
          I haven't heard him talk much about social conservatism, although he
          probably has. When called by political fundraising types, I have
          hung up on them after saying that the Republican party is neither
          libertarian nor conservative enough for me. I would consider myself
          personally conservative, but I would govern more as a libertarian
          (with the intellectual property exceptions noted by your husband).
          Ted Cruz's defense of the Constitution and on fiscal sanity
          has been consistently correct. I was surprised recently when
          you (Khalling) noted Rand Paul's stance on the immigration
          issue; your information was much appreciated, even if it wasn't
          what I thought Rand Paul had previously expressed.
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          • Posted by khalling 7 years ago
            hi j and thanks for your take. I actually was referring the question to db. Surprisingly I'm not sure of his answer.
            I tend to disagree with many in the Gulch over the immigration issue. But I keenly appreciate the problems you have in the US with illegals. I disagree on many enforcement mechanisms in place. they are not working and innocent US citizens are daily caught up in it. If illegals could not get free services and our system for citizenship and foreign Visas was streamlined, you would see a marked drop in illegal immigration activity. The US does have job demands that are filled by migrant workers. However, the migrants would find it hard to remain in the US after their season if they did nt get substantial services on your and my dime. The problem is tricky and more border patrol without smart enforcement is not working. I know. I have crossed the border many times in the last two years. I am considered a criminal until I get beyond 100 miles in.
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            • Posted by $ jbrenner 7 years ago
              The immigration issue is a thorny one. I agree with much of what you said, khalling. I know many will disagree with me, but in addition to what you said, making it easier for foreign nationals who graduate from US universities on visas to become producers in this country would help immensely. When American immigration policy worked effectively, there was no welfare (I mean hammock) system in place, and the US objective was consistent with the Statue of Liberty. Now our immigration policy has become a tool for the looters to recruit more moochers to vote for the same looters.
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    • Posted by 7 years ago
      I think it is a sad turn for libertarians. It goes back to the understanding of property rights.
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      • Posted by $ jbrenner 7 years ago
        I don't think this has been traditionally a libertarian position on patents and intellectual property. Have they started to change some of their views?
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        • Posted by 7 years ago
          Hi J,

          Actually, yes I think they have changed. Their are some prominent Austrian economists and libertarians who have argued for IP. Some have argued that IP should last forever, which Rand and I disagree with.
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          • Posted by $ jbrenner 7 years ago
            I am quite comfortable with the American patent expiration limits (7 years for some inventions up to as high as 20 for drug discovery to account for the extended period of scrutiny of clinical trials).

            If this next item should go into its own thread, I will gladly take it there.
            I would like some feedback on the "Galt ethics" of the following.
            I have two projects that students of mine are working on under my supervision
            that I am funding myself. One involves an atomic force microscope - a tool
            for looking at surfaces with near atomic resolution. The second involves
            3D printers. Both were invented long enough ago that the main patents have
            expired (The key patent on 3D printing expired within the last year.).
            Regarding the 3D printer, my group has made an innovation to make 3D printers
            print with a higher precision than what is out on the market, including those that
            one can download instructions on how to make via open-sourced technology
            (the main reason for putting this comment into this thread, as open-sourced
            technology is the exact opposite of the traditional patent process). We've also
            made a few changes that make 3D printers somewhat more robust and cost-effective.

            Regarding the atomic force microscope, my student (a real John Galt in training) has come up with a process by which to make such a microscope far cheaper ($1000 in parts + his time vs. $40000 for a commercial-off-the-shelf system) than currently exists. His design looks quite different than the typical design, but it does have the same physics and all of the same functionality. My student built the proverbial "better mousetrap", but it is still a mousetrap.

            Given that the patents have expired, I have no legal problems doing what I am doing,
            but am I being consistent with my Galtish values? I think so, but I'm a little unsure.
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            • Posted by 7 years ago
              Hi J,

              The point of the patent system is to spread information so that others can build on it. To not build on the work of others is impossible. Your can't create something from nothing and even to communicate with other you have to use language developed by others. So I think it is perfectly consistent with Galt's ethics. Most inventors love to see their area of technology pushed forward as long as they are paid while their patent is in force. If you are writing a history it would be nice to mention the significant inventors whose work you built upon.
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              • Posted by $ jbrenner 7 years ago
                Thanks, db. I agree with what you said. Any patent or paper requires proper referencing of prior work, so that won't be a problem.

                I was actually more concerned about the ethics of building on an open-sourced technology movement.
                I am pretty sure I can make money at it, but can I make enough to make it worthwhile?
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                • Posted by 7 years ago
                  Hi J,

                  Most people make money off of open source by providing a service. Most software companies tend to make most of their revenue off of service anyway. One of the oldest open source ideas is software/hardware is provide easy links to your core ideas so that you do not have to pay for the development of all those in apps. For instance, the app movement with Apple.

                  The open source movement seems to think they created this idea, but Gillette sold their razors (gave away) in order to sell you their razors replacements. Same idea with ink jet printers. The goal is to have something integral in the middle.
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                  • Posted by $ jbrenner 7 years ago
                    Indeed, that is correct. You do have to have something integral in the middle.

