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DavidV

Merge: Rights, Property

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Your statement is contradicted by existing patent law. Since the 1970s scientists have been patenting the gene sequences that they discover for various proteins.
Well, I am not familiar with those patents. If they are indeed patenting discoveries per se, I see no justification for it. Officials from the Patent and Trademark office have told me on more than one occasion that one cannot patent a discovery.

Maybe someone has advanced a good reason to make an exception in a certain field -- but I haven't seen it. I'll do some research on it.

In any event, the proper response to improper patents is to oppose those specific patents -- not throw out patents altogether.

The distinction is not always clear cut. It is a law of nature that certain elements can be positively or negatively charged. It is also a law of nature that when a negatively charged element is connected with a positively charged element, electricity is produced. Thus, the “creation” of electricity and batteries and generators is not something entirely new.
Electricity exists in nature in the form of lightning and the ability of some eels to generate an electric potential. I am not aware of anyone attempting to patent a simple flow of electricity. Alternating current, invented by Tesla, is a different story. It does not exist in nature.

Batteries and generators also do not exist in nature. And without the action of some man's mind, they never would have existed.

All property, including the sort you (presumably) think should be protected, is only a re-arrangement of pre-existing matter. So, in that sense, no property is "new". But it is new in the sense that without human action, it would not exist.

So far, I have not heard a case where it is difficult to separate a discovery from an invention.

Even the U.S. Supreme Court has admitted that “[t]he specification and claims of a patent . . . constitute one of the most difficult legal instruments to draw with accuracy.” Topliff v Topliff, 145 US 156, 171, 12 S.Ct. 825 (1892)
Sometimes the claims are difficult to define, often they are not. However, as I said before, the fact that it is sometimes hard to do the right thing does not justify doing the wrong thing instead.

More importantly, even if the distinction were always obvious, why should Objectivists seek to reward inventors
The point is not to reward inventors but to recognize that their creation is their property.

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Tom Robinson,

Current US patent law, as with all current US law, might not happen to be objective. The fault for the exploitation of non-objectivity does not lie in an objective theory of law, but elsewhere.

Complexity and objectivity are not mutually exclusive phenomena.

Ambiguity and arbitrariness are inherent in any system that holds that some thoughts can be owned but not other thoughts, that there are objective and discernible differences between discoveries and inventions, and that patent rights should be protected for X number of years but not X + 1 year.

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That’s a laugh. So rigorous is patent law that something as obvious as swinging sideways can be patented: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?...RS=PN/6,368,227
I don't know who you think you are kidding here, but you are evading the complete context of my statement.

I have gone to the effort to answer you on the good-faith assumption that your opposition to intellectual property is based on a misunderstanding of how it actually works "in the real world". But responses such as the one above are indicative that you are either not reading my posts or are actively evading their content, neither of which is very motivating to continue this discussion.

I have given a clear guideline for distinguishing between an invention and a discovery. I have answered all of your examples. I have shown you how patent disputes are resolved, and guess what: it is, generally, a reasonable process.

Its imperfections warrant correction, not the wholesale abandonment of intellectual property.

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A little research reveals that there has been quite a debate about gene patents. Many people have raised the objection that I would. Here are some of the comments the Patent and Trademark Office has received:

    (2) Comment: Several comments state that a gene is not a new

composition of matter because it exists in nature, and/or that an

inventor who isolates a gene does not actually invent or discover a

patentable composition because the gene exists in nature. These

comments urge the USPTO not to issue patents for genes on the ground

that genes are products of nature. Others state that naturally

occurring DNAs are part of our heritage and are not inventions. Another

comment expressed concern that a person whose body includes a patented

gene could be guilty of patent infringement.

Here is the PTO response:

A patent claim directed to an isolated and purified DNA

molecule could cover, e.g., a gene excised from a natural chromosome or

a synthesized DNA molecule. An isolated and purified DNA molecule that

has the same sequence as a naturally occurring gene is eligible for a

patent because (1) an excised gene is eligible for a patent as a

composition of matter or as an article of manufacture because that DNA

molecule does not occur in that isolated form in nature, or (2)

synthetic DNA preparations are eligible for patents because their

purified state is different from the naturally occurring compound.

So the PTO is pointing out that these purified gene structures do not exist per se in nature, and are thus patentable. What the patent holder can patent (provided he meets the stautory requirments), then, is not your DNA, but a purified and/or modified copy of a section of DNA. Thus, no individual would be in "genetic infringment".

You can read the whole thing here.

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1. The stockholders are just a collection of individuals (who 'own' portions of a company), 2. Different individuals will have different desires as to what to do with this property, 3. However, to allow someone to do one thing with that property is to violate the right of all those individuals who want to do something mutually exclusive with that property, 4. Therefore, there is no such this as company property (for companies that have at least two stockholders).

The stockholders have agreed to let the managers of the company make decisions for them. The law recognizes the company as a "legal entity", with the managers as its agents.

