What Kind Of Innovation Do Patents Encourage?

from the if-any-at-all dept

We've highlighted numerous studies that have shown how patents tend to hinder overall innovation, but there's no doubt that giving out monopolies may encourage different kinds of activities. Petra Moser's research comparing innovation in countries with patents to those without patents has shown that countries without patents tend to be just as innovative, but that the innovation takes different forms. Thus, patents tend to divert from the natural market of innovation to areas that are more easily "protectable." Whether or not that's actually "good" for progress is an open question. A while back, Stephen Kinsella posted a thought-provoking post from Prashant Singh Pawar examining how patents distort innovation incentives, based on a longer thesis he wrote up comparing "horizontal innovation" to "vertical innovation." Pawar's basic premise is that patents encourage "horizontal innovation" -- a totally different way of doing the same thing -- vs. "vertical innovation" -- building on what's been done before:
So, I finally came up with the terms 'Horizontal innovation', and 'Vertical Innovation'. Horizontal Innovation is when a parallel technology is discovered (usually to avoid patent infringement). For example if a company develops a flying car using (say) hydrolic expansion, and they get a patent of it, another company develops (or has to develop) a flying car technology by using Thermo-plazma radiator engine. Both these technologies achieve the same end, they enable a car to fly, so this is horizontal innovation. This is what patent proponents talk about being squashed when they say innovation will be reduced when patents are removed. There will not be Google G1 phone,Blackberry and iPhone if there were no IP rights.

Vertical innovation is when a technology is built top of another technology merely by adding a new element to it. For example if you develop a Car which can travel on water, and I take that car, and add a Sail to it to make it use wind then that's called a vertical innovation. With patents, only the patent holder can think of adding a sail on the boat-car and sell it, without patents, innovations will be done all over the world by every kind of boat and car enthusiast. There will be only one smart phone in this world, but it will be having numerous variants, such as a Google gPhone (synced with google services), a Microsoft mPhone (synced with microsoft services), and so on.

Patents promote horizontal innovation, but restrict vertical innovation. Without patents we will have more vertical innovation but less horizontal innovation.
It's an interesting theory, and it would be great to see some further research done to see if it's supported by the evidence. Of course, it also fits with what we've discussed in the past about the difference between invention (coming up with something new) and innovation (successfully bringing something to market such that people want it). Studies have shown over and over again that true innovation is an ongoing process, of continuing to build on what's come before, making it better and having it better serve the market. That is the sort of thing that we regularly see held back by patents -- it's the type of "vertical innovation" that Pawar is suggesting. Is society better off with a totally different type of flying car? Or are we better served by having lots more resources put towards making the flying car better serve our needs? I'd argue the latter, but would be interested to hear from people who argue the former.


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    Misanthropist (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 10:27am

    Only one kind..

    The kind that is measurable using false statistics.

    As in, judging economic growth and stability by how many patents a nation/sector is pumping out.

    If you don't have enough numbers, you're obviously failing.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 10:34am

    Meh.

    Horizontal Innovation is when a parallel technology is discovered (usually to avoid patent infringement).

    Oh great, he's reinventing the wheel in order to explain 'reinventing the wheel in order to make a chariot.'

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 10:39am

    The first is not always the best...

    I enjoyed the horizontal versus vertical discussion as well, because I have always thought it likely that the first flying car (which has been well documented in film) was likely not the best flying car (also well documented in film). The question is not how well you optimize a flying car with lead wings and rubber band controls, the question is do you have the correct base model on which to build.

    A good example is that of the diesel engine. The first diesel could have been optimized (it was, to the best extent possible), but if you have a poor design, how far do you optimize before you hit a brick wall? The answer: You stop when you hit the brick wall and start over - almost from scratch, and invent another basis (though inventing another design is not the kind of "innovation" spoken of here, it is invention). Fortunately, patents forced alternatives at a very early stage, which sped up the invention of alternative designs. "Innovation," as you so often like to refer to it, attempted to use each of the designs as a basis (fortunately, the alternative designs were already there as subsequent inventors avoided earlier patents by different designs), and the earliest versions were selected out by innovation.

    Win-win-win...all around. Innovation was able to try several variations, which by the time the third iteration of diesels arrived included at least one non-patented version, and the versions that did not work went away.

    More broadly, if innovation builds at some rate, say 20 innovations for one invention, and there were four diesel designs from which to innovation, and 20 innovations for each, rather than 20 innovations, the patent-driven work arounds generated another 60 innovations; 20 innovations versus 80 innovations. I choose the latter.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 10:45am

    Re: The first is not always the best...

    Fortunately, patents forced alternatives at a very early stage, which sped up the invention of alternative designs.

    That's a generous interpretation. There was nothing stopping others from coming up with alternatives... Patents didn't force anything on that front.

    More broadly, if innovation builds at some rate, say 20 innovations for one invention, and there were four diesel designs from which to innovation, and 20 innovations for each, rather than 20 innovations, the patent-driven work arounds generated another 60 innovations; 20 innovations versus 80 innovations. I choose the latter.

    Ah, nice. Made up math. It's not a *rate* of innovation to invention. Hell, I could just as easily make up numbers that are equally meaningless. You assume that the number of innovations is dependent on the number of inventions, despite no evidence to support that at all. I could just as easily argue that by using patents, you force multiple wasted paths of innovation, as one patent holder can block the most fruitful. So... using your silly numbers... would I rather have 80 attempts to innovate on the best technology, or would I rather have none, and 60 innovations working on less efficient technologies.

    See how easy that is?

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 10:51am

    Re: The first is not always the best...

    More broadly, if innovation builds at some rate, say 20 innovations for one invention, and there were four diesel designs from which to innovation, and 20 innovations for each, rather than 20 innovations, the patent-driven work arounds generated another 60 innovations; 20 innovations versus 80 innovations. I choose the latter.

    That's inane. It's not a benefit to society to force engineers to come up with a good-enough way to work around a government-granted monopoly. That leads to chariots with oblong wheels, due to protracted legal battles between the Wheel Industry Association and the Chariot Association of Assyria.

     

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    6 (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 10:53am

    First off these nice neat categories that you guys just lumped "inventions" in as horizontal and vertical don't really exist as clear cut boundaries in the real world. And they don't exist as clear cut boundaries in the patent world either.

    For instance, what you will often see in the course of examining a patent is a claim (i.e. the "invention") to a device/method that is both a parallel invention and which also has a new element added to it.

