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IP: Intellectual Property

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How about the largest explosion of innovation, technology and standard of living the world has ever seen.

There were a lot of new conditions that made the ‘explosion’ possible, you'll have to do a little more research to show that patents were the primary reason. I agree that patents provide an excellent incentive to invent things, however I don’t think the end justifies the means. A person should reap the benefits for his ideas, however a capitalist government would not have to create litigation in order to guarantee this.

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Actually, in 1449, King Henry VI awarded a patent to John of Utynam for stained glass manufacturing, which is apparently the first patent.

Thank you David for the information.

Was this a system of law though?

If not my answer may still stand to the question asked.

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Was this a system of law though?

I think it was just a favor granted by the king. Read this article:

http://www.m-cam.com/~watsonj/usptohistory.html

But to answer your question...

Thomas Jefferson (among others) influenced the development of the first national patent system in 1790

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There were a lot of new conditions that made the ‘explosion’ possible, you'll have to do a little more research to show that patents were the primary reason.  I agree that patents provide an excellent incentive to invent things, however I don’t think the end justifies the means.  A person should reap the benefits for his ideas, however a capitalist government would not have to create litigation in order to guarantee this.

No research required. I simply answered the question that was asked.

The largest explosion of innovation the world has ever seen occurred after patent and copyright laws were implemented, fact. I never said there was a corollary relationship, though I suspect the two are very closely related. I think you'll find throughout history that when property is protected from thieves and robbers, trade in capital and ideas flourishes.

No litigation required. Just follow the law and don't steal anybody's property.

Perhaps you meant legislation instead of litigation. If so, I'm confused by your last sentence here. Are you saying that in principle intellectual property exists but that the government should not protect that property from thieves? Sounds like anarchy.

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Yes, it was. Not very democratic, admittedly, but executive decrees are the law then as well as now.

I'm sorry, I should have asked: Was this a system of rational, objective law? And obviously if this was a "decree" the answer is no.

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As title.

I know there are various types of intellectual property, like patents for discoveries of drugs, or copyrighting for artistic talent. Should these have varying times? Is there any justification for not protecting intellectual property indefinitely? Consider how hard it would be to make a machine that required permission from the great great grandchildren of 50 inventors.

I dont see why we protect intellectual property at all. If some man in China creates a wheel and some man in America creates a wheel and both do so independent of one another, who has the right to stop either from producing the products of their minds?

However, if someone steals an idea from someone else, and it can be proven, then you have the right to treat that person like any other theif.

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I think you'll find throughout history that when property is protected from thieves and robbers, trade in capital and ideas flourishes.

When you say property you mean – intellectual and physical property, when I say property I mean, physical property. You are equivocating our differences and making it sound like I am pro thieves and robbers. Anyways, I agree with you on my terms.

No litigation required. Just follow the law and don't steal anybody's property.

Perhaps you meant legislation instead of litigation. If so, I'm confused by your last sentence here. Are you saying that in principle intellectual property exists but that the government should not protect that property from thieves? Sounds like anarchy.

Yes, ‘litigation’ was the wrong word but I noticed it too late to edit it (“legislation” or just “laws” would have been appropriate). I think the government should protect property rights and all the other rights of its citizens. The question is whether or not a person can have property rights to an idea. Without intellectual property rights we would not have “anarchy,” and I don’t think anyone opposing me believes that. My question is how anyone can claim to “own” and idea once they have shouted it out.

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I have only just joined this thread (that was a lot of reading!).

Two problems that I have that have not been answered re patent protection:

1) Patent protection is basically monopoly protection.

But in a capitalist system (a fundamental economic concept for all Objectivists) a monopoly can only exist where a government has interferred with the free market.

So we have a major contradiction: patent protection (the protection of the right of a man to his intellectual property) vs. laissez-faire capitalism (the right of every man to live by the trader principle unfettered by government interference).

If government interference is allowed re patent protection, then why not for any other conceivable form of protection? This latter idea is obviously abhorent to any capitalist.

2) Ayn Rand stated that patent protection should only be available for a product, not for the idea itself. Therefore, she does not seem to view the purely intellectual acheivement of a man as property. (I suppose while the idea is still inside the man's head complete, but unnanounced to the world, it is pure "intellectual " property?).

