Shouldn't The USPTO's Education Curriculum Be Accurate?

from the one-would-think-that's-the-point dept

I started my still-ongoing series of posts on intellectual property as a counter to the incredibly one-sided brain-washing educational campaigns put together by companies that only seemed to talk about how wonderful intellectual property was, never once mentioning the downsides or abuses. You can kind of understand this from companies who make their living off of intellectual property -- but it still seems quite questionable that any educational institution would accept and use such a biased "lesson plan." So, if the USPTO came out with its own lesson plan, you'd expect it to be a bit more balanced, right? Not so. The USPTO has created its own curriculum to try to teach kids "respect" for intellectual property law and it seems to be just as bad as the corporate backed lessons. Perhaps that's no surprise, as the USPTO gets its funds from patent application fees, so it has incentive to keep more applications coming in.

Even the way that USPTO boss Jon Dudas explains the program is problematic: "If you own something that is valuable, you want to protect it." That is not, and has never been, the purpose of the patent system. It's not about ownership and it's not about "protecting." It's about encouraging innovation. Simply by setting up this program as teaching kids about "protecting" something valuable they "own" is inaccurate. That's rather surprising, given that you would think the head of the USPTO would know what the patent system's purpose is. The website that hosts the curriculum has a short trailer video that has a clear false statement at the beginning, claiming "an invention needs to be protected by a patent." That would be quite a shock to Benjamin Franklin, who famously said of inventions: "That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously," before questioning the value of patents. Somehow, I get the feeling that statement didn't make it into the USPTO's lesson plan.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Jake, Apr 16th, 2008 @ 2:27pm

    I don't wish to sound like some immature rebel-without-a-cause conspiracy theorist with more zits than brain cells, but is it really all that surprising that any government agency sounds like a corporate shill in the current political climate? Election victories have gone to the candidate with the biggest war chest all too often, and big donations seldom come without strings attached, even when they comply with the letter of the law.

     

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  2.  
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    MLS, Apr 16th, 2008 @ 2:34pm

    "It's about encouraging innovation..." falls a bit short of the mark for accuracy. It would be accurate to say "It's about encouraging innovation...by securing for limited times to...inventors the exclusive right to their...discoveries".

    Franklin's quote notwithstanding, it is important to realize that he did have a day job and did not need to earn a living from what he invented.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Matt, Apr 16th, 2008 @ 3:04pm

    the best inventors are why patents fail

    See, here's what happens

    if you are continually innovating (and capable of sustaining that), then even if people copy your current product by the time they can copy it, you will already have a new one. If you do a good job inventing (and not a "lets throw money at the wall and hope it sticks" approach), then even the legitimate copies will not be of as increased a quality as the next innovation/invention.

    Patents being a certain time is so you can make money off it, it's not to protect the product or stop other people from making their own things. However, as things are, variation patents and (I forgot the wording - I'll say "improvement patents") have a limited area they can cover if the original says "we cover all theoretically changes/improvements to this product.

    It's a discovery, and when things go public, it is no longer your own property, it is now public. That would mean the minute it's disseminated in any form there is a way, a will, a method that things are no longer solely owned by the original proprietor of the idea/innovation, unless the information is never disseminated.

    Once again, it is about innovation. If you keep innovating instead of sitting on your ass, you'd make more money than sitting on your ass. However, nobody seems to like to do that for the most part, nor knows how. Or the corruption from the temptations of enormous sums of money made from sitting on your haunches (lets face it - look at patent litigation lately).

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2008 @ 3:15pm

    Ben Franklin quotes?

    When will you constitutionalists learn. There's only one thing that makes the law change. Force. Right now most people (that I know anyway) ignore and break copyright law.

    Yet there's zero pressure on the government to change the law in favor of the public.

    You imagine the business model all wrong. The RIAA isn't in the content business. It's selling insurance against a financially restrictive legal system.

     

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  5.  
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    Just Another Opinion, Apr 16th, 2008 @ 3:41pm

    USPTO

    I guess the government is cynical about people because they think that money is a good motivator for encouraging innovation.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    another mike, Apr 16th, 2008 @ 4:02pm

    If you own something that is valuable, you want to protect it.
    Sounds like a better quote to have come from the gun lobby than the IP (insane protectionism) lobby.

     

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  7.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 16th, 2008 @ 4:56pm

    Re:

    Franklin's quote notwithstanding, it is important to realize that he did have a day job and did not need to earn a living from what he invented.

    I'm not sure what that has to do with anything. The patent system is not based on "need."

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 16th, 2008 @ 5:27pm

    Re:

    Franklin's quote notwithstanding, it is important to realize that he did have a day job and did not need to earn a living from what he invented.
    What, you mean he competed fairly in the marketplace for his income? He didn't rely on a government granted monopoly to give him an advantage? Oh my gosh, what was wrong with him?

     

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  9.  
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    Willton, Apr 17th, 2008 @ 5:37am

    Re: Re:

    What, you mean he competed fairly in the marketplace for his income? He didn't rely on a government granted monopoly to give him an advantage? Oh my gosh, what was wrong with him?