    Second, we benefit from both of the two "types" of "inventions" which the guy above describes, and we benefit probably in equal amounts from each. And even if it is not equal you could never do a study to find out which is "better". They both have a role to play. For instance, taking your flying car example, what if the flying car technology that the first guy came up with ends up being far inferior to the second technology in terms of gas mileage (or etc)? If the second guy never came along and invented his second type of propulsion then we'd be stuck with the gas hogs of the former category, maybe forever. This would be "horizontal" to you. At the same time, it is blatantly obvious to anyone that we need to improve on the first technology (and second) to improve whatever have you, performance over salt water (etc) and that would be "vertical" to you. And then take the guy 6 who comes along, and, seeing both tech's comes up with a third propulsion tech, which happens to be inherently great at operating over sea water. I just "diagonally" invented according to your designation.

    And before we (you and me) can discuss the issue properly you're simply going to have to familiarize yourself with patents Mike more than you already are. All this broad lumping of "technologies" and "innovations" doesn't get into the technical details nearly enough. You can start by revisiting that claim about using databases with 3 different criteria you wrote about the other day. When you can understand that simply dismissing things as obvious isn't going to cut it in front of a judge (or if you're an examiner) then we can begin to have a discussion.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    Sometimes you two remind me of my twice divorced parents (who are now back together again, because they're retarded).

    So, my ONLY question is how to play one of you against the other to get what I want.

    Which is more pizza. Always more pizza.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:01am

    Patents are pursued both horizontally and vertically, to use the terms adopted by the person at the linked site.

    In the most advantageous scenarion, horizontal is preferred as it avoids infringement while presenting an alternative to the original product. Very simplistic examples include Beta vs. VHS, conventional reciprocating engine vs. rotary engine, drum brakes vs. disc brakes, etc.

    Vertical, in contrast, renders an improvement subordinate to the original invention. Assuming the improvement is meaningful and adds value to the original invention, a "Mexican Standoff" of sorts is created. The patent holder of the original invention can proceed, but is forclosed from incorporating the improvement. Experience teaches that is such situations cross-licensing is a possible solution. Others of course include, by way of merely one example, a license of the improvement to the dominant patent holder in return for other appropriate ccnsideration.

    One will typically find that a person holding a patent for a horizontal invention constantly supplements that invention with vertical improvements. Those holding other horizontal inventions do likewise.

    This is a very general, broad brush, comment on a complex subject, but it does tend to reflect what is typically happening.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:07am

    Re: Meh.

    LOL ... Funny

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:14am

    I think horizontal may be good in some scenarios, and very bad in other scenarios. Example: I like to have different choices on flying cars, not only a better flying car but I really think all the format wars (bluray vs that other format no one will remember about) are retarded.

    That said, I think that patents have nothing to do with horizontal innovation (other than artificially accelerating them). Horizontal innovation is just another way to compete, and smart businesses will do that even when vertical innovation may be easier without patents.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:14am

    The problem with his explanation is that the they wouldn't patent a flying car with hydrolic expansion, they would just get a patent on the flying car. So it wouldn't matter how you changed the engine, they would still say you're infringing. That's the problem with all these "business method" patents.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    Fortunately, patents forced alternatives at a very early stage, which sped up the invention of alternative designs.

    That's a generous interpretation. There was nothing stopping others from coming up with alternatives... Patents didn't force anything on that front.

    If you read books about the development of the diesel engine (e.g., "The Diesel Odyssey of Clessie Cummins" and "The Engine that Could"), one point made in the early chapters was how the industry tried hard to come up with designs that avoided earlier patents. Thus, you are correct that patents did not "force" others to invent around the previous patents - they could have just taken a license or not taken a license and grumbled about how patents had stopped innovation. What they chose to do was develop a parallel technology that avoided the earlier patents, expanding technology and options and producing better technology in the process.

    More broadly, if innovation builds at some rate, say 20 innovations for one invention, and there were four diesel designs from which to innovation, and 20 innovations for each, rather than 20 innovations, the patent-driven work arounds generated another 60 innovations; 20 innovations versus 80 innovations. I choose the latter.

    Ah, nice. Made up math. It's not a *rate* of innovation to invention. Hell, I could just as easily make up numbers that are equally meaningless. You assume that the number of innovations is dependent on the number of inventions, despite no evidence to support that at all. I could just as easily argue that by using patents, you force multiple wasted paths of innovation, as one patent holder can block the most fruitful. So... using your silly numbers... would I rather have 80 attempts to innovate on the best technology, or would I rather have none, and 60 innovations working on less efficient technologies.

    See how easy that is?


    Let me flip this around. Do you have any evidence to show that three inventions will yield fewer innovations than one invention? That makes zero sense in either the mathematical world or the real world.

    Yes, I do assume that more diesel inventions yielded more innovations, because the market was hungry for the diesel and lots of people tried to make each of the designs work. Prove otherwise.

    As for "wasted paths," history has proven you wrong. There are at least four major diesel versions, and the only one that is no longer produced - at least, not without the innovations from the other, later developed alternatives, is the original version. If we had stuck with the original diesel, THAT would have been a waste. Fortunately, not only did patent holders not block "the most fruitful," clever inventors ignored your naysaying and found several fruitful versions still used in the market today. Even better, since all the patent holders were practical men who wanted progress, they were all willing to license their inventions for others to build upon. Amazing how invention can work.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    What are you talking about? So, we should have just stuck with the horse and buggy? The reciprocating gas engine was good enough for grandpa, so it should be good enough for us? History is absolutely loaded with examples of competitors who sat down with patents and said, "Okay, we want to be in this market. What can we do to make a non-infringing product?" Then, they invent it. This process is wasteful? I do not think so. You use products created by this process every day. Even better, many of the "work arounds" are better than the original design. In some cases, the work arounds went so far outside the box that they established a whole new technology.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:24am

    Re:

    Interesting, unbiased comments. One of the later comments pointed out a great example. First came film. Then came videotape, with both beta and VHS (driven by patents - no less; VHS was SOOOOO WASTEFUL; it should never have been invented, society should have stuck with beta). Then there was laser disc, which was awesome, but which had drawbacks.

    Though the later technologies (DVD and Blu-Ray) were not driven by patents as the earlier technologies were, note that each of these inventions spawned (Oh my Lord, is it even mathematically POSSIBLE?) MORE INNOVATION. Sanity check - alternative inventions that accomplish the same function form the basis for multipliers of innovation. Who would have thought?

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:25am

    Re:

    First off these nice neat categories that you guys just lumped "inventions" in as horizontal and vertical don't really exist as clear cut boundaries in the real world. And they don't exist as clear cut boundaries in the patent world either.

    Didn't say it was clear cut, did I? But it is an interesting way of thinking about things.