                    I am a hardware guy. I do provide services, but I like inventing something and moving on to the next invention rather than constantly adding the next bell or whistle. That is harder to do now.
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                    • Posted by 7 years ago
                      A sad fact of our weakened patent system. Most of my inventors want to invent, not raise money, or manage people, or undertake marketing, but the profession of inventing (only) is a pretty small group nowadays. Such was not the case in the US in the late 1800s, when most of the great American inventors were around.
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                      • Posted by $ jbrenner 7 years ago
                        I don't mind the marketing. Everyone has to sell themselves and their products.
                        I don't mind the people management, although I am better at some things than I am at people management. The fundraising is the part that I struggle with. I refuse to mooch, which is the expected way nowadays. Fortunately I have made enough on my own to provide seed money for projects to get to what I'll call the Shark Tank stage where I can get venture capitalists interested, but I'm not great at doing the business plan part either. I'm a builder. I like to say that I made that.
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        • Posted by $ allosaur 7 years ago
          An online test I took convinced me that I am a libertarian with strong conservative leanings instead of the other way around. Maybe it is libertarians with strong liberal leanings who are the libertarian goofus dodo birds. I'm all for patents--horrified at the concept that an inventor should not be rewarded for his own work and creativity.
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          • Posted by SRS66East 7 years ago
            I am in agreement with you although I consider myself a libertarian. I am amazed how the media will allow for a spectrum of beliefs in the Republican and Democratic parties but will portray all Libertarians as having uniform beliefs. It's a disservice to their readers and a miscarriage of the truth.
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            • Posted by khalling 6 years, 12 months ago
              True but all of the most recognized groups within the Libertarian party seem to agree on patents. Can you give sn example of a nationally recognized group which does not?
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  • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 11 months ago
    Counselor, you are up against a wall. Several other objectivists here have asked questions you could not answer. Others have pointed out flaws in your logic. More importantly, many of us (but not you) have identified errors in current law as applied. You have never offered an objective theory or framework for intellectual property laws.

    Just for instance: What objectively differentiates a patentable idea from a copyright? I know how they are operationally different today. Rand herself said that you cannot prevent someone from knowing what they know once they learn it. True though that is, you _can_ prevent them from repeating it. If you can patent software, why not a theory of epistemology?

    You have admitted that a slew of basic ideas - such as bakelite - were never patented, but that a large inventory of _derivative inventions_ based on them were patented. Is that not a conceptual contradiction? A patent is supposed to be not knowable to any capable practitioner of the art. The word is "knowable" - not "known." Knowable. How do we know what is knowable to another person, unless we apply some (gratefully, unpatented) theory of epistemology? What is the standard for knowability?
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    • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
      No I have answered them and their response has been that inventors should be altruist who do not receive any return for their work and where every second hander can pretend they are inventor of something that has already been created.

      A theory of epistemology is a description, it does not have an objective result. It is like geometry, it is a logical description and it is objective in its approach, but it does not have an objective result like an incandescent light bulb, which always gives off light when the correct voltage and electricity is applied.

      I never admitted anything of the sort. In fact every example given in the Rational Optimist had multiple patents. The evidence is overwhelming patents are key drivers for inventors. To suggest otherwise is like the socialists who always have an excuse why it always fails.

      You guys are impervious to logic and evidence, so it is impossible to have a rational discussion.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 6 years, 11 months ago
    Why are patents valid for a limited duration?
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    • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
      All property rights have a limited duration. The dead cannot own property. But patents and copyrights are not passed down indefinitely because that would reward people for being born to someone who was productive.

      Here is my take on Rand's explanation on this point
      Rand has a very interesting take on the reason for limited terms of patents and copyrights. She analogies a patent or copyright to a debt owed to the inventor/author by people that copy the inventor’s invention or author’s book. Debts are not and cannot be perpetual, so this is why the term of patents and copyrights are limited according to Rand. I will note that real property rights are actually time limited also. A person only has a property right in real (personal) property during their lifetime. How can someone who is not alive own something – this would be a logical absurdity. However, real property is passed on to the person with the next best title to real property upon a person’s death. In the case of intellectual property, no one person has better title to intellectual property than anyone else so upon the expiration of its term it becomes free for all mankind to use. Or as Rand explains, real property “can be left to heirs, but it cannot remain in their effortless possession in perpetuity: the heirs can consume it or must earn its continued possession by their own productive effort.”[8] In contrast, “Intellectual property cannot be consumed. If it were held in perpetuity, it would lead to the opposite of the very principle on which it is based: it would lead, not to the earned reward of achievement, but to the unearned support of parasitism.”[9]
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      • Posted by CircuitGuy 6 years, 11 months ago
        I agree with the reasoning behind IP, but what you're saying makes it seem like an inferior type of property. Someone could make the same arguments about effortless possession in perpetuity to any assets. We could also make the argument that all assets, including IP, need some effort to maintain its productive value. Some things like gold coins don't require much effort.

        I agree with the logic of the system we have now. I can't imagine aspirin still being patented. I can't imagine people developing new medicines without some period of patent protection.