Someone earlier raised the point (I apologise, I can't remember who) that the (production and marketing) "lead time" that a person creates by being the first to invent a product might be the only justifiable economic advantage that they can expect. I have always thought this was logical and it seems to me to overcome the contradiction in point one above. For a major product this lead time can be long.....idea, drawings, manufacturing method, tooling, raw material suppliers and other logistics, etc., etc., etc.,......and should give the original manufacturer a considerable commercial advantage without any need to impair the freedom of the market. If at that time they cannot manufacture the product more efficiently than their inevitable competition....so be it.

PS A patent, in effect, legislates against the freedom of the second or anysubsequent independent originator of any idea and must therefore be a breach of that person's right to the product of his own mind.

So yes, intellectual property exists for the period it is inside the originators brain, once it is put out on the table it is no longer his property, it is "in the public domain". The astute inventor will have sold the idea to the manufacturer for a handsome profit and his intellectual work is therefore rewarded.....just as an author sells her idea (the book) to the publisher (the taker of the commercial risks).

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I dont see why we protect intellectual property at all.

Then you present two examples:

If some man in China creates a wheel and some man in America creates a wheel and both do so independent of one another, who has the right to stop either from producing the products of their minds?
This first is an example of a *duplicate* discovery and translation of that discovery into value:

Your second example:

However, if someone steals an idea from someone else, and it can be proven, then you have the right to treat that person like any other theif.

But here you present an example where only one individual has made the discovery and translated that idea into a value, i.e. without any *duplication*. No one is piggy backing off of anyone elses inventions.

So your saying that you don't see why we protect intellectual property, but you think we should protect intellectual property... when it is clear that there is only *one* originator.

I think for you to be consistent you should ammend your position, and support the protection of intellectual property when there is a single inventor, yet remain against/or tentativly confused about what should be done when there are two orignators of a single invention, accomplished completely independent of one another.

I think the question should NOT be whether we should protect intellectual property rights, but WHETHER or HOW we should protect them when this *duplication* phenomena exists.

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One thing I am sure of.

If patents and copyrights hadn't existed, the Wright Brothers wouldn't have invented the airplane, Ayn Rand wouldn't have written as many novels as she has and perhaps none at all and most, perhaps all wouldn't have entered the software business.

Consider who would have benefitted and who would have lost.

This would have run against the self-interest of every rational man.

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Then you present two examples:

This first is an example of a *duplicate* discovery and translation of that discovery into value:

Your second example:

But here you present an example where only one individual has made the discovery and translated that idea into a value, i.e. without any *duplication*.  No one is piggy backing off of anyone elses inventions.

So your saying that you don't see why we protect intellectual property, but you think we should protect intellectual property... when it is clear that there is only *one* originator.

I think for you to be consistent you should ammend your position, and support the protection of intellectual property when there is a single inventor, yet remain against/or tentativly confused about what should be done when there are two orignators of a single invention, accomplished completely independent of one another.

I think the question should NOT be whether we should protect intellectual property rights, but WHETHER or HOW we should protect them when this *duplication* phenomena exists.

Good point. I agree with you.

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DavidOdden:

I read your explication of why a patent should be limited in Post #65 and I agree with nearly everything you said. Nice job.

I would like to expand on your answer in Post #65 and explain my thinking on the subject, all in an attempt to facilitate further understanding, in other words. I will also attempt to answer a question you raised earlier about the arbitrary nature of any specific time limit:

When evaluating the validity of the concept of intellectual property we must first determine that, in principle, man has a right to the product of his mind. That he has the right to pursue those values which to him “shall seem most likely to effect [his] safety and happiness.” Man, a conceptual being, must use his mind rationally in order to survive. To the extent that thieves and parasites are allowed to steal the product of our minds, they are enriched while we are injured. In accordance with man’s nature, everything he produces is a product of his mind. Whether it be corn, a painted house, gold from his mine, an original manuscript, song or invention, all are products of his mind, and therefore his property. The value of that property is directly proportional to the mental effort required to create it.

“By forbidding an unauthorized reproduction of the object, the law declares, in effect, that the physical labor of copying is not the source of the object's value, that that value is created by the originator of the idea and may not be used without his consent; thus the law establishes the property right of a mind to that which it has brought into existence.” -- by Ayn Rand, CUI

No one has the right to profit in any way from my mind’s work without my permission. Those who refuse to acknowledge this moral principle give sanction to the actions of brutal, unthinking thieves and parasites only.

