If Someone Is Going To Exploit Intellectual Property On Toys Of Weapons, Why Not The Gov't?

from the toys-of-mass-destruction dept

In reading through stories on the ridiculous levels to which intellectual property rules are taken, we've seen a number of stories over the years about defense contractors trying to get toy model makers to pay up for making models of weapons these contractors provide the US government. Now, AgainstMonopoly points us to the news that a congressman has slipped language into a bill that would pass the intellectual property rights concerning such weapons onto the US gov't. Of course, the government isn't about to then let model makers off without a charge. It will collect the money for licensing fees itself. The defense contractors are apparently fighting back against this, both for the toymaker revenue and the crucial point over who actually owns the intellectual property on the designs of their weapons. With the recent stories about Russia trying to enforce IP rights over the AK-47, perhaps it's not such a small issue -- no matter how ridiculous it may seem.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Paul, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 5:05am

    Personally, I would say the toymakers are allowed to make toy versions of the gun. All they should really have to do is make it *slightly* different then the original and they have no control. I mean, it *looks* similar, but wouldn't be the same. Plus, its mechanism is obviously completely different. I mean, toymakers still have to design the toy. It's not like they just magically create a replica.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 5:14am

    So I guess all the war plane models are illegal. AS far as I'm concerned US tax dollars paid for it then US citizens own it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    David, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 5:29am

    I thought the Govt couldn't claim IP rights to something developed with tax dollars?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 5:38am

    Bottom of the barrel

    It sounds like arguing over ownership of IP rights is now a business model.

    Imagine what would have happened to G.I. Joe if there were IP ownership arguments back in those toys were first introduced. Hobbyists that collect models of war planes, tanks, guns, and other things would have been left high and dry as well.

    And as for Russia trying pull an IP fast one on everyone over the AK-47 they are a few decades late and few wars/rebellions short on that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Eric Aitala (profile), Jun 13th, 2007 @ 6:11am

    Re:

    Actually several companies (Boeing & Sikorsky) have been going after the scale modeling companies for just such royalties. On planes that were paid for by the US tax money...

    And quite frankly this is doing a lot of harm to the hobby...

    Eric Aitala

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Overcast, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 6:21am

    These 'intellectual rights' and 'patent' issues are going to be so overdone - that in the near future, neither will mean a thing.

    Like drugs and speeding, once a large enough segment of the population begins to do it, it's about impossible to enforce.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Mark Bowness, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 7:13am

    Agreed. These intellectual right and patent issues are everywhere so much so that they will start to dumb down real issues I.P issues.

    Also a good comment about this now being a business model. Interesting.

    Mark Bowness

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    whocares, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 8:01am

    I wish someone would patent patents. This patent issue is ridiculous.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 8:08am

    It's "Atlas Shrugged" playing out in the real world 50 years later.

    Quote, "The main conflict of the book occurs as the "individuals of the mind" go on strike, refusing to contribute their inventions, art, business leadership, scientific research, or new ideas of any kind to the rest of the world. Society, they believe, hampers them by interfering with their work and underpays them by confiscating the profits and dignity they have rightfully earned. The peaceful cohesiveness of the world requires those individuals whose productive work comes from mental effort. But feeling they have no alternative, they eventually start disappearing from the communities of "looters" and "moochers" who bleed them dry. The strikers believe that they are crucial to a society that exploits them, and the near-total collapse of civilization their strike eventually triggers shows them to be correct."

    From Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_Shrugged

    Oh, wait, this is intellectual property ... can I post this here? ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Java, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 8:15am

    Actually, I don't think anyone is in the clear.

    If the Manufacturer develops the concept/proto design on their own dime, then they would clearly own the design and associated IP regardless if the govt. buys the weapons or not.

    If the Govt. commissions the company to develop the design, then the Govt. if funding all the work and therefore, the Govt. should own the design and related IP.

    This is principally how it is done in the private sector and similar process should apply to the govt. sector in my opinion.

    As for toy makers, this is a sticky issue. However, the developer is designing not only a functional weapon but also the look/feel of the weapon. That ID is being copied by toymakers for free today and therefore, they are profiting by someone elses work. Designers are entitled to copyrights to ID work that they develop and toymakers should be responsible to pay some type of fee to the original designer.

    Do you think toymakers would have an issue if someone else copied the look and feel of one of their toys?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 8:36am

    Re:

    There's a difference between making a replica and copying someone's work.

    If someone made a copy of another's toy, then yes, that'd be stealing.

    If you design a replica that may look similar, but isn't the exact same design (in toy replicas, items that are multiple parts are molded into one part for example) plus even if it has a similar function, but different mechanisms, its really hard to say that the weapons manufacturer owns that. I say, unless they put out a design patent, they shouldn't be allowed to go after the toymakers. Thats why there are so many friggin' copycats of so many things these days. The only toys that are not copied are usually trademarked and covered by extra protection.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 8:48am

    It's just like Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". Check out the first paragraph under "Philosopy and Writing" on Wikipedia - describes the situation exactly - and was written 50 years ago.