    Second, we benefit from both of the two "types" of "inventions" which the guy above describes, and we benefit probably in equal amounts from each.

    Why?

    And even if it is not equal you could never do a study to find out which is "better".

    You couldn't? I would think that you absolutely could do research on which leads to greater economic output and greater benefit.

    For instance, taking your flying car example, what if the flying car technology that the first guy came up with ends up being far inferior to the second technology in terms of gas mileage (or etc)? If the second guy never came along and invented his second type of propulsion then we'd be stuck with the gas hogs of the former category, maybe forever.

    Hmm. That falsely assumes that with a lack of patent protection no one would ever think of coming up with the better gas mileage version. Which is ridiculous. People could still come up with that, recognizing that there was a market for more fuel efficient flying cars. Patents have nothing to do with that.

    And then take the guy 6 who comes along, and, seeing both tech's comes up with a third propulsion tech, which happens to be inherently great at operating over sea water. I just "diagonally" invented according to your designation.

    Again, which would be great, but has nothing to do with the point of the article. Without patents, all of that could easily happen. With them... not so much.

    And before we (you and me) can discuss the issue properly you're simply going to have to familiarize yourself with patents Mike more than you already are.

    Uh, yeah, ok. I love it when people tell me what I'm not allowed to talk about. Let's make a deal, before you ever post here again, you will go get a graduate degree in economics.

    See how dumb that is?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:26am

    Re:

    Except, you have to enable a flying car. The moment you do that, you provide limitations that can be worked around. Yes, there may have been a first flying car patent, expired so many decades ago that invention for flying cars is essentially wide open. Invent (and even innovate) away!

     

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    DJ (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:30am

    Horizontal vs. Vertical

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but here's the distinction that I see.

    "Patents promote horizontal innovation, but restrict vertical innovation."

    I would add that patents restrict vertical innovation to the point of practically stifling it altogether. We see that everywhere these days. New and "improved" ways to get the same thing we already have. The problem is that it's not a BETTER mouse trap, it's a DIFFERENT mouse trap; both are equally effective.

    "Without patents we will have more vertical innovation but less horizontal innovation."

    Key word there is "less", and therein lies the distinction. While horizontal innovation, IMHO, is no less important than vertical (and vice versa), if you can't take someone else's mouse trap and make it better, then innovation tends toward stagnation. Another way of putting it is that if someone comes up with a new invention, it's probably the best one they could come up with, so why make it legal for ONLY that person to improve it? That'll take a long time at best.

    Yes, someone will always be able to come up with a better WAY of doing things, and that's what patents seem to promote. However, at least under US law, they also ENFORCE that aspect at the expense of people coming up with making the previous one better.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re:

    Again, which would be great, but has nothing to do with the point of the article. Without patents, all of that could easily happen. With them... not so much.

    Your own statistics seem to prove otherwise. You recently had an article that claimed that the rate of innovation was continuing to accelerate in the mechanical arts. If "not so much" was true, then we should have less and less innovation with more and more patents - but the accelerating rate of innovation is opposite the anticipated direction.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    If you read books about the development of the diesel engine (e.g., "The Diesel Odyssey of Clessie Cummins" and "The Engine that Could"), one point made in the early chapters was how the industry tried hard to come up with designs that avoided earlier patents. Thus, you are correct that patents did not "force" others to invent around the previous patents - they could have just taken a license or not taken a license and grumbled about how patents had stopped innovation. What they chose to do was develop a parallel technology that avoided the earlier patents, expanding technology and options and producing better technology in the process.

    I'm not sure what you think you're proving here. But that supports the point we were making. The patents got in the way of innovating...

    Let me flip this around. Do you have any evidence to show that three inventions will yield fewer innovations than one invention? That makes zero sense in either the mathematical world or the real world.

    Huh?!? This is not a zero sum game. What you are saying makes no sense at all. Innovation is not dependent on the number of inventions at all. Whether there are three inventions or three thousand, there may still be three innovations of three thousand. Learn what independent events mean.

    Yes, I do assume that more diesel inventions yielded more innovations, because the market was hungry for the diesel and lots of people tried to make each of the designs work. Prove otherwise.

    Heh. Yes, please prove a negative in an alternative world. Come on, anyone who's taken logic 101 knows that you set up a false unprovable.

    As for "wasted paths," history has proven you wrong.

    Has it?

    There are at least four major diesel versions, and the only one that is no longer produced - at least, not without the innovations from the other, later developed alternatives, is the original version.

    Again, what does that prove, other than that the first type wasn't very good.

    If we had stuck with the original diesel, THAT would have been a waste.

    Not sure why you have so much trouble understanding this, but what does that have to do with patents? Who said we would have stuck with that original diesel if it wasn't that good?!? We wouldn't. We would have moved on.

    Even better, since all the patent holders were practical men who wanted progress, they were all willing to license their inventions for others to build upon

    Yes, and in doing so, they made innovation that much more costly.

    Thanks for supporting my point again.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    History is absolutely loaded with examples of competitors who sat down with patents and said, "Okay, we want to be in this market. What can we do to make a non-infringing product?"

    Yes, whenever innovators want to scratch an itch, they are *invigorated* by the artificial monopolies granted by the guys with the guns.

    If Jefferson had seen what you lot were going to get up to, he would have ditched the whole copyright provision. You, sir, are Jefferson's nightmare.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:33am

    Re: Horizontal vs. Vertical

    There is one proviso to these arguments. If the original inventor was willing to license the invention, then just as much vertical innovation (defining innovation as a commercially valuable improvement to an invention) should be able to occur with a patent as without.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    History is absolutely loaded with examples of competitors who sat down with patents and said, "Okay, we want to be in this market. What can we do to make a non-infringing product?"

    Yes, whenever innovators want to scratch an itch, they are *invigorated* by the artificial monopolies granted by the guys with the guns.

    I am unsure that patents drive innovation. I do believe they drive invention, but innovation? You would probably need to prove that.

    If Jefferson had seen what you lot were going to get up to, he would have ditched the whole copyright provision. You, sir, are Jefferson's nightmare.

    I have no idea what you mean by "what you lot were going to get up to." Jefferson was quite happy with what the patent system was doing until the second revision to the patent code.

     

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    mobiGeek (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:44am

    Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    And without patents, you think these same individuals would have said "well, what's there is good enough" and moved onto something else?

    At some point, as you have said, the whole crowd would hit a wall. If no one else had looked at alternatives before then, the wall would force them to otherwise. Smarter or more creative thinkers would be looking to alternatives before then.

    If there is a lot of room for innovation before hitting the wall, then resources are improperly re-prioritized (i.e. being wasted) if the only reason to look at alternatives is due to patents.

