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IP: Intellectual Property

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I agree with all of the principle arguments against patents, but I also agree with the pragmatist arguments for patents. It seems like in world where everybody is rational, there would be no need for patents, but, sadly many people are not rational. With patents, the person who doesn't get to the patent office first, has his rights taken away. But without patents, the person who works hard to develop a product, and has it copied and sold for less by an opponent, is having his rights taken away because his product is basically stolen from him. (The opponent could most likely produce it for less because he didn't have to pay for the development of it, and therefore sell more)

So, in our society, which is a less violation of rights? :D

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^^ Objectivism doesn't support pragmatism and also holds that rights cannot conflict.

This type of objection is based on the error of equating the potential with the actual. The fact that a man might have been first, does not alter the fact that he wasn’t. Since the issue is one of commercial rights, the loser in a case of that kind has to accept the fact that in seeking to trade with others he much face the possibility of a competitor winning the race, which is true in all types of competition.

This seems to be a circular argument. It just assumes that the first person to the patent office should get exclusive rights. "equating the potential with the actual" is only an error if you first establish the "first to the office" principle.

Also, most business competitions are not "winner take all." Usually companies have various market shares and there is no single winner.

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When thinking about intellectual property, your first step should be to ask “What is the essential nature of property, and how is it created?”

If you instead begin and end by comparing intellectual property to other forms, you will find that it is indeed different – but you will find no clue as to which arbitrarly selected characteristics are essential to property, and which are specific to particular forms of property. What do mining rights, a book copyright, a radio frequency, a satellite orbit, a stock option, and an engineering patent have in common? Merely comparing their characteristics will get you nowhere.

If you want to continue this discussion, I suggest you start there.

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If there are no patents, there would be no incentive for scientists to invent as anybody would able to copy their idea anyday. No patents would actually stop innovation.

It is in the self-interest of every man that invention and innovation continues. Thus, patents should be protected.

Just like the protection of rights is in the self-interest of every man, the protection of patents too is in the self-interest of every man.

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The important issue here, I think, is that patents should be tied to production, i.e. one shouldn't be able to patent stuff just to prevent competitors from developing similar inventions or products (based on their own independent research).

Here in Europe we see pretty absurd "patents" evolving, where discoveries -- facts of reality -- are patented, not products or technologies. This is like having Objectivists to pay royality to Ayn Rand for using the concept of primacy of existence in their writing and speaking.

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When thinking about intellectual property, your first step should be to ask “What is the essential nature of property, and how is it created?” 

Excellent suggestion!

Let's begin with the first sentence of "Patents and Copyrights":

Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man's right to the product of his mind.

I agree with AR's argument up to about the middle of p. 131. After that I disagree, for reasons I (and Charlotte) have already stated.

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“Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind.” -- by Ayn Rand, “CUI”.

It is incredible to me that supposed Objectivists on an Objectivist forum are struggling with such a fundamental issue as this. Setting aside all the extraneous problems in implementing such canons in law there are two principles on which we must have agreement in order to discuss this issue logically:

1) In order to live man has the right to the fruits of his labor.

2) Everything man does originates in his mind.

Knowing that man is a conceptual being and that his most fundamental right is his right to life, it is plain that man must have the right to the fruit of his labor and that all of his labor is necessarily the product of his mind.

Godless Capitalist has already questioned the validity of the “concept of intellectual property”. I would appreciate knowing which of you disagree with the above as this will be a signal to me that logical discussion with you is impossible.

Marc

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It is incredible to me that supposed Objectivists on an Objectivist forum are struggling with such a fundamental issue as this.

A lot of people on this forum are high school and college students and/or recently introduced to Objectivism, who are here to learn.

Cut them some slack and grant them a "learner's permit." OK? :yarr:

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Godless Capitalist has already questioned the validity of the “concept of intellectual property”. I would appreciate knowing which of you disagree with the above as this will be a signal to me that logical discussion with you is impossible.

I'll try to remember that you consider this to be an issue that cannot be discussed rationally. I'm fairly pressed for time at the moment, but I was working on a reply to the question of whether a time limit on patents is arbitrary. Given just what you said here, I might think that you support the concept of a perennial patent, but I'm sure you don't. Perhaps you can fill the void, and explain why setting a time limit of 25 years on a patent isn't arbitrary pragmatism.

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I'll try to remember that you consider this to be an issue that cannot be discussed rationally. I'm fairly pressed for time at the moment, but I was working on a reply to the question of whether a time limit on patents is arbitrary. Given just what you said here, I might think that you support the concept of a perennial patent, but I'm sure you don't. Perhaps you can fill the void, and explain why setting a time limit of 25 years on a patent isn't arbitrary pragmatism.

Yeah, i keep asking why 25 years? Shouldnt it be like other property where ican keep it forever and even pass it off to my children?

“Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind.”  --  by Ayn Rand, “CUI”.

It is incredible to me that supposed Objectivists on an Objectivist forum are struggling with such a fundamental issue as this. Setting aside all the extraneous problems in implementing such canons in law there are two principles on which we must have agreement in order to discuss this issue logically:

1) In order to live man has the right to the fruits of his labor.