Now, on to time limits for patents and copyrights:

[Arbitrary (definition): Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle.]

To refuse to consider time limits at all and instead exclaim that either intellectual property exists and must therefore be protected in perpetuity, or, intellectual property doesn’t exist and therefore should receive no protection at all is the only truly arbitrary position. What is it that necessitates such a position? What reason, what principle? This position says, in effect:

“either I think and should be allowed to the product of my mind, or, I cannot create anything of value with my mind, therefore no protection of the product of my mind is required. I’m just not sure which is true.”

The statement is self contradictory and relieves its speaker of having to think.

Even a cursory examination of the time limits involved with patents and copyrights will show that they are not arbitrary at all but are instead determined by necessity, reason and principle.

Once the concept of intellectual property is established on principle, the next issue to decide is what value to give it. No property has infinite value. Even material property left to heirs will lose its value and be consumed unless effort is used to retain it. This is how reality works, (effort must be used to gain or keep values), and how it should be, (we don’t want to sanction parasitism by saying that no effort is required to gain values). So perpetual patents are out on principle.

[[i suspect this is where we lost many of the libertarians. Is it true that they don’t believe in value?]]

The reasoning used when differentiating different kinds of intellectual property is apparent in the time limits assigned for patents and copyrights. Patents are given 20 years while copyrights exist for the life of the author plus at least 75 years. Why the difference?

The difference recognizes the fact that in the case of patents, an object which did not exist in nature “may never have existed without its particular originator; and in the case of copyrights, would never have existed.” (Unless of course you think the whole infinite monkey, infinite typewriter thing actually describes reality.)

Patent and copyright law recognizes the fact that all knowledge is hierarchical. That the micrometer couldn’t have been built without the technology of the screw. And that the screw couldn’t have been built without the concept of the wedge. The law recognizes that ideas are not patentable or copyrightable, only their implementation is. That, in the case of patents, while highly unlikely, the idea behind a physical invention is more likely to have been thought of than the completely original words of an author.

Recognizing that all knowledge is hierarchical, patent and copyright law facilitates its dissemination. Once an invention is patented it is published, making its implementation available for public scrutiny. Knowledge is spread in this fashion. It is general practice for many companies and individuals to mine patents for ideas and then improve on them. If a company or individual doesn’t want their idea known, they won’t patent it. (Of course if someone else does beat them to the patent office secrecy cost them.)

Finally, patent and copyright law facilitates the spread of knowledge by removing some of the financial risk that looms over an investment that is susceptible to thievery. A minimal time limit on intellectual property allows man to plan into the future, which of course is what rational beings must do to thrive and survive.

Whew!!!! That went on longer than I expected.

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The mysterious "someone" with the brilliant insight, whom I couldn't identify in my last post, was GoodOrigamiMan, my apologies, I was not trying to steal your intellectual property :lol: !

This is a private thread… the moderator has every right to kick people off if you steal their ideas! So be careful. :)

As I said earlier, I do not think anyone is better off as a second-hander trying to spend his life copying other people. Anyone with integrity would not.

One thing I am sure of.

If patents and copyrights hadn't existed, the Wright Brothers wouldn't have invented the airplane, Ayn Rand wouldn't have written as many novels as she has and perhaps none at all and most, perhaps all wouldn't have entered the software business.

The Wright brothers did everything to protect their idea before it was patented. Protect from whom? Did they succeed? They protected their idea for a long time by keeping it private. There was a large number of people interested in their work and others working along the same lines themselves. Just because they had patents at the time doesn’t mean the time couldn’t have happened without them. It was a race to invent the first airplane, a race that would have happened independent from patent laws (patents made it more of a race in a sense because were very clear winners and losers).

You did bring up something though, patents vs. copyrights, which Brent actually touched on, “just as an author sells her idea (the book) to the publisher (the taker of the commercial risks).” I think that is part of it but there are other parts of the system that would work in the authors favor. Fraud is an initiation of force and does not rely on patents and copyrights, an artist would be able to authorize or condemn any use of her works (a seller lying about the product would be a crime). Anyone who valued the Artist would support her by buying authorized copies, I doubt there would be much of a market for the contrary. We all quote each other in this forum because we have integrity and are honest, and since this forum is private, people who violate this code can be dealt with.

Consider who would have benefitted and who would have lost.

This would have run against the self-interest of every rational man.