     

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    mobiGeek (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    So you believe that inventors invent mainly because of the patent system? It is a key driver for them?

     

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    Kazi, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    You just called your parents retarded ... :|

     

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    mobiGeek (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re:

    Are you claiming that without patents that all companies would fall inline with the technology developed by a competitor? No business would see the benefit in developing and driving innovation on a competing technology? The ONLY way for competing advancements is via government intervention?

    Seriously?

     

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    Kazi, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:50am

    Re: Re:

    Blue-Ray and HD Disks were driven by patents. The company first to market would have dominated the market as an early adopter and thus receive large patent licensing fees. That was the goal.

     

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    Kazi, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:52am

    Re: Re: Horizontal vs. Vertical

    "willing to license" and "realistic fees" are not related.

     

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    DJ (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:54am

    Re: Re: Horizontal vs. Vertical

    Well if the original inventor patents the product in such a way that does not restrict any "vertical innovation" thereof, then you would be correct. However, it is my understanding that many patents DO NOT allow that to happen. Which is a huge problem IMHO. Take the company 3M for example. Their slogan is "We don't make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy BETTER." That's "vertical innovation" at work with patents that allow it. Take Microsoft, however. How many problems does Windows have? How many people out there know EXACTLY how to fix those problems? How many of those people will Microsoft ALLOW to legally fix those problems? The first two questions are pretty much rhetorical, however there is a definite answer to the last: ZERO. That's patent law completely stifling "vertical innovation".

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    I am unsure that patents drive innovation. I do believe they drive invention, but innovation? You would probably need to prove that.

    Um, I'm not saying that patents drive innovation. Quite the opposite.

    I have no idea what you mean by "what you lot were going to get up to." Jefferson was quite happy with what the patent system was doing until the second revision to the patent code.

    He was anything but 'quite happy.' Nonetheless, can I assume that you're fine with the original patent code?

     

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    mobiGeek (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:57am

    Re: Re: Horizontal vs. Vertical

    Yes, so the first to the gate becomes the gatekeeper. If the gatekeeper decides to let some partners through, fine. But if the gatekeeper decides to keep out stronger competitors, then real vertical innovation does not occur.

    Where is the incentive for the gatekeeper to let in stronger competitors?

    Why do you feel that the first-to-the-gate should be the gatekeeper?

     

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    DJ (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:57am

    Re: Re:

    "Again, which would be great, but has nothing to do with the point of the article. Without patents, all of that could easily happen. With them... not so much."

    Which pretty much sums up my point, below.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    And I firmly stand behind that characterization.

    Seriously, it just gets exhaustng at times listening to this one guy who is easily identifiable by his writing style and vocabulary go back and forth with M&M, in post after post, deliberately voicing antangonistic and inflammatory language and viewpoints, and then getting a running dialogue going with Mike while others pepper comments around them. I get why M&M has to do it, I think: anyone who is new or less seasoned here needs to have a rebuttal to read against what is mostly, though oddly not always, pure propoganda or industry viewpiont bullshit.

    Most of the time there's enough of a conversation going on around the two of them that they become like two neutered dogs humping in the middle of a dinner party: you mostly pay them only mild amused attention because you know that ultimately what they're doing is not of consequence. And that's not meant as an insult to Mike, OR to Weird Coward, who actually says things occassionally that make me review and think.

    I'm usually mature enough to act my age during what is normally wonderful, informative, and/or funny conversations I have with folks here. What I was trying to subtely point out was this is one of the times when my memory of adolescenthood was conjured and I felt like we were all the kid in the corner ignored as his/her parents bickered.

    Oh well, I'll just go cut myself now :)

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 11:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    If you read books about the development of the diesel engine (e.g., "The Diesel Odyssey of Clessie Cummins" and "The Engine that Could"), one point made in the early chapters was how the industry tried hard to come up with designs that avoided earlier patents. Thus, you are correct that patents did not "force" others to invent around the previous patents - they could have just taken a license or not taken a license and grumbled about how patents had stopped innovation. What they chose to do was develop a parallel technology that avoided the earlier patents, expanding technology and options and producing better technology in the process.

    I'm not sure what you think you're proving here. But that supports the point we were making. The patents got in the way of innovating...

    Really? How would that be? Rudolf Diesel and the inventors of the other designs all offered licenses. Many, many companies that still exist in one form or another today took license to those patents. However, some people and companies did not want to take licenses. Even some who took licenses, including Cummins, used the knowledge from the licensed engines to come up with another alternative. I think you would be more than a little hard pressed to show that the patents on the diesel stifled progress which so much progress was made in the development of the diesel engine in the first three decades of its life.

    Let me flip this around. Do you have any evidence to show that three inventions will yield fewer innovations than one invention? That makes zero sense in either the mathematical world or the real world.

    Huh?!? This is not a zero sum game. What you are saying makes no sense at all. Innovation is not dependent on the number of inventions at all. Whether there are three inventions or three thousand, there may still be three innovations of three thousand. Learn what independent events mean.

    Ohhhhh...So, if we have exactly one invention in the world, and no other, we will have just as many innovations for that one invention as we would had there been 1,000 inventions. The events are not independent, and to argue otherwise is ridiculous.

    Yes, I do assume that more diesel inventions yielded more innovations, because the market was hungry for the diesel and lots of people tried to make each of the designs work. Prove otherwise.

    Heh. Yes, please prove a negative in an alternative world. Come on, anyone who's taken logic 101 knows that you set up a false unprovable.

    It should not be that difficult. Even though there is not a one-for-one relationship between patents and innovations, you could at least get a clue by looking at the numbers of patents that trace back to the original patents for each design. It would be an interesting experiment. I suspect that you would find that each of the original inventions had approximately the same number of descendants.

    As for "wasted paths," history has proven you wrong.

    Has it?

    Yep, and you offered no comments that would prove otherwise with respect to the diesel.

    There are at least four major diesel versions, and the only one that is no longer produced - at least, not without the innovations from the other, later developed alternatives, is the original version.

    Again, what does that prove, other than that the first type wasn't very good.

    You asked a question, and my answer was the evidence you requested. You enjoy ignoring examples that illustrate a point, especially when your very words, "the first type wasn't very good," indicate that there was more invention to go. Thank you for supporting my point.

    If we had stuck with the original diesel, THAT would have been a waste.

    Not sure why you have so much trouble understanding this, but what does that have to do with patents? Who said we would have stuck with that original diesel if it wasn't that good?!? We wouldn't. We would have moved on.