2) Everything man does originates in his mind.

Knowing that man is a conceptual being and that his most fundamental right is his right to life, it is plain that man must have the right to the fruit of his labor and that all of his labor is necessarily the product of his mind.

Godless Capitalist has already questioned the validity of the “concept of intellectual property”. I would appreciate knowing which of you disagree with the above as this will be a signal to me that logical discussion with you is impossible.

Marc

I agree with all of that, but is till dont see how it translates to a right untill the person actually applies it to physical reality.

Cant an argument be made that the free flow of information and ideas is more in a persons interests?

If everybopdy around you has better ideas in their head wont your life improve becuase everybody will have the ability to produce new things with no barriers?

All these arguments seem to be based on pragmatism.

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Let us assume that there is no time limit for a patent.

That way, a young inventor who wants to make changes to a 60 year old invention, will have to ask permission from the patent holder of that invention. If the original inventor passes on the patent to his son or relatives or whatever, taking permission would become even more difficult.

This would discourage and reduce invention and innovation which would be against the self-interest of every man.

A time limit is therefore necessary.

As to why there is a 25 year limit, or how long should a patent be granted, I don't know.

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I never said that this issue could not be discussed rationally. But rationally is the only way I will discuss it.

If you disagree with the principles enumerated in my previous post, then I consider you to have a fundamental flaw in your value system. A flaw which requires much more study and attention than can be provided here.

If you agree with my previous post then the rest is a matter of legal philosophy and I would be happy to discuss it with you further.

I am not a legal scholar, but be forewarned: I will not abandon principle simply because there seems to be disagreement on its legal implementation.

Do you consider the concept of intellectual property valid? Yes or no.

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Let us assume that there is no time limit for a patent.

That way, a young inventor who wants to make changes to a 60 year old invention, will have to ask permission from the patent holder of that invention. If the original inventor passes on the patent to his son or relatives or whatever, taking permission would become even more difficult.

This would discourage and reduce invention and innovation which would be against the self-interest of every man.

A time limit is therefore necessary.

As to why there is a 25 year limit, or how long should a patent be granted, I don't know.

but if its a RIGHT, why cant he pass it off, who cares if its harder for the inventor? ITS HIS, so he should be able to do whatever he wants with it? Right?

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but if its a RIGHT, why cant he pass it off, who cares if its harder for the inventor? ITS HIS, so he should be able to do whatever he wants with it? Right?

But we always have to consider from where the rights come.

Why does a man have rights - because he'll die without them.

Why does an inventor have patents - because he won't invent without them

Why is there a time limit - because an inventor can't work on that one single invention forever. It will discourage future inventors. Invention is necessary for a better life. If there is no invention, it will go against the self-interest of every man - even the inventor.

But why do we enforce that. Just as we enforce human rights because they are necessary for the existence of man - regardless whether a person considers the enforcement for or against his self-interest, similarly we have to enforce patents and time limits.

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But we always have to consider from where the rights come.

Why does a man have rights - because he'll die without them.

Why does an inventor have patents - because he won't invent without them

Why is there a time limit - because an inventor can't work on that one single invention forever. It will discourage future inventors. Invention is necessary for a better life.

But why do we enforce that. Just as we enforce human rights because they are necessary for the existence of man - regardless whether a person considers the enforcement for or against his self-interest, similarly we have to enforce patents and time limits.

are you sure an inventor wont invent withought them? is there any prrof that patent and copyright laws make inovation more likely? And your argument sounds pragmatist to me also....I KEEP HEARING PRAGMATISM!!

If there is no invention, it will go against the self-interest of every man - even the inventor.

But like i said before,Cant an argument be made that the free flow of information and ideas is more in a persons interests?

If everybody around you has better ideas in their head wont your life improve becuase everybody will have the ability to produce new things with no barriers?

Doesnt knowledge improve effiency and effectiveness MORE?

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are you sure an inventor wont invent withought them? is there any prrof that patent and copyright laws make inovation more likely? And your argument sounds pragmatist to me also....I KEEP HEARING PRAGMATISM!!

But like i said before,Cant an argument be made that the free flow of information and ideas is more in a persons interests?

If everybody around you has better ideas in their head wont your life improve becuase everybody will have the ability to produce new things with no barriers?

Doesnt knowledge improve effiency and effectiveness MORE?

Why would an inventor invent anything at all when his device can be copied and marketed by anyone anytime?

An inventor won't invest years of his life when he is not even sure whether he will earn something out of it or not.

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Why would an inventor invent anything at all when his device can be copied and marketed by anyone anytime?

An inventor won't invest years of his life when he is not even sure whether he will earn something out of it or not.

but itsnt that just a part of investing? The RISK involved, maybe you will succeed maybe you wont?

I dont know, but patents and copyrights seem kinda unnatural to me, like the dont belong in a capitalist system.

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but itsnt that just a part of investing?   The RISK involved, maybe you will succeed maybe you wont?