        I just don't understand the philosophical side. I would probably benefit from understanding more of the philosophy of real property. For some reason real property feels like a right, but IP feels like a very good policy idea.
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        • Posted by 6 years, 11 months ago
          Read what Rand say, which essentially is that when land or buildings etc are passed down, the child, grandchild, etc has to continue to provide effort and value for their return. But why should Edison's great grandchild receive value for the invention of high resistance incandescent light bulb, when they are not providing effort or value.
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  • Posted by freedomforall 6 years, 12 months ago
    Many inventors view a patent as a way of offering up their ideas as a sacrifice to big businesses that ignore patent law when it suits them, and a boon to patent attorneys that inventors can ill afford.
    The benefit of patents is only really effective for the wealthy who can afford to litigate against manufacturers in the 3rd world. It is yet another way that small business is discriminated against by government in favor of government's looter partners, large corporate interests.
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    • Posted by 6 years, 12 months ago
      Unfortunately, there is a lot of truth in that. Our patent system is morphing from a property rights system, to a crony capitalist system to protect large companies. I think it is incorrect to label this a boon to patent attorneys. Overall this has resulted in less inventing, which hurts most patent attorneys and engineers. My non-fiction book "The Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur" discusses how our patent system has been perverted and how these can other changes were a major part of why the 00s were so bad economically compared to the 90s.
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  • Posted by $ puzzlelady 6 years, 12 months ago
    Fascinating discussion (I always seem to come in late). My logic on intellectual property is this: When you make something physical with material you own, like a chair or a sweater, it is yours. More directly, when a product of your body, such as a baby, is created, it is totally yours, even if the government would like to claim part ownership of it and jurisdiction over it as a future taxpayer, even before it is born. In fact, the government has rules in place for taking a child away from parents it deems unsuitable.

    Now consider another product of the individual--mental rather than physical. If people cannot own their ideas and what they can use them for to produce goods or services whose financial reward accrues to the creator, we are back to a hunter/gatherer, finder/keeper mentality, pre-property rights, and people will end up scrappling over an asset like chickens in a barnyard fighting over a worm.

    The Constitution set up protections for inventors to guarantee them first rights to income from their creation. It's why a farmer is entitled to the harvest from the seeds he has planted and the plants he has tended (at least before Monsanto). Early tribal societies would give the prime portion from a kill to the hunter, who would share the animal with the rest of the tribe, an early case of the division of labor.

    I don't have patents on my products, but have 35 years' worth of trademarks and copyrights. My products use mostly geometry, which is public domain, and even my trademarks acknowledge that a name applies to a certain product in a limited category and does not take the word out of the language universally and exclusively. For example, I own the trademark "Blockout", but not the word "Block" nor the word "out". And only in the classification to which it belongs. If you want to make a shoe and call it Blockout, have at it.

    It seems that those who are first with a new idea own it. Like fungus, that singularity begets an entire population of related ideas, each building on what came before and adding some new element to it. Squabbles over ownership don't really arise unless profits are involved. Then everyone wants a piece of the action.

    The most significant viral spread of ideas has been in software, open source, the Internet: give it away free to get everyone addicted, and then sell them ever-changing upgrades. How else would, in a mere 20 years, an entire planet become wired and the majority of people walking around with a cellphone permanently attached to their skull and tablets in their bags.

    How would online communities, involving billions of people, have arisen like the old village square where folks would sit around and converse and decide the weighty questions of the day or play games. Millions of online games hook nearly everyone into global projects. What a fertile medium for the dissemination of ideas that people are willing to share not for profit but for the sake of spreading those memes.

    TED talks started out with $4500 tickets for people to attend the live events, until they decided to put them online free for the world to see. "Ideas worth sharing", they call it. The payoff is not in money but in minds. Those are intangible goods. But when it comes to physical goods that inventors or their investors produce, then property rights do apply. The patent office examiners have the unenviable task of arbitrating what is an original idea and what is just derivative. I suspect that favoritism can creep in for ruling in favor of one but not another. Having a decent patent attorney helps.

    I find the best protection for your intellectual property is to get it embodied and famous as soon as possible so imitators can't grab it, too. They'll jump in with spin-offs soon enough. Not that that stops agents like the Chinese from treating it as finders/keepers. I'm having to defend my domain names regularly against unauthorized borrowers.

    I understand that 100,000 new websites are added to the Web every day. How's that for viral propagation? Lots of people out there are busy with new or adapted ideas, to the point where entropy sets in and only the search engines can keep trying to track them all. And then someone up on the meta-level will have a breakthrough idea for a better way to organize it, or monetize it. I wonder how many more lone entrepreneurs, the singularities like Gates and Jobs and Wales, will be coming along and succeeding, even with a barnyard full of chickens pecking at their feet.
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    • Posted by Robbie53024 6 years, 12 months ago
      OK, Puzzlelady: If you come up with a unique and novel idea that nobody ever had before and choose to sell it, but somebody else uses their own labor and materials to make exactly the same thing (and without their own thought, merely copying), then do you think that they deserve the full profit from doing so?
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      • Posted by $ puzzlelady 6 years, 12 months ago
        No. I'd want royalties. Or to have them cease and desist. So far I've managed to keep such instances cordial and peacefully resolved.There are still businesses with integrity.
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  • Posted by $ Thoritsu 7 years ago
    What I do not understand about this, is why patents inspire consequential arguments among objectivists and libertarians today.

    There are significant, immediate real problems requiring unification. This is like Orthodoxy.

    When this is the biggest problem we all face, I vow to give up all my present, hard-won, but difficult to capitalize upon, patents to whomever remains to remind me.
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    • Posted by 7 years ago
      I am constantly amazed with all the real encroachments of freedom, the arbitrariness of the EPA, IRS, FCC, FDA, NSA, etc that libertarians/Austrians think this is an issue to be focused on.
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      • Posted by $ CBJ 7 years ago
        Then why did you bring up the issue here, if you didn't think it was all that important?
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        • Posted by 7 years ago
          What I was showing is the complete lack of priorities on the part of the Austrians and Libertarians. Are they really for free markets? Your comment purposely takes my comment out of context.