    Hmmm...I think I am saying plain English, but perhaps not. Let me do this the way they explain things in the 101 classes:

    (1) Diesel A was invented.

    (2) Diesel A was innovated.

    (3) Some licensees did not want to use diesel A, so they invented diesel B to avoid the patents on diesel A.

    (4) Other licensees invented diesel C and diesel D.

    (5) Subtantial amount of innovation occurred with each diesel type.

    (6) Diesel types B, C and D continued parallel development, sometimes with later inventions and innovations crossing between configurations, sometimes not because certain features between the types are incompatible.

    (7) Diesel type A has evolved so much that it probably no longer exists as an independent type.

    Now, here is the thing:

    - When each type was invented, they ALL had problems. No one knew which type would ultimately solve the problems with each, and no one knew which would be the best.

    - There are proponents of each type of diesel that exists today. Each type does have its own advantages and disadvantages, even today.

    - Based on your earlier comments, we should have stopped with the first design and made it the best we could. All the other options are a waste. I disagree, and the customers for each disagree.

    - Note that since the types existing today can each "do the job," so to speak, you could argue that only one type is really needed. Perhaps so, but the fact that customers have preference for types (which is an innovation statement, not an invention statement) validates the value of the base inventions.

    Even better, since all the patent holders were practical men who wanted progress, they were all willing to license their inventions for others to build upon.

    Yes, and in doing so, they made innovation that much more costly.

    Well, I suppose they could have denied providing licenses. I suppose they could have gone one better and kept anyone from learning anything about their diesel engines. In "Diesel Odyssey," one of the purposes for taking the license to diesel patents was to gain the lessons learned from an earlier inventor to enable independent invention.

    Also interesting is that diesel engine manufacturers, both then and now, ACTIVELY SOUGHT INNOVATION. Huh. They even paid for innovation. I fail to see how paying someone for innovation makes innovation more costly. Seems like it spread the wealth and enabled faster integration of collaborative efforts to make a better product.

    Thanks for supporting my point again.

    Thanks for proving that you and I speak two different languages. In my language, I have proven, once again, that patents have been beneficial to certain fields of endeavor, and continue to be so. You merely prove that you know how to be snide.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:01pm

    Re: Re:

    Yes, there may have been a first flying car patent, expired so many decades ago that invention for flying cars is essentially wide open. Invent (and even innovate) away!

    Awesome!

    You know what we could do to accelerate the timeline for flying cars from decades into years?

    Yes, you do.

    *Rubs AC's chin*

    *Yes, you do*

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    Multiple inventors have said that patents are a driver for them. Several references have been provided (pages and line numbers in books) in a previous post for Clessie Cummins and for Nikola Tesla. So, yes, many inventors (I am unable to speak for all) are driven to invent because of the patent system. Speaking only for myself, I can honestly say that had the patent system not existed, I would more than likely have not invented about 2/3's of the things I have that have gone into production. Instead, it would have been easier to copy the previous designs with all their flaws.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I think your statement is too broad. Would "all companies" use previously developed technology? No. Absolutely not. However, consider investment options. Do I invest $50 million in a design that works and is selling, or do I invest in an unproven design with unproven market appeal, particularly when it takes 20 years to work out the bugs? Many, many, many industrialists in the "good old days" went with the visionary. Many failed. However, those who succeeded became companies such as Caterpillar, Cumminds, John Deere, General Motors, etc. The risks were huge. It would have been far cheaper to base designs on what came before. Instead, they broke away from the pack and started over. Unfortunately, far too many people today are looking for "incremental improvement" and innovating on what has come before rather than saying, "what if..." and trying to rethink a problem from ground zero.

     

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    keith (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:07pm

    Misconceptions

    Re: First is not always the best

    From what I read there seems to be a misconception over the point of the original article, and the hypothetical scenario offered is simply unrealistic.

    IE - I take the thought process to be:

    1) Patents encourage horizontal innovation (theory)
    2) The first diesel engines made were patented
    3) Because of the patent other firms invested in different technologies to pursue diesel engines due to a market demand
    4) That 'horizontal' innovation produced better technologies, as we do not use the original design today
    ...and then comes the leap of faith (or misconception)
    5) Without patents, those investments would never have been realized, and we would have an inferior base engine today.

    And that's where I think we have the miss. It takes a huge stretch to believe that no one would solve the overall 'problem'(efficiency, power density, etc) in a new ways if faster, less expensive vertical innovation was present than *is allowed with patents*. The market will still demand an ever improving product - and someone will make that investment to deliver.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    I thought the original, 1790 patent code, was quite fine. Of course, it was not sustainable, and Jefferson had some issues with it. So, more precisely, I would have been happy with the code that Jefferson wanted enacted instead of the 1793 code.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Horizontal vs. Vertical

    Except, in a very few instances, the "gatekeeper" only has one gate. If you do not like that "gate," go invent another "gate." That is exactly what has happened numerous times in history. We benefit.

     

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    LoL, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:10pm

    Greed the best friend of innovation without patents.

    Why nobody talks about greed as a factor?

    What incentive more powerful then to make more money is there to innovation, that is the basis for patents and is also why we don't need them anymore to drive innovation because we reached a point were companies need to innovate with or without patents but with patents they can hold competition away which is bad.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    lol...Silly...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:13pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ummm...probably not a darn thing. Weird how they have been available for innovation for decades (Popular Science had a lovely article in the last several years asking what happened to "flying cars"), and yet, no innovation. So, how could you accelerate the timeline for flying cars from decades into years? You do not because the market is not driving innovation for flying cars.

     

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    mobiGeek (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    All of your discussions about the development history of the diesel engine does, in NO WAY, prove that patents did or did not help.

    At all.

    You cannot prove that alternatives would not have been developed because of competition rather than artificial necessities injected into the marketplace by government interjection.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Misconceptions

    You might be correct, except that one of the points made, in detail, in "The Engine that Could" is that the primary driver for alternative technology was the need to take licenses. Take that statement for what it is worth, but it seems like that what the authors were saying was: If we could have used the original technology rather than developing a non-infringing design, we would have, even if the technology had flaws, because it would have been cheaper than developing our own.

    So, better a crappy free design than one with a small fee associated with it. Lovely.

     

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    LoL, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:15pm

    The Diesel Engine

    Sorry I think this has nothing to do with the article or debate but is a fun fact that I would like to share.

    If I remember correctly the diesel engine is a vertical invention of something that was brought to Diesel by a friend who discovered in the jungles of the asian forests that natives used a piston system to make fire.

    Fire Piston

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Greed the best friend of innovation without patents.