If enough shareholders want the company to do something ("enough" according to the rules defined by that company) they can hire managers who will execute their wishes. Meanwhile, they are bound by the rules they have implicitly agreed to when buying the shares.

I will go further to say that I do not see anything inherently wrong with government agencies owning property as long as it is done for good reason and subject to checks aand balances. I see no reason to insist on the police renting their offices or the military leasing its tanks. Technically, this is not "public" property. It is government property.

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You can simplify the question: can two people jointly own property? The answer is "yes". In lieu of an explicit document, both parties have equal rights to the property to use as they wish, and may transfer their interest (and only their interest) to some other party as they wish. An explicit agreement is a really good idea for non-couples (and even then...) to make clear what the procedure is for sorting out conflicting interests. For example, in a partnership, it may be stipulated that the wishes of at least 2/3 of the partners prevails, and if you don't like it, you should stay out of such a partnership. Corporations have such documents, which disposes of the problem that you do not have to have unanimous concept from all shareholders to do something with the company's property.

One crucial distinction between "public property" and a corporation is that "the public" is an ill-defined set whereas being a shareholder is well-defined. Another is that acquiring interest in a corporation comes from a voluntary exchange of value, i.e. you had to pay for it. Property is owned by individuals, but it can be multiple specific individuals.

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My point was that don't such agreements violate the concept of property?  Remember that owning a thing is saying that you have the right to use and/or dispose of it; and that one person's rights can never conflict with another's.  Isn't this violated when something you own is something you can't use and/or dispose of?  If something is your's, but you can't use it the way you want, what exactly is meant by saying you own it?

Married couples I saw as a minor exception to this, but only in the sense that under the law, they would have to be seen as one person with two bodies.  They would have to work out all disagreements between themselves; if they couldn't, they shouldn't be married.

The same "minor exception" goes for all partnerships, since marriage is nothing but a specific kind of partnership.

A married couple is not seen under the law as one person with two bodies, and I do not gain the right to pluck out my wife's eye if it offends me, by marrying her. Business partners also have to work out all disagreements between themselves; if they can't, they shouldn't be in business. What it means, then, for Smith and Jones to jointly own a delivery van is that Smith and Jones can do what they want with it: they may sell it, give it away, use it for business or pleasure, or blow it up for fun. The distinction between Smith and Jones owning the van, and simply Smith owning the van, is that if Smith alone owns the van, he alone determines what is to be done with the van.

Consider leasing property. If Smith owns a building and leases it to Jones (with an appropriate lease agreement), Smith still owns the building but Jones has acquired a particular right to use the building for the period of the lease, and therefore Smith may not burn the building down. Ownership is not an absolute, context-free right to dispose of at will: there may be other people's rights which you are contractually obliged to respect.

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[... in Objectivism...] there can be no such thing as 'conditional property'; this means there can be no strings attached to an item that gets sold.

Where in Objectivism does it say that "strings" (i.e. conditions) cannot be attached to property when it is sold? For instance, if Roark had sold his Cortland design for a fee with the condition that it be built exactly as he designed it, an Objectivist court would uphold his right to enforce that condition.

... there aren't any 'legal entities' apart from real entities, to say that there are is to pretend something exists when it really doesn't. 

Firstly, this is an equivocation on the term "entities". The term "legal entity" has a specific meaning. Let me give you an example: if I own a large amount of stock in a company and the company does something egregious, the company can be sued, not me qua owner.

Secondly, even entities in the epistemological sense do not exist intrinsically.

The police wouldn't have to rent their offices...

Sorry, I did not intend to imply that the police had to rent or buy. I was referring to what they could do morally. I see nothing incompatible between Objectivism's idea of capitalism and allowing the police to rent or to own property.

...you could have companies that specialize in producing police forces; which would then bid for the contract on particular pieces of private property. 

You could, if it is practical. However, the structure and control of the police as it exists today (structure, not the particular laws enforced) is fairly compatible with Objectivism's idea of capitalism.

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softwareNerd: I will go further to say that I do not see anything inherently wrong with government agencies owning property as long as it is done for good reason and subject to checks and balances.
Loosely speaking you can say that the government "owns" property, but strictly speaking, no. Property ownership is the exercise of a right and neither governments nor officials acting on behalf of the government can do anything by "right". When the government "owns" property it only has authority over its use or disposal within strict guidelines in accordance with a specific, objectively justifiable governmental purpose of control over the property and in accordance with strict rules of operation. That is stricter than government acting "for a good reason" (good by what standard?). Checks and balances are required for anything the government does including use and disposition of property.

This is fundamentally different than a corporation owning property by the rights of its members acting within voluntarily agreed on purposes and procedures (typically on behalf of the private stockholders).