          The attack on patent rights are an attack on all property rights and shows the complete lack of understand of our constitution, Natural Rights, and property rights.The anti-patent crowd has successful shackled our inventors, which if you study history means were are in for severe economic times.
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    • Posted by $ CBJ 7 years ago
      Theoretical issues such as the morality of patents are important, and we can't simply shelve debate on such issues until we achieve something resembling a free market. We need to multitask - unite on promoting issues we agree on, while continuing to have a healthy internal debate on issues that divide us.
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  • Posted by kyllacon 7 years ago
    Is this currently a big issue in The United States? Don't we have patent laws? Don't patents expire after a certain length of time? Why the attempt to marginalize libertarians as unreasonable parasites? Don't libertarians have more in common with conservatives and objectivists than they do with progressives and why not focus on that ?
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  • Posted by $ CBJ 7 years ago
    If the source of property rights is creation, then the second person to independently invent something has as much of a property right to his invention as the first person – no more, no less.

    For example, if I independently invent a farming technique and use it on my farm, the first inventor does not have the moral right to force me stop using this technique (or pay the first inventor a licensing fee). To do so would violate my right to the use of the product of my own mind.
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    • Posted by $ blarman 7 years ago
      The problem with this is proving that you invented it in parallel with the original inventor and weren't influenced by that inventors ideas, etc. That's a pretty tough sell in most courts given that you bear the burden of proof.

      The other problem (and the one I have a harder time accepting) is the idea that by building one of my own based on someone else's idea I have in actuality deprived them of revenue they would otherwise have obtained through the normal sale of a product. This one is a pretty sticky wicket for many of the same problems.
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      • Posted by 7 years ago
        Blarman,

        I am not sure I understand your second point. My assumption is that you mean if a second person uses the inventor's invention how are they depriving him of revenue or otherwise hurting them. Most infringers are not interested in producing one version for themselves and for most inventions no one would ever bother you if you did. But it you decided to sell the invention in the marketplace, then you are taking away the market from the inventor. The inventor is not able to recoup the cost of creating the invention, nor the large cost of getting it into the market, and the competitor is free loading off of their efforts.
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        • Posted by $ blarman 7 years ago
          Sorry, if I was unclear.

          The market for any given product or service is going to consist of those who find value in that particular product or service. That market may be one individual or millions. If you have a product that sells to millions - especially if the margin is low - you may not necessarily care (or know) if a few of those millions make their own instead of buying yours, but you are still out that revenue. If on the other hand you only have a handful of customers, each one that builds their own instead of buying from you deprives you of a substantial portion of your business.

          Further, if you use another's idea without compensating them - regardless of whose materials get used in the construction - isn't that in reality theft of their intellectual property? That's the argument and the fine line.
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          • Posted by 7 years ago
            From a practical point of view it does not make sense to obtain a patent for a product that only has a few customers, unless these are very expensive products.

            One of the practical problems we have is that we do not have a good clearing mechanism for patent rights. I place the blame squarely on the anti-trust laws and leftist in the government. Good clearing mechanisms for patent rights were being developed in the US until the government started using anti-trust laws to attack these agreements.
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            • Posted by $ blarman 7 years ago
              I agree with your reasoning, merely pointing out the arguments. I'm a computer nerd by trade, so I can easily see both sides of the argument and the VERY thin lines.

              The problem began with computers. Computers are customizable tools of the utmost utility. Once they were brought onto the scene, patent law went haywire because of the literal virtualization of intellectual property. One no longer had to have a physical product to demonstrate ingenuity.

              Thus the difficulty: when what you are building is a tool to fulfill a specific purpose but the tool is ephemeral, does it really constitute a "novel" and "real" invention for the purpose of a patent? I don't have an answer. It's just the crux of the whole situation.
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              • Posted by 7 years ago
                I think computers caused problems for Patent for a couple of reasons. One, the patent office did not recognize software so they failed to gain expertise and even more importantly they missed out on 2-4 decades of prior art they normally would have developed. Two, the software profession did not develop software that was compartmentalized, so everyone creates their own UI, their own search routines, their own mathematical models, their own interfaces. And instead of buying the equivalent of a keyboard, screen, power supply, microprocessor, everyone writes their own, creating a very wasteful repetitive culture. Also a culture with a poorly developed (confusing, different, and overlapping) vocabulary to describe what they are doing. Three, many computer geeks have no idea what software does. They think they are writing math - they need some history lessons. All software is a way of wiring an electronic circuit. High level software is converted by a special circuit (compiler) into native/machine language which is then converted into voltages that open and close transistors to form an specific electronic circuit. Anything done in software can be done in hardware, because that is what the software does - wires the hardware.
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                • Posted by $ blarman 7 years ago
                  The initial businesses involved in building computers such as Burroughs (where my father-in-law worked), IBM, DEC (where my uncle was a VP), and others were fiercely competitive, so of course they built all their own tools and methods of programming and designing their tools. You don't go try to sell something unique and different by making a copy of what someone else already has (unless you're Compaq). You can call this inefficient if you wish, but what it actually meant was that each problem got solved in a potentially unique way. What you end up with are computers that can serve a broad array of strengths and weaknesses that appeal to a broad range of users. I would argue that this isn't wasteful at all, but incredibly competitive and beneficial to the industry and society. One of the great things about the computer is the customization - it can become what you need it to be. Take that away through extreme standardization and what do you get? Stagnation. Case in point: the Windows operating system.