    Greed is a factor. A huge factor. In fact, greed is why it is better to innovate from an existing invention than to come up with your own - especially if you can use the existing invention without paying any money for its use. Inventors would be such suckers without patents.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    I thought the original, 1790 patent code, was quite fine.

    OK, so anything beyond that is just money-grubbing rent-seeking? We may be in agreement here. (Or close enough. I think that an age where everyone owns a press by default needs a far shorter term than when you had to build one. But I'll take it.)

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Re: Horizontal vs. Vertical

    There is one proviso to these arguments. If the original inventor was willing to license the invention, then just as much vertical innovation (defining innovation as a commercially valuable improvement to an invention) should be able to occur with a patent as without.

    Not at all. Because now you've put a tollbooth on that innovation, then you've immediately decreased the likelihood of that innovation happening.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    I can only point out that the authors of "The Engine that Could" claimed that the driver for developing alternatives was the patents on the earlier designs. Is that proof? My recollection is that those statement were well supported by references in the book.

     

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    keith (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:21pm

    Oops...

    "- Based on your earlier comments, we should have stopped with the first design and made it the best we could. All the other options are a waste. I disagree, and the customers for each disagree."

    Not at all what was being stated. To say so is either a complete misunderstanding of what was being said or a willful disregard in order to simply continue arguing.

    More on topic, thanks for the post Mike. I hadn't thought about how patents might affect vertical vs horizontal innovation. Additional food for thought.

     

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    SteelWolf (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:21pm

    The way the diesel example would play out today is that the patent would be granted not for the diesel engine, but for making a combustion engine that uses diesel fuel. That company would build a mediocre engine and spend the rest of the time finding tinkerers ranging from other companies to MIT students and slapping them with lawsuits for infringing their patent.

    Furthermore, any gas station that wanted to sell fuel for said engine would need to pay them a portion of their profits.

    Maybe all of this is a bit of a stretch, but it seems to me that in today's digital age, everything builds upon other things. Patents do nothing but hinder innovation across the board, and the high-def DVD scheme is a great example. Everybody wanted to be the de facto standard so they could make the big bucks on licensing, yet the whole search for the next physical media format completely ignored the fact that physical media is rapidly losing ground.

    It might not be so obvious to people who look at patents on machines, but one glance over all of the lawsuits being filed in East Texas says to me that patents are nothing but innovation-killers. The most basic of ideas are being patented by companies who do nothing with them - the only purpose is to wait until another company does something vaguely similar and becomes successful so they can head to court and try and make cash for nothing.

     

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    mobiGeek (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You just described a competitive market place. Some invent, some innovate, some succeed, some fail. Nothing in there is dependent on patents, though some in this thread are arguing that "invent" does.


    And as for the "the good old days" point about invention and "incremental improvement": your vision is clouded by the history you are studying. No one documents the simple failures, the partial successes, the average man on the street. Your history studying only involves the major successes and the major failures with maybe a side anecdote to each.


    The world is no more violent, peaceful, lazy, yada-yada-yada than in the past. Just because you see more "dollars 4 gold" and "slap chop" ads on television does not mean your world is any lesser than in the "traveling snake oil salesmen" days of the past.

     

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    SteelWolf (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    It seems to me that if patents were a driver in that situation at all it was because there was no alternative. People stumbled upon better designs not because they were looking for better designs, but because they wanted to make a noninfringing machine.

    Why is it so hard to conceive of giving people the opportunity to build a better engine/mousetrap/whatever by looking at the previous design and fixing what is broken, rather than forcing them to build something entirely new from scratch?

    Any innovation "driven" by patents is because the patent acts as a dam forcing ideas to flow around the patent. To me it just makes sense to let ideas flow as they will, rather than supporting a legacy system to allow people to put tollbooths on ideas for fleeting short-term monetary gain.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:28pm

    Re: The Diesel Engine

    Interesting thought. Diesel was attempting to develop an engine based on the Carnot cycle, but eventually gave up to focus on compression. It took a while to come up with the correct combination of timing and fuel injection to make use of compression. However, compression is a scientific discovery rather than an invention, and it was quite well known by the mid-19th century that compression caused heating (and expansion caused cooling - which was the basis for air conditioning). The gulf between discovery and putting a discovery to practical use can be vast, and given the complexity of a diesel engine, that gulf was quite vast indeed. While the scientific principle, compression, was the basis of operation, it is the basis of operation for all compression engines, which would each be horizontal invention that would then form a basis for vertical innovation.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So, how could you accelerate the timeline for flying cars from decades into years? You do not because the market is not driving innovation for flying cars.

    The market isn't driving *demand* for flying cars. The invention isn't a problem. Just google it.

    But then there's the rent-seeky folks looking to leech onto anyone who actually does it well.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Horizontal vs. Vertical

    On the other hand, at least the tollbooth existed. No invention, no tollbooth. Hard to innovate an engine that does not exist.

     

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    LoL, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:31pm

    Other factors that drive innovation.

    War is a terrible thing but it does drive innovation.

    The Eiffel tower history shows that war drove radar research in France and save the tower from being deconstructed.

    War is paving the way to research today into regenerative medicine, prosthetics, robotics, aviationm new tools and even from an early age in history war was a very primal driver more powerful then greed, not that I'm suggesting that war is good but it does drive innovation to new levels all the time even in recent times.

    So conflicts are a very powerful driver so what other factors drive innovation have anybody identified those and put on paper somewhere?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    You would like to believe that all the same inventions would have been created without patents. The inventors of those devices say otherwise. We have study after study showing that adopting a patent system generates more "new." Does more new "block" innovation? One example pointed out is the Italian pharmaceutical industry. After patents were introduced, the industry collapsed. Why? Because innovation equated to "copying well." Fundamentally, their business model was built on producing existing technology as cheaply as possible - not coming up with something new. If all you want is what you got before, with polish, then eliminate patents and that is what you will get.

     

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    mobiGeek (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Horizontal vs. Vertical

    You did not answer my questions, though you did make an unsupported statement about duplicated efforts being a benefit.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You need to point to someone who has a marketable "flying car" and how they are being "stifled" by patents. Flying cars have been around for a long time. However, to the best of my knowledge, there is no market for them in their current forms, and apparently innovators are at a loss for how to make them appealing.

     

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    Kazi, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    My new favorite quote:

    "Most of the time there's enough of a conversation going on around the two of them that they become like two neutered dogs humping in the middle of a dinner party: you mostly pay them only mild amused attention because you know that ultimately what they're doing is not of consequence." -Dark Helmet

     

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    PRMan, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "The company first to market would have dominated the market as an early adopter and thus receive large patent licensing fees."