    I tried to paste it here, and provide a citation, but I guess I can't since would be an IP problem ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 8:51am

    From Wikipedia:

    "The main conflict of the book occurs as the "individuals of the mind" go on strike, refusing to contribute their inventions, art, business leadership, scientific research, or new ideas of any kind to the rest of the world. Society, they believe, hampers them by interfering with their work and underpays them by confiscating the profits and dignity they have rightfully earned. The peaceful cohesiveness of the world requires those individuals whose productive work comes from mental effort. But feeling they have no alternative, they eventually start disappearing from the communities of "looters" and "moochers" who bleed them dry. The strikers believe that they are crucial to a society that exploits them, and the near-total collapse of civilization their strike eventually triggers shows them to be correct."

    Under the citation for "Atlas Shrugged"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Clueby4, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 10:32am

    Copyright Law - Government works

    INAL, but aren't government's and their contractor's works (aka "Work for Hire") EXEMPT from copyright protection?!?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Bah who needs one, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 12:52pm

    Works of the US Federal Government (including works for hire) are supposed to be public domain, are they not?

    Regardless, copying the look of something is not "theft", nor is profiting from someone else's work. It happens all the time. Mechanics profit from the work of GM and Ford, without whose crappy vehicles nobody would have reason to use their services. We all profit in some way from side benefits from things we don't necessarily pay for.

    A smoothly functioning economy generates surplus over time (grows), and those who help grow that surplus get to capture SOME of the value of that surplus, as a rule. There is no entitlement to profit at all -- businesses can and do go bankrupt routinely. This too is normal.

    Problems start when some business, or whole sector, gets it into their heads that they're somehow ENTITLED to profit regardless of market conditions, or even to capture ALL the value of the surplus they create. Enforcing their wishes effectively would require a police state -- and the spillover surplus would be gone. That spillover serves important social and economic roles. It's the "rising tide that floats all boats", the means by which the general standard of living can raise over time instead of those enriched necessarily being so at the expense of someone else being impoverished. If everyone captures all the value from their productivity surplus, the tide ebbs, and most of them, ironically, run aground on the rocks.

    The spillover isn't theft, or freeloading; it's part of the mechanism's lubrication. Without it, the economy grinds to a halt, and civilization collapses.

    As for reprinting Wikipedia content without permission, you can do that -- the text is all under the GFDL.

    As for the Atlas Shrugged stuff? Bogeyman stories to frighten small children and gullible adults into favoring stricter IP policy. It won't happen -- the world innovated just fine before anyone had even thought of any of this IP BS, and it will continue to do so when it joins things like apartheid, alcohol prohibition, or the divine rights of kings in the dusbin of history.

    In fact the scenario outlined in Atlas Shrugged can't happen. It goes against human nature and the laws of economics. Workers "of the mind" always will be able to find work, because their talents are scarce and valuable, even if copies of stuff are cheap and abundant. And in practise, who do you see pushing for strong IP laws? Scientists, doctors, and computer programmers? Nope. Not even, most of the time, singers, actors, and other entertainers either. Mostly men in business suits, some of them lawyers, others upper management types, all of them rent-seeking parasites. Some work for Microsoft. Some for the RIAA. None work for the people, or for innovation, and they tend to oppose the people and innovation to at least the extent that those threaten their business models. They aren't propelling civilization forward. Far from it -- they are holding it back.

    Not that they can, any more than Sisyphus could keep his boulder at the top of the hill where it was gravitationally unstable. And civilization weighs a lot more than a boulder. It's rolling, gaining speed, and the nutty IP-pushers are standing there in its path with their arms out yelling "Stop!". Within a few short years, they get run down by progress barreling ahead, and within a couple dozen, the world begins to change rapidly and in ways we can't currently even imagine. There isn't anything that can stop it, short of an asteroid strike with very unfortunate timing, or maybe some nut actually succeeding in starting world war three.

    You may not believe it yet, but those drooling idiots with their precious outmoded business models aren't even a serious threat anymore. Just wait a short while and listen for the "squish"...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Java, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 12:59pm

    Re: Re:

    Dont get me wrong, I don't necessarily agree with any of the vendor's positions on this topic.

    I do understand your point, however, look/feel can be proprietary as well. In fact, it happens all the time in modern business.

    It is not uncommon for companies to build a portfolio of products that have a very specific look/feel. When those product ID's are copied, the originating company will ofter issue cease/desist letters and/or seek legal remedies to protect their brand ID.

    We are talking about a similar case here.

    Brand identification can absolutely be protected. Right or wrong, I think that is what the gun companies are in the end doing.

    While very morbid, but the gun companies in the end my be hurting their own efforts. Getting youngsters to recognize gun ID's early may make them want the real thing later in life.

    It is similar to what the tobacco industry does, catch them young and you may gain a paying customer later in life.

    It is a sickening approach but has proven effective in the past.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Charles Griswold, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 1:54pm

    Re:

    All they should really have to do is make it *slightly* different then the original and they have no control.
    You mean like making the end of the barrel orange? :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Charles Griswold, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 2:03pm

    Re:

    It's just like Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". Check out the first paragraph under "Philosopy and Writing" on Wikipedia - describes the situation exactly - and was written 50 years ago.

    I tried to paste it here, and provide a citation, but I guess I can't since would be an IP problem ...
    Now you're just being silly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Charles Griswold, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 2:08pm

    This is not a copyright issue

    This is not a copyright issue; it's a trade dress issue. IMHO, since no one would mistake a toy weapon for the real thing, even trade dress is a moot point.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Charles Griswold, Jun 13th, 2007 @ 4:24pm

    Re: This is not a copyright issue

    no one would mistake a toy weapon for the real thing
    With the possible exception of trigger-happy cops, of course.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This