                  Another example: RISC vs Intel's x86 instruction sets. Toss in Motorola (old Apple devices). Now you even have ARM. This is the foundational microcode that everything else rides upon, yet each solve the basic hardware control functions differently and with different strengths and weaknesses. Are you really trying to argue that we never should have tried anything other than x86?

                  What about the competition between Token Ring, IPX/SPX, and TCP/IP? I for one was very glad I never had to run vampire taps, though I still believe IPX/SPX is a better layer3/4 protocol than TCP/IP...

                  I would also point out that writing microcode is also different than writing assembly, which is different than writing Cobol, which is different than writing SQL. Each is a different abstraction layer further and further removing hardware controls from something the programming even has to worry about in the first place, so I have to cringe at your argument that "All software is a way of wiring an electronic circuit" as a gross oversimplification.

                  The whole reason to use software is to be able to adapt to new circumstances. Yes, you can completely build a device in hardware. It will be very, very good at doing exactly what it was designed for. And only that. You can't fix bugs. You can't upgrade. You can't install additional functionality or programming without software.

                  And if by a "poorly developed vocabulary" you're referring to the plethora of programming languages, again, you miss the point that each one was created with a specific specialty in mind. Fortran and Cobol were for science and business - lots of mathematics - when memory was limited. Basic was great at branching and conditional logic. Java focused on portability. C++ took object orientation to a whole new level. To say that any one of these is confusing, overlapping, etc. is to miss the entire point that they were tools to serve different purposes. (Although if you want to look at Lisp as confusing, I'll agree 100%. Talk about "bracketology" ...)

                  "Three, many computer geeks have no idea what software does."

                  This geek does. Software is what enables me to do whatever I need to do. Software allows me to adapt to the changing needs of my business with minimal cost and materials. Software allows me in a few minutes to do what it would take a design team years of effort to achieve via hardware. Software equals convenience which in turn equals productivity and adaptability, which equal profitability.

                  To ponder: Can you imagine trying to build a hardware-based database? If ever there were a better example of a need for software, I'm drawing a blank...
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                  • Posted by 7 years ago
                    Yes, I understand the trade between hardware and software. And yes the ability to customize is a great thing.

                    By poor vocabulary i mean that two high level applications in the same space may use completely different words to describe what they are doing. This makes it very difficult to compare the two. From a patent point of view it makes examining these applications very difficult. Compare this to the electronics industry and you will see a more common vocabulary. The closer the software is to the hardware the more consistent the vocabulary in my experience.

                    I say wasteful, because I have seen and heard programmers say that they will reprogram something they need (sorry about the lack of specifics, but they would all related to clients' inventions) rather than buy it. Now I know there are some practical reasons for this - failure to build software as logical structures, which was supposed to be the point of C, but this created a culture of repeating each others work. It also created a culture that using other people's work is acceptable.

                    Also, many in the programming business tend to write code first and then figure out where they are going. When you ask them to describe their code it is a bunch of overlapping circles with no structure, which I am sure makes it a nightmare to debug. This may have been great for job security, but it means that each piece of software stands alone. Imagine if the seven layer OSI model had not been adopted and everyone combined level seven apps with layer one or two apps. Then everyone has to program everything and there is no interoperability.
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                    • Posted by $ blarman 6 years, 12 months ago
                      I see. I don't really agree with the "poor vocabulary" argument, however. Having written my own and re-written others' code enough times, I find that the majority of this is simply due to the fact that no two peoples' minds think in the same way. Thus, even though both are attempting to solve the same problem, the method for doing so takes alternate approaches, uses different versions of tooling, and/or adapting to different circumstances. This to me is novel, though I readily agree it makes comparison of software programming for patenting VERY difficult.

                      I also have a different take on your "wasteful" observation: most programmers I know enjoy the challenge of figuring something out for themselves. They generally eschew merely copying what someone else does because it isn't as personally satisfying. The other part that I have observed is that though problems may be similar, they are rarely exactly the same, which means that for any given situation, a minor adjustment is needed. It is really difficult to do that without understanding what you are tweaking, and often, writing your own both solves the problem AND customizes it to your specific needs.

                      As to your observation on code sharing, social media and forum sites have a cost and a purpose. Most people who use them get their payoff in recognition rather than in monetary remuneration, so it isn't as if they aren't receiving something of value for their contribution. I would add "without compensation" to your sentence "It also created a culture that using other people's work is acceptable" to complete it. It doesn't become theft until you refuse to "pay" for what you are getting. Value doesn't always have to be in money alone.

                      Your last paragraph doesn't describe any of the programmers I've ever worked with. Programmers are by their very nature some of the most logical people I've met. The place where things break down and you get the infamous "spaghetti logic" isn't usually due to the programmers, but because of the business rules they are attempting to mimic in code. What makes things a mess is because those business rules are rarely well codified, diagrammed, and proceduralized into something! When business managers are trained to think decisions through before jumping to conclusions, we will see better code as a result. Until then, we will continue to be frustrated by the disorder and haphazardness.

                      Don't get me wrong - I'm a big one for standards. I'm not advocating for disparate systems and inoperability - especially in communications protocols. That being said, however, I think it is way too simplistic to think that every problem can be solved with the same approach in the most effective, efficient manner. While the perfectionist in me still cringes at the idea of a solution that isn't 100% perfect, the realist in me is smart enough to reason with the business manager to say "for what you are willing to spend in resources, you will get a job that is 85% of what you want."
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                      • Posted by 6 years, 12 months ago
                        I have worked with a lot of very successful entrepreneur programmers and unless they come from an EE background, most hand me either a requirements list or vague interconnected blobs when asked to describe their invention. I am not saying they are not smart, but the urge to jump in and start writing code seems to overwhelm the idea of structure.

                        ICs rarely do exactly what you want them to do either, but it doesn't make sense to build a custom ASIC for every application. I understand that it is often difficult to reuse code that does something similar, but I see that as the problem. I also do not see how it is rewarding to build, for example, a transceiver if one is on the market that meets your requirements, when you are in the cell phone business.
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                        • Posted by $ blarman 6 years, 12 months ago
                          I agree. I think that is where the truly visionary individual like Steve Jobs excelled: he both understood his own invention but was also able to explain it to others. I completely agree with your observation that this is a rare skill set!

                          And there is no question that it takes discipline to curb one's enthusiasm about a new idea that can absolutely lead to code that isn't documented or that doesn't adhere to good design fundamentals. You make an excellent point there.

                          As for the transceiver example, it is hard to guess at how someone else makes value judgements without being there and considering the same inputs and outputs. I can either assume that it was a rational decision based on perceived profit margins, licensing costs, etc., or I can also just chalk it up to hubris -> irrational decision-making. ;)
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                          • Posted by 6 years, 12 months ago
                            Excellent points and I am a little off base. I have thoughts about how the software industry has developed and how software programming is taught, which are clearly not as well thought out as my points on patents.
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                            • Posted by $ blarman 6 years, 11 months ago
                              Software programming is taught? ;)

                              I took several software development classes and they focus a lot about the how and very little about structure, commenting, adherence to forms/standardization, I completely agree!

                              Yep, it's ever so nice to be able to build a linked list or recursive algorithm, but even nicer when you comment your code so someone else can read it! Second that for variable naming conventions!
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      • Posted by $ jbrenner 7 years ago
        The only time I can remember a case similar to your first paragraph, Blarman, was the invention of induced pluripotent stem cells back in 2007. You are correct. It would be a tough sell in a court of law.
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      • Posted by $ CBJ 7 years ago
        The problem of proving independent invention arises only if patents are considered to be legitimate forms of property. While patents currently enjoy legal protection, I don't think they can be morally justified on the basis of the Objectivist ethics.
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        • Posted by 7 years ago
          CBJ,

          Here is what Rand had to say about patents "Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind.” (Rand, Ayn, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Signet, New York, 1967, p. 130)

          You might want to take a look at what she says in Capitalism the Unknown Ideal. While I have some very minor disagreements with her, for someone who did not deal with patent she nails it.

          You might remember that In Atlas Shrugged, a big part of the story is about Directive 10-289 and the theft of Rearden's metal.
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          • Posted by $ CBJ 7 years ago
            Ayn Rand was definitely in favor of patents, but by using her own ethical system, a strong case can be made that treating patents as property violates that same ethical system. The "second independent inventor" being entitled to the product of his/her own mind is a case in point.
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            • Posted by 7 years ago
              No they are not unless the inventor kept it a trade secret. And patent law does allow an independent developer to obtain the patent rights in that case.

              In every other case it is a second hander who has not done his due diligence and should not be rewarded for being lazy and taking credit for other people's work
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    • Posted by Lucky 7 years ago
      Yes, but, the earlier person may dispute your claim,. If it went to court the onus of proof would be on you to show that you did not have knowledge of the first person's work. to my knowledge, both our legal system as well as general opinion is reluctant to say that original creation happens more than once,
      It does happen, eg Darwin and Wallace. Newton and Leibniz.
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    • Posted by 7 years ago
      Patent law does deal with the situation where the inventor keeps their invention a trade secret. In that case independent development, the independent developer can obtaining a patent on the invention. The reason for this is that one of the goals of patent law is the spread of knowledge and the second is that it goes to the social contract theory of patents, which is that the government provides a limited term property right in exchange for disclosing how to practice the invention. Since the inventor kept his idea a trade secret, he does not obtain a property right and risks someone developing the invention independently, which destroys his trade secret. Note this case does not come up very often either.
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      • Posted by $ jlc 7 years ago
        To me, this is the crux of the issue. If Intellectual Property rights are not acknowledged and supported, then we will revert to a 'trade secret' system, such as was common in the Middle Ages. In such a system, if the only person who knows the secret dies, the technology dies with him.

        One therefore asks the question, "What has sufficient value to the inventor of 'something' that they are willing to forgo secrecy and write down the secret so that it will not be lost?" The answer that appears to work is, "A 20 year monopoly."

        I do not know of another model that would actually work - so IP as well as all other inventions must have a greater value when made conditionally public than when kept secret.

        Jan
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    • Posted by 7 years ago
      The contradiction in your argument is right here "to do so would violate my right to the use of the product of my own mind." No for you to use the inventor's creation is a violation of the product of his own mind.

      Independent invention is a myth. There was a process for determining near simultaneous independent invention in the US patent office for years and it was rarely used. SO called independent invention years later is almost always the result of knowledge about the invention which is now in the marketplace, in the literature, on the web, and in thinking of people in that area of technology. In addition, it would require purposely ignoring the inventions of others, since they are published.

      On top of that there are an infinite number of inventions, only a second hander would spend their time reinventing things that exist.
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      • Posted by $ CBJ 7 years ago
        Are you saying that an invention is not the product of my own mind if someone else thought of it first?

        Independent invention is not a myth, it is common. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mul... and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_in...
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        • Posted by 7 years ago
          The wikipedia article fails to look at the substantial body of evidence at the US Patent Office and confuses similar inventions. Did Swan and Edison invent the incandescent light bulb simultaneously? No they created two separate inventions. This sort of intellectual dishonesty has been used by leftists to suggest simultaneous inventions are common.

          Product of your mind - see trade secrets in the above comments. But if a patent has published, then no the invention is not the product of your mind. It is like someone squatting on someone else's farm saying I didn't know they were their. There are public records and your failure to research them does not make you innocent, it means your are either dishonest or stupid.
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          • Posted by $ CBJ 7 years ago
            A farm has precise boundaries. The boundaries of inventions are more fuzzy (hence the plethora of "infringement" lawsuits).

            So are you morally obligated to search all the public records before or after you invent something? If before, then you haven't conceived of the invention yet and therefore cannot research it. If after, then the invention is something you thought of independently, and therefore it is a product of your mind.
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            • Posted by 7 years ago
              An invention has precise boundaries and most people have a concept of the invention before it is finished. In fact a search is just good engineering, so you don't spend millions recreating the wheel.

              Farms do not have precise boundaries in fact. There are no lines drawn on the land. Only with the advent of GPS has there been any precision and in fact there are and have been many more lawsuits about land property rights than ever over patents.

              Another media myth. There has been no explosion in patent lawsuits. The number of patent lawsuits have been essentially flat for well over a decade and the recent bump is not an increase in lawsuits, but a change in who can be joined in a single lawsuit.
              IN FACT, on a percentage basis the present rate of patent lawsuits is half of what is was in the late 1800s.
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  • Posted by starguy 7 years ago
    "For instance, a patent for an airplane (Wright brothers) keeps me from using my own wood, mechanical linkages, engine, cloth, etc. and building an airplane with ailerons (and wing warping). This according to the libertarian argument is obviously absurd."

    Perhaps you might wish to read up on your history, because the Wright Brothers did sue Glenn Curtiss, over just such an issue: Curtis invented the aileron, and the Wrights decided that their patent covered EVERY flying machine, for the life of their patent.
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    • Posted by 7 years ago
      And Curtis deserved to be sued. The patent was clear and it was clear that the Wright brothers had invented control surfaces, whether wing warping or ailerons. Curtis was just a second hander and you are defending him.
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      • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 12 months ago
        dbhalling, you have over-reached your argument. It is a fact of reality that no fact of reality can contradict any other fact of reality. Thus, many ways exist to achieve any realizable goal. Each may be independently ownable (perhaps), but the discovery of one solution to a problem does not deliver the right to own all other possible solutions. An Wang invented magnetic core memory and figured that one cent per bit was a fair royalty -- back when 256 bits was enough. Are you willing to write a check to the Wang family for the terabits (quadrillions of bits: tens of billions of dollars worth of memory) on your computer?

        How many proofs do you know for the Pythagorean Theorem? Should Pythagoras (or Euclid) have owned them all? Who should own the motor car, the bus, the truck, the farm tractor, the lawn mower, the chainsaw, the Space Shuttle Crawler ... Every internal combustion device, engine, and mover ...
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      • -2
        Posted by starguy 7 years ago
        And you are a troll.

        Go away.
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        • Posted by $ richrobinson 7 years ago
          Hi Starguy. I notice you have not posted much so I am wondering how you chose to use the term "troll". I am also wondering why you would use it with someone who had made very valid points. The Gulch is open for debate but not attacks.
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          • Posted by Maritimus 7 years ago
            Thank you Rich,

            I do not contribute very much either. But I find far too many participants here making logical mistakes and ad hominem attacks. We all make mistakes. I call it a good day when I make less than hundred. But, people making personal attacks must be reminded that they are not allowed in polite society, even in vigorous debate.

            Thank you, again for doing the reminding.

            All the best!
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            • Posted by $ richrobinson 6 years, 12 months ago
              Thank you. This is a great topic. I have been enjoying the dialogue.
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              • Posted by Maritimus 6 years, 12 months ago
                Hi, Rich,
                I am curious. Which topic do you find great: patents as personal property or the quality of our exchanges here?
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                • Posted by $ richrobinson 6 years, 12 months ago
                  Both actually. I read an article in Mises last week that argued against Intellectual Property rights. I was surprised to see them take that stance. I generally enjoy the discussions in the Gulch but occasionally some will post just to be disruptive. That is a little frustrating.
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                  • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 12 months ago
                    Rich, intellectual property rights are a complicated problem. Like the blind men and the elephant, each writer claims total knowledge, but each has only a part of the truth -- and an analogy, not a direct perception. We all agree that if you write a book, I do not have the right to take the book, put my name on it, and reprint it. But Henry Ford "stole" the idea of the motorcar when he saw someone in a Daimler and knew that he could build one. I have no immediate solution to all the sides of all the problems associated with this. But I do assert that it has sides - and more than two of them.
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                    • Posted by $ richrobinson 6 years, 12 months ago
                      It just seems that we have to give an incentive for someone to share a new idea. If I develop a way of growing twice as many crops as others I would share my idea if I would profit. If not I would use it for myself. Updating existing seems practical but to eliminate IP protection seems counter productive.
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    • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 6 years, 12 months ago
      Yes, Starguy, the Wrights did sue Curtiss. In fact, their secrecy almost cost them primacy of invention. The International Aeronautics Federation declared Alberto Santos-Dumont the inventor of the heavier-than-air craft for a device that was little more than a box kite in a controlled dive. The Wright Brothers were doing their development work in secret waiting for a patent. They rushed off to the LeMans Air Show announcing themselves the true inventors and were greeted as "poseurs" until they proved themselves in a public demonstration. Then, later, they sued Curtiss. As you note - as we all know - their "wing warping" would not be useful for sophisticated aircraft while Curtiss's aileron was.

      Moreover - and to the point - the REAL invention of the Wright Brothers (which even they did not appreciate) was the PROPELLER. Everyone had always been mislead by ships because of Ericksson's screw propeller. But water is so much denser than air that no one perceived the propeller as a WING until the Wrights figured it out. Now THAT was a true invention, truly deserving of intellectual property rights.
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      • Posted by 6 years, 12 months ago
        Funny, I worked on some patents related to sophisticated military planes that were using wing warping type techniques. I disagree. Ailerons have sharp edges that create wasteful turbulence. The issues are structural with wing warping and new materials may be able to solve those issues.
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  • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
  • Posted by Robbie53024 7 years ago
    db: Your bulldozer example is silly and beneath you. Of course no libertarian, of any persuasion, is going to say that merely because you own an item that you then have the right to use that item in any manner that violates the rights of someone else.

    I have little regard for those that say that an idea (let's say in the form of a book) is only owned in the manifestation of a specific entity (a hardcopy book, for example) and not the content of the specific sequence of words. I know that some would say that if you take your book and Xerox it for example, that the physically copied set of pages (for all intents and purposes a copy of the original book) is not owned by the owner of the original book, but by the owner of the paper onto which it was copied (and what about the toner that was transferred from the copier to the paper - but that's another story). That is a silly and frivolous argument, as the second "book" could not have existed had the first never existed. Similarly, if I would read the original manuscript into a sound recording device of your choosing, there are some libertarians that would say that this is clearly not the property of the originator, as it has changed form. But again, that is a silly argument as the sound recording would not have existed without the original words having been captured in some form in the first place. The original creator of the words would have a claim to all copies (a copy right), regardless of how they were subsequently manifested.

    The concept that an idea has no substance until codified physically has some merit, but can also be quickly terminated. Long before humankind had codified language stories had been created and passed from generation to generation. There was no need for a physical manifestation, it was transferred from mind to mind via voice and hearing. Thus, clearly, ideas can exist without physical manifestation.

    The next question is whether ideas can be "owned." Here, I think that we will have some conflict. Can an idea be created in the mind of more than one individual? I think that clearly we can accept that this is not only feasible, but that it actually happens all the time. Clearly the fact that many people end up at the local Subway for lunch indicates that many people can have the same idea contemporaneously. The next question is whether multiple people can come up with unique and novel ideas completely independently. Let us look at an example that I was just discussing with some relatives over Easter. Take the Rubik's cube. There are a finite number of "mixed up" configurations and an infinite number of ways to get to those states, but there is a single algorithm that will solve any mixed up configuration. Many people, independently, came up with that algorithm, most of them without even realizing that they had done so. Would it be logical to say that the first person to come up with the solution algorithm thus "owned" that algorithm? Did not the persons who independently came to the same solution method have just as valid a claim? Does timing matter?

    We have a paradox, though, when it comes to merely codifying words (and more abstractly, if you want to go into representations of entities in 3D space). We have the infinite monkeys typing on an infinite number of typewriters (or I prefer an infinite number of computers generating random sequences of letters and spaces). Under such a scenario, all literary works ever created or that ever will be created could thus be generated (and if it truly were infinite, that would happen instantaneously). So, If I owned those resources (however they might manifest themselves), then wouldn't I thus own all written literature (excepting if we agree that anything already created was already owned)? Of course, this is impossible, but it presents a good thought exercise.
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    • Posted by 7 years ago
      Robbie,

      The bulldozer argument shows the libertarian argument is circular. Their exact statement is that they can do anything they want with their property. If you add the caveat, then their argument against patents not being property rights is circular. Patents are not property rights, because they are not property rights.

      I have dealt with independent (simultaneous or not) argument in other comments, so I will not repeat myself.

      The infinite number of monkeys (computers): I will limit my comment to inventions. To be a human creation it has to be useful. Just making a new combination is not a creation. So this does not work. You will spend an infinite amount of time sorting through your junk. The number of potential inventions is infinite, so you will never exhaust them.
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      • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
      • Posted by Robbie53024 7 years ago
        But that is fallacious. No libertarian of any honesty would argue that a person can violate the liberty of another person. When you get to IP, yes, there are different opinions. And the argument about ideas being unlimited is a valid one. You might be better in finding a workable solution instead of just digging in your heels that your position is the only one that is right.
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        • Posted by 7 years ago
          Robbie,

          That BEG's the question. What are property rights?: Circular reasoning.
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          • Comment hidden by post owner or admin, or due to low comment or member score. View Comment
          • Posted by Robbie53024 7 years ago
            We've had this discussion before. Is an idea the property of the individual? Certainly. But, can the same idea be generated in more than one individual? I say yes. And thus, the ability to honor the right to multiple individuals must be part of a system of private ownership.
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            • Posted by 7 years ago
              As I explained multiple times in the post, this is straw man argument. If the patent is published, the second person is nothing but a second hander who did not do his research at best or more likely is a liar. The near simultaneous inventor almost never happens. The USPTO had a procedure for this for over 150 years and it rarely occurred. If the first person keeps the invention, this is provided for in the patent laws.
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