    No, you putz, it means that because he made his money from the printing business, Franklin could afford to dedicate his inventions to the public and make no money off of them. Hence, he's not a good example to follow for inventors looking to earn a living from their craft.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Cygnus, Apr 17th, 2008 @ 7:40am

    "purpose" of IP

    I have a big problem with this assertion:

    "If you own something that is valuable, you want to protect it." That is not, and has never been, the purpose of the patent system. It's not about ownership and it's not about "protecting." It's about encouraging innovation.

    To be sure, the patent system's long-term goals are to encourage innovation and advance the sciences.

    But "goals" (and purposes) and "means" are two different creatures. The means by which the patent system achieves its goal is by granting an inventor a period of exclusive monopoly for exploiting his idea.

    It is then up to the individual to protect this government-sanctioned monopoly by invoking the relevant statutes in court.

    So, in a sense, the Patent Act is a tool to allow inventors a framework to protect their idea in exchange for that idea becoming freely available 20 years after the filing of a patent application.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Marion E. Cavanaugh Reg No 40550, Apr 17th, 2008 @ 9:16am

    Criticism of the USPTO

    While I agree that there is much that needs to be done with the IP system of our country, this article is too biased.
    Ben Franklin was right about simple, easily tested inventions, but wrong about inventions that require resources and time to develop (a requirement of the patent system; and "invention" is a developed idea, not a "mere thought").
    As to ownership, there is a confusion in the article about the purpose of the system versus the method of achieving that purpose. The purpose is to "promote the general good", the method is by ownership of a right of exclusion for a term of years.
    Does the system need reforming? YES! Is the best way to reform it by misrepresenting the problem? NO!

     

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  12.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 17th, 2008 @ 10:02am

    Re: "purpose" of IP

    So, in a sense, the Patent Act is a tool to allow inventors a framework to protect their idea in exchange for that idea becoming freely available 20 years after the filing of a patent application.

    But even then the statement by the USPTO is misleading. If something is so valuable that you need to "own it" and "protect it" why would you patent it -- since, by definition -- patenting it is giving it over to the public domain after a period of time?

     

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  13.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 17th, 2008 @ 10:05am

    Re: Criticism of the USPTO

    Ben Franklin was right about simple, easily tested inventions, but wrong about inventions that require resources and time to develop

    Why does that make a difference? So far the research on the impact of patents suggests otherwise. Patents can be just as damaging for inventions that require capital and time to develop.

    As to ownership, there is a confusion in the article about the purpose of the system versus the method of achieving that purpose. The purpose is to "promote the general good", the method is by ownership of a right of exclusion for a term of years.

    Again, this is misleading and incorrect. Nothing in the patent system is about *ownership* of the idea. It's about giving a limited, temporary monopoly. That's not ownership of the idea.

    As you say, it may be ownership of a right, but that's not what the USPTO says. They say they are granting you ownership of the idea (something valuable) which is misleading, inaccurate and leads to people thinking of patents like tangible property (which is the root cause of many problems with the patent system).

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    DanC, Apr 17th, 2008 @ 11:02am

    Re:

    "It's about encouraging innovation..." falls a bit short of the mark for accuracy.

    The original statement seems accurate to me. The purpose of the patent system is to encourage innovation. Securing the exclusive rights is the method by which the purpose is achieved.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2008 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    No, you putz,...
    No? Well, that summary seemed pretty accurate to me. And when I see someone start name-calling it's a pretty clear sign to me that they probably have a weak argument.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Willton, Apr 17th, 2008 @ 10:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No? Well, that summary seemed pretty accurate to me. And when I see someone start name-calling it's a pretty clear sign to me that they probably have a weak argument.

    I wasn't making an argument; I was drawing the appropriate conclusion from MLS's post and then expressing it in a reply to you. Your "pretty accurate summary" was a strawman.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2008 @ 10:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I wasn't making an argument;

    Oh, so you just dropped in for a little name calling, huh? Well, the "appropriate conclusion" from that is that you're a MLS sock puppet.

    Your "pretty accurate summary" was a strawman.

    You might want to go look that term up before you start trying to use it.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2008 @ 10:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Your "pretty accurate summary" was a strawman.
    That wasn't my summary.

     

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  19.  
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    brook, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 8:45am

    wow it is an interesting article about education. thanks for posting this wonderful article.

    ==========
    brook

    MLS

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    brook, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 8:46am

    wow it is an interesting article about education. thanks for posting this wonderful article.

    ==========
    brook

    MLS

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    brook, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 8:46am

    wow it is an interesting article about education. thanks for posting this wonderful article.

    ==========
    brook

    MLS

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    brook, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 8:46am

    wow it is an interesting article about education. thanks for posting this wonderful article.

    ==========
    brook

    MLS

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    brook, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 8:46am

    wow it is an interesting article about education. thanks for posting this wonderful article.

    ==========
    brook

    MLS

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    brook, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 8:47am

    wow it is an interesting article about education. thanks for posting this wonderful article.

    ==========
    brook

    MLS

     

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