    Not so much, HD-DVD lost.

     

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  64.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Other factors that drive innovation.

    Truth. In fact, the greater and more intense the conflict (whether it be war, patents, disease, or other), the greater the level of invention (though not necessarily innovation). This behavior would make an interesting study. I think some have written about it, but only in passing. A comprehensive work would be interesting.

     

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    TesserId (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:39pm

    Additional Parameters Required

    While interesting, this anticipated relationship between vertical and horizontal may also be dependent upon other factors.

    Back before software patents, these concepts seemed relatively intuitive, particularly for mechanical patents. Back then, a patent would typically be discussed in terms of a particular product design, with implementations available for purchase. Back then it was easy to see how a particular feature of a product was worthy of a patent. However, the patents we see for software never seem to be taken in this light. Software patents always seem to lack a solution to a problem and seem to lack any unique innovation. This is how we have come to say that the bar for software patents is set way too low.

    And, how can software patents be innovative when they are so common that they are traded as a bulk commodity.

    So, what I'm suggesting is that this theory would be much more meaningful in combination with some measure of how low the bar has been set for the issuing of patents. More specifically, there should be a measure of how specific a patent is to a particular working solution to a problem, as opposed to being so general that it is little more than an approach to a problem.

    We may very well find that patents do a much better job of encouraging innovation, as this theory of horizontal and vertical suggest, when the bar is set high--rather than so low that patents become bulk commodities.

     

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  66.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    I think Dark Helmet just wrote his own epitaph.

    "He was ultimately not of consequence."

     

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    Kazi, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    I thought you were neutered? Go back to humping, please. It's mildy entertaining.

     

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    LoL, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:44pm

    Other factors that drive innovation.

    "The gulf between discovery and putting a discovery to practical use can be vast, and given the complexity of a diesel engine, that gulf was quite vast indeed. While the scientific principle, compression, was the basis of operation, it is the basis of operation for all compression engines, which would each be horizontal invention that would then form a basis for vertical innovation."

    If I understood correctly you are saying that the engine (piston fire + steam piston engine) was a horizontal innovation which I would disagree, I see it as and advance on current technologies of the day. They already had engines they just weren't powered by diesel but by steam.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You need to point to someone who has a marketable "flying car" and how they are being "stifled" by patents.

    No, you need to show how patents are helping the flying car market.

    I'll wait.

     

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  70.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:49pm

    Patents like unions should have died out 50 years ago. Neither was made to aid the inventor/working man, they were made to make sure power was concentrated in a central location, the pockets of the rich.

     

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    6 (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Re:

    "Didn't say it was clear cut, did I? But it is an interesting way of thinking about things."

    No you didn't, and I didn't imply you did. I don't know how "interesting" it is, but to each his own.

    "Why?"

    That is a highly fact/situation specific question. If you spent a good bit of time around patents you'll see, amongst other things, 1000001 ways to make a transistor. Each of them having their specific benefits and (usually not outright stated in the patent) there own limitations and shortcomings. Yet, they are all transistors. Likewise you will find tens of thousands of ways to make a bicycle. They're all just bicycles.

    You might need to expand your view of patents beyond the obvious business methods and computer implemented bullsht to get a better view of some of the actual underlying technical progress made in various technologies.

    "Hmm. That falsely assumes that with a lack of patent protection no one would ever think of coming up with the better gas mileage version. Which is ridiculous. People could still come up with that, recognizing that there was a market for more fuel efficient flying cars. Patents have nothing to do with that."

    Whether or not they 'could' or not is not the issue. It is whether or not they actually DO come up with it which is the issue.

    Furthermore, I'm not assuming that they wouldn't come up with that sans patent protection. They very well may. I'm not using this as a justification of having patents in play, I'm simply stating what very well could happen if the 2nd guy isn't motivated enough to work on the project. Maybe nobody is ever sufficiently motivated to take his place. Maybe they all fail. Who knows? It depends on the situation.

    And before you say that it is ludicrous to say they might all fail, you need to guess again. History is literally littered with instances of people having enabled a technology where all others in the field had been failing. It isn't ludicrous, but it is rare compared to your run of the mill "inventions".

    "Again, which would be great, but has nothing to do with the point of the article. Without patents, all of that could easily happen. With them... not so much."

    Well actually it couldn't happen all that easily, even if I had the technical knowledge to invent in the engine/propulsion art. I would still require funding/time. And when I'm sitting in my grandfather's garage I don't typically have a whole lot of funding. (I live in the city in an apt) I'm also not too sure why you think patents would stop me from developing a completely different propulsion system than a competitor, that is in fact not the case since their claims should not cover my new device so long as I am sufficiently horizontally away from what they were doing.

    "Uh, yeah, ok. I love it when people tell me what I'm not allowed to talk about. "

    I didn't say you aren't allowed to talk about it. But you are precluded (not by me, but by yourself) from discussing it intelligently. You can feel free to babble nonsense all you please, I won't even try to stop you. I will however suggest to you that you might like to try to become more aware of the topic about which you are speaking than you currently are. I can also decline to have further discussions with you until you do so.

    I'm allowed to talk about fine arts and ballet, but I won't really be able to converse at a meaningful level, but that won't be because anyone is stopping me.

     

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  72.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 1:01pm

    Isn't it clear?

    Patents = Flying Cars
    No Patents = Boats

    Obviously patents are the better system.

     

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  73.  
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    Kazi, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 1:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Horizontal vs. Vertical

    I thought it would be easier to innovate something that doesn't exist than something that does exist since you can't innovate it by default if it does exist. Maybe my reasoning is flawed?

     

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    Misanthropist (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    If all you want is what you got before, with polish, then eliminate patents and that is what you will get.

    So your argument is that patents are good, because they stifle competition which would otherwise drive down the marginal costs of manufacturing.

    I fail to see how thats a benefit to society....

     

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  75.  
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    Kazi, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Re: Misconceptions

    "Software is like sex, it's better when it's free." - Linus Torvalds


    Let's modify that a bit:

    "Technology is like sex, it's better when it's free."


    There we go.

     

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    nasch (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Best comment all day.

     

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    Kazi, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Re: Greed the best friend of innovation without patents.

    ... How would inventors be suckers? That's a mere allegation without support information and/or analysis.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 1:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    My favorite Dark Helmet quote remains:

    "The speed with which this thread has deteriorated impresses even I, Lord Helmet, vaunted king of thread destruction."

     

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  79.  
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    not ac, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    Can you disprove him? Mike continues to act like he is correct until proven incorrect. Unfortunately, the reality is that since laws govern against his ideas he really should be incorrect until proven correct with evidence. And by evidence I mean fact based research that is unbiased. Too much research from both sides is bias.

    Maybe Mike could do research into this, but he has his wittle ego to think about.

     

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  80.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 1:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    There are at least four major diesel versions, and the only one that is no longer produced - at least, not without the innovations from the other, later developed alternatives, is the original version. If we had stuck with the original diesel, THAT would have been a waste.
    Well I don't know the detail in the diesel case - but what you describe about diesel versions is also true of the gas turbine.

    Except there is one difference. Frank Whittle let his patent lapse after 5 years and the key developments took place in wartime (when governments tend to bang heads together and ignore patent rights for the greater good). So gas turbine development followed the same path - in the effective absence of patents.

    They also developed more rapidly than any other source of motive power in history so maybe we were better off without patents.

     

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  81.  
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    A Different Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re: Horizontal vs. Vertical

    See that's the problem with techdirt's general perspective. There is this overblown fear that somehow a patent owner will be SO reluctant to license a protected invention, and let other people make him money (not the most common perspective of entrepreneurs in the real world), or if he does license it (and protect his right to license it) that- oh my gosh - he'll be getting something he doesn't "deserve" for a period of time that is way too long (again not the overwhelming occurence in reality).

    So they want everything unprotected. To me this an extreme perspective, but it's entertaining to watch the rationale building activities.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    Thankfully I didn't kill this one. Just vented like a hurt 9 year old for some reason.

    Oh well, back to the humping!

     

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    DJ (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 2:54pm

    Re: Re: Re: Horizontal vs. Vertical

    See my perspective on patents is "Good job coming up with the idea. You get credit for being the first one to do it that way. Now that you have come up with an original idea, and gotten credit for it, STFU and let someone else improve on it if they want to."

     

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    Ragnar Krempel, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 3:10pm

    Patent Good, Monopoly Bad.

    The horizontal vs vertical innovation theme, at least at face value, seems like an artificial distinction to me. It is most likely "a" property of different types of patents, but probably not the only one, or the one that matters most.

    The main problem with patenting is that it creates an artificial monopoly. I get that the monopoly is a necessary evil to reward the creator of the patent. However, that same monopoly in turn limits the ways in which the patent can be used, expanded upon, etc. I say the problem is not patenting, but the artificial monopoly it creates.

    So how about this: You can have your patent, but you must offer it at the same licensing fee to everyone. We'll need some hefty anti-trust lawyering to make that work properly, but the main idea is sound. Instead of a monopoly that you can gouge, you get the market equilibrium price your idea is actually worth.

    Even with this model, there will be some "horizontal innovation", especially if the licensing fee is high, but at least no-one will be forced into such tactics just to be able to compete. Which is probably all we need.

     

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    Matt (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 3:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    This is an odd perspective, to say the least. Invention and innovation are good, but they are far from the only good things. If the existing technology works and is selling, and new technology will take 20 years to work out bugs, then the new technology is bad. It is worse than what is there. Why is society better off for having it invented?

    But that isn't what you are actually talking about at all. You are talking about situations in which the existing technology does _not_ work - it is obviously suboptimal, and improvements and refinements must be made. And in the course of improving and refining, it may be discovered that the base design also needs to be changed.

    What patents actually do is restrict the ability to _find out_ whether the base design is good for all purposes or not. We cannot refine and advance, so we try out a totally different base design. Perhaps having 10 virtually untested base designs, each with 2 or 3 refinements, is better than having only 2 or 3 base designs, each with 20 or 30 refinements. Perhaps not. It is going to be a case-by-case analysis, and it cannot be performed in advance.

    Incidentally, this topic is immune to proof, because there is no appropriate sample. That is, as a theoretical matter it is impossible to construct a representative sample. In part, this is because the question itself is incoherent. Patents have no normative value outside of an externally-imposed moral system, so it does not make any sense to ask whether patents are "good" or "bad" (let alone to try to prove it). What is clear is that patents do not lead to innovation, they constrain it. Some people will respond to those constraints with redoubled effort, most will not.

     

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    Matt (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 3:27pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Patent licensing fees had little to do with it. Market domination certainly did. The dominant consortium would be able to control access to the technology, and thereby get everyone in the industry to agree to licensing terms. The fee wasn't important, the idiotic copyright protection scheme was. Tough to see how this benefitted the common man.

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 3:50pm

    Innovation/Invention are Flashbulbs

    I think Pawar's is combining two concepts into one. First, to answer the question of patents promoting innovation/invention is backwards. Innovation/invention is the result of someone having a Eureka moment. Patents and copyright, while they may provide a safety net of sorts, do not create innovation. How many people find that reading the copyright/patent law every night inspirational?

    Second, how is Pawar's concept really two concepts? Based on the short sample, there does not appear to be a recognition that companies are attempting to lock customers into a specific product and its derivatives. Pawar notes that: "There will be only one smart phone in this world" and that the phones are sync to specific companies. However, the driving force of the patents on these devices is to create defined boundaries that keep customers locked in. This approach has nothing, absolutely nothing, with using patents to promote innovation. An extreme view of this scenario is that patents are actually ANTI-innovative.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 4:02pm

    Regarding the article, it's difficult to categorize an innovation as truly horizontal. Everthing builds upon prior knowledge, whether it's a new widget to make an engine perform better, or a compression engine itself, which one could effectively argue is the mechanical progeny of a heart. There also exists the case where a sufficient number of vertical innovations are made until the object no longer has the same form or mode of operation as the original. If the beginning and end are viewed separately, they may appear to be horizontal innovations. I believe the categorization is an interesting philosophical argument, but not of real consequence in the spanse of time and innovation.

    Patents protect unique, non-obvious innovations. They exist to promote innovation by providing a way for the inventor to recoup the costs of bringing the idea to practice without having to fear another gaining an advantage by copying the innovation with comparitively little time, money, and effort. Without them, inventors would either see bringing the innovation to market as too great a risk and forget about it, or they would have to rely on trade secrets to prevent others from taking their invention and copying it. Trade secrets are currently used in jurisdictions where patents can be held, but usually for inventions that are very difficult to reverse engineer. A nice thing about patents versus trade secrets is that patents are time limited, and must specify how to reproduce the invention. This is a benefit to anyone looking to build upon it, whereas a trade secret may die with those who know it.

    And let's not forget that patents are often licensed by the act of purchasing a product. One can't make the same thing, but he or she can buy it and then use it. Your car/computer/home/etc. started as a pile of patented products that were then assembled.

    What I don't agree with are those who solely use patents as a way to sue others, without actually using the invention or having any intent to use it. That does stifle any good that is