No one would have lost anything they had a right to in the first place. Patents are against the self-interest of every rational man. You have your own assessment and I disagree with you for reasons I have stated.

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I'm glad you agree that your last post completely contradicted itself. I didn't want to have to be the one to tell you.

Nimble wasn't contradicting himself. He was against intellectual property because, "...who has the right to stop either from producing the products of their minds?" Andrew said it was possible to honor independent inventors by granting them both intellectual property rights to the same invention, which cleared Nimble’s problem.

Were you mixing up Nimble with Brent?

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Nimble wasn't contradicting himself.  He was against intellectual property because, "...who has the right to stop either from producing the products of their minds?"  Andrew said it was possible to honor independent inventors by granting them both intellectual property rights to the same invention, which cleared Nimble’s problem.

Were you mixing up Nimble with Brent?

Why drag me into this? :) I wasn't contradicting myself, I was pointing out a contradiction.

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Why drag me into this? :)  I wasn't contradicting myself, I was pointing out a contradiction.

I was just wondering if Marc confused your position with Nimble’s position.

As far as my understanding of everyone’s positions goes:

Intellectual Property

..... - Valid

.......... - First come first served

............... - Time limit valid

............... - Time limit unsure

.......... - Shared rights for independent inventors

............... - Time limit valid

..... - Invalid

I do not think intellectual property is valid (Brent might agree… and maybe a few others). Andrew and Nimble seem to be for shared rights (if it can be proved that inventors reached an idea independently). Everyone else seems accept the first come first serve rule and probably wants to move on to discussing the original topic of this thread (grr :) ).

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I was just wondering if Marc confused your position with Nimble’s position. 

As far as my understanding of everyone’s positions goes:

I do not think intellectual property is valid (Brent might agree… and maybe a few others).  Andrew and Nimble seem to be for shared rights (if it can be proved that inventors reached an idea independently).  Everyone else seems accept the first come first serve rule and probably wants to move on to discussing the original topic of this thread (grr  :) ).

Why do you not believe in intellectual property? Even if you are libertarian, Rothbard has the same stance I have. If you stole someones idea in some way, then that is immoral. If you came to the idea on your own or through analyzing what is available without using force to get access to the idea, then it is your right to produce it.

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I think a seperate thread should be started on the validity of the concept intellectual property. I think its impossible to have a discussion about patents, copyrights, time limits, etc. if you don't first agree on the issue that intellectual property rights exist. I'll do the honors by starting that thread.

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Why do you not believe in intellectual property? Even if you are libertarian, Rothbard has the same stance I have. If you stole someones idea in some way, then that is immoral. If you came to the idea on your own or through analyzing what is available without using force to get access to the idea, then it is your right to produce it.

I believe in intellectual property, it is an existent.....there is nothing to "believe".... it just exists.

It is the protection of it vs. absolute, free, unfettered, laissez-faire capitalism that I find contradictory.

In capitalism, monopolies will rarely exist without government intervention, yet patent rights are a government protected monopoly and therefore an economic distortion.

We can have patent protection or capitalism, not both. Capitalism is a fundamental of Objectivism in the economic world.....is patent protection?

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Why do you not believe in intellectual property? Even if you are libertarian, Rothbard has the same stance I have. If you stole someones idea in some way, then that is immoral. If you came to the idea on your own or through analyzing what is available without using force to get access to the idea, then it is your right to produce it.

Rights are moral principles, but not all moral principles are rights. One important quality of a right is that it cannot under any circumstances negate the rights of another. I do not think that you can shout out an idea then say that no one else can use it, which is negating my right to act on my judgment. It would be immoral to copy someone else idea if they were actively producing it, however it is not something that can be considered a 'right' because it cannot be protected without taking away the rights of others. Racism is also immoral, but any government use of laws (backed with force) to stop it is worse.

****Sorry about the confusion I just created. When I said "Intellectual Property" I should have said "Intellectual Property Rights". I'm trying to watch my step on this issue... sorry for slipping. :) ****

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I do not think that you can shout out an idea then say that no one else can use it

Have you read the rest of this thread?

Declaring an idea won't get you a patent. You must turn it into physical reality first, and it must be completely original.

It would be immoral to copy someone else idea if they were actively producing it

Progress!!!!

What would make it immoral?

If that someone didn't have a patent would it still be immoral?

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