To say that in a proper society all property is privately owned, means that it is a corallary of the principle that only individuals have rights, and that individuals are free to follow their own judgment, limited by what they cannot do, while government is limited in what it can do, restricted to what it must do (in accordance with protection of the rights of the individual from force or fraud).

Property ownership is a relation between the physical thing and the persons(s) who control it, as opposed to property, which is a physical object. Physical property of course can be controlled by government for specific purposes, but strictly speaking there can be no such thing as 'public ownership' or 'government ownership' in a free society.

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Okay, lets say that the family of Mr. Wiess abandoned their property in Germany during the 1930s because they were afraid for their safety under the Third Reich. Sortly after the war, some other family is living in their family's old house and claim ownership of all their land. The State stands behind the current owners (lets call them the Schwarzeneggers). Who does the land now belong too?

Thanks.

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Okay, lets say that the family of Mr. Wiess abandoned their property in Germany during the 1930s because they were afraid for their safety under the Third Reich.  Sortly after the war, some other family is living in their family's old house and claim ownership of all their land.  The State stands behind the current owners (lets call them the Schwarzeneggers).  Who does the land now belong too?

Thanks.

It belongs to Wiess, assuming they acquired it properly in the first place, and assuming they were, in fact, forced to leave because of threats by the government, and assuming they made an effort to reclaim it in a reasonable period of time after the threats abated and assuming they did nothing overt to indicate a permanent abandonment of the property.

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It belongs to Wiess, assuming they acquired it properly in the first place, and assuming they were, in fact, forced to leave because of threats by the government, and assuming they made an effort to reclaim it in a reasonable period of time after the threats abated and assuming they did nothing overt to indicate a permanent abandonment of the property.

Why so many qualifications? Okay, lets say they went back a few years later, at a point a which they felt more confortable trying to reclaim their land. Lets also say the government was not behind their claim but for the Schwarzeneggers? Lets also say they've repeatedly tried to regain possession of their property, but have been legally unsuccessful in the German courts. And what constitutes "permanent abandonment"?

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Why so many qualifications? 

To supply some context.

Okay, lets say they went back a few years later, at a point a which they felt more confortable trying to reclaim their land.  Lets also say the government was not behind their claim but for the Schwarzeneggers?  Lets also say they've repeatedly tried to regain possession of their property, but have been legally unsuccessful in the German courts.
Same answer as before, with all of the same qualifiers.

What is your point? Are you trying to get me to commit to a position that you think can be twisted to attack Objectivism?

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Okay, lets say that the family of Mr. Wiess abandoned their property in Germany during the 1930s ...

I don't know much about "Germany of 1930", but I'd add more context onto the context (a.k.a. qualifications) noted by AisA. An important part of the context is that the Wiess's should have respected property rights in the first place.

If I were to change the example and say that Iranians are asking Greece for reparations for damaged caused by Alexander, then the passage of time would be one factor. However, another would be that when Alexander took their property, they (the Iranians) never lived under a system that respected property rights anyway. Given half a chance their kings would have taken Greece land instead.

Similarly, if one were to change the example to Europeans taking land from American aboriginees, then again the claim would be invalid not because of the passage of time, but ab initio.

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To supply some context.

Same answer as before, with all of the same qualifiers.

What is your point?  Are you trying to get me to commit to a position that you think can be twisted to attack Objectivism?

If you mean, I'm I trying to discover if some Objectivists are hypocritical, then the answer is yes. Or is that not open to debate?

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If you mean, I'm I trying to discover if some Objectivists are hypocritical, then the answer is yes.  Or is that not open to debate?
Are you trying to discover this? Or, have you already decided?

If you seek the truth (rather than a debating brownie point from an audience), my advice would be this: instead of approaching the issue in a roundabout way that implies, "let's trap them into an admission", state it as an open challenge. A formulation like the following would work:

"I understand that Objectivism holds XYZ as a principle. Yet, I understand that Objectivists do not apply that principle to the case of ABC. Is this not a contradiction?"

What possible replies can you get?

1) Objectivism does not hold XYZ

2) Objectivism does apply it to ABC

3) Oops, we're hypocrites!

The responses you have received are of type #1. By clarifying context, the responders are giving you details of XYZ, thereby constraining the number of concretes to which it is applicable.

Is the German example the real concrete you are thinking of, or are you planning to pull a "surprize concrete" out of your debating hat?

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In reality, the [sunlight] problem as described does not exist.

Sorry if somebody already posted this, as I haven't yet read the entirety of this thread.

Yes, the sunlight problem does exist in reality despite zoning and other regulations. I invite you to read Prah v. Maretti, 108 Wis.2d 223, 321 N.W.2d 182 (1982), in which the court considered "whether an owner of a solar-heated residence states a claim upon which relief can be granted when he asserts that his neighbor's proposed construction of a residence (which conforms to existing deed restrictions and local ordinances) interferes with his access to an unobstructed path for sunlight across the neighbor's property." The parenthetical remarks are the court's, not mine.

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