I dont know, but patents and copyrights seem kinda unnatural to me, like the dont belong in a capitalist system.

Actually there is no RISK. It is a NEAR CERTAINTY that they will be copied. Consider the airplane of the Wright brothers. It was so simple that many aircraft pioneers like Glenn Curtiss illegally copied the design with some improvements. If this could happen in a system which has patents, imagine what could happen in a system which does not have patents at all.

I don't think the Wright brothers would have spent 4 years risking their lives if they wouldn't have even got a patent and a guarantee of 25 years.

Certainly modern inventions are more difficult to copy but that does not make the task impossible.

But softwares are the easiest to copy of all.

Do you think Bill Gates would have developed Windows if there had been no patents and piracy had been legal?

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Do you consider the concept of intellectual property valid? Yes or no.

Of course I do, which would explain why I'm arguing in support of it. However it is not self-evident, which is why it is necessary to prove that the concept is valid.

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Software applications are protected by copyright, though some technologies are patented.

Consider the case of a tech firm. It conducts internal research and development and invents a new way to produce computer chips. The firm will do everything to hide every trace of knowledge of this new process from the public, the competition, even the customers.

This situation is analogous to a person purchasing a Corvette, and keeping it locked in his garage, never taking it outside, hiding every trace of its existence from everybody in the world. This is not a common occurance. Why not? This example assumes property rights are not respected.

The legal recognition of property rights enable people to publicize information and to exchange values. That is also the purpose of the legal recognition of intellectual property rights.

With property rights recognized and enforced under law, the man can keep his Corvette parked on the street, without fear of it being stolen. With intellectual property rights recognized and enforced under law, the firm can inform investors of its new process, without fear of it being stolen.

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Consider the case of a tech firm. It conducts internal research and development and invents a new way to produce computer chips. The firm will do everything to hide every trace of knowledge of this new process from the public, the competition, even the customers.

This situation is analogous to a person purchasing a Corvette, and keeping it locked in his garage, never taking it outside, hiding every trace of its existence from everybody in the world. This is not a common occurance. Why not? This example assumes property rights are not respected.

The examples are not analogous because if someone steals your Corvette you no longer have it. If somebody discovers your new way to produce computer chips they have not taken anything away from you directly.

The argument is that you deserve all the rewards for your idea, if someone learns of it second hand and sells it, they are taking sales that would otherwise have been yours.

I would appreciate it if someone could answer this question directly:

My Premises:

Rights are not given to an individual from the state.

A man has the right to act to on his ideas.

One man’s rights cannot violate the rights of another.

My Question:

Isn’t the first inventor’s right to his idea a violation of the second inventor’s right to the same idea?

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The examples are not identical - and there you've found a reason why. But in all the important details, they are analogous.

Isn't the first gold prospector's right to stake out some unclaimed land a violation of the second gold prospector's right to the same land? No, and the reason here is identical to the one governing intellectual property.

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Isn't the first gold prospector's right to stake out some unclaimed land a violation of the second gold prospector's right to the same land? No, and the reason here is identical to the one governing intellectual property.

Once again though, you are equating physical with intellectual. Your premise is that ideas can be claimed as land can be claimed. I would agree with the example in the sense that one idea is just as unique as one piece of land... but unlike a piece of land, two people can reach an idea independently - and more importantly use the idea independently (and for that reason they are not identical).

When you say, “stake out some claim,” what gives you the right to claim an idea? You may have invented it, but how can you stop people from discovering it? You have the right to keep your ideas to yourself, but once you make the choice to sell your ideas (or the product of your ideas) by what right can you stop them from using your idea themselves? If they learn about your process and judge for themselves that it is better than their own by what right can you stop them from using it? By what right do you stop people from acting on their best judgment? By what right can you stop them from acting on their discovery of your ideas?

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Do you want me to compare intellectual property to intellectual property?

Two gold prospectors can claim a piece of unclaimed land (California gold rush?) simultaneously and independently - but the first one to register the deed obtains the legal rights.

A patent is the alternative to having everybody in the world sign a none-imitation contract before you show any implementation of an idea to even a single person.

Just like a deed is the alternative to having everybody in the world sign a none-squatter contract before you dry up the moat, take down the barbed wire fencing, dismantle the anti-aircraft guns, and dig up all the land mines surrounding your house.

(Assuming all rights other than the one in question are honored and legally protected.)

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Of course I do, which would explain why I'm arguing in support of it. However it is not self-evident, which is why it is necessary to prove that the concept is valid.

I myself am no longer sure that the concept of “intellectual property” is valid. I understand the arguments for intellectual property but I still consider them pragmatic. All the arguments that say - without intellectual property rights there would be no new innovation - are quite unfounded, I could easily provide counter hypothetical examples (but what would be the point?). I want to know where the principles are.

Somebody could start by directly answering these questions:

Isn’t the first inventor’s right to his idea a violation of the second inventor’s right to the same idea?

By what right can you stop somebody from acting on their discovery of your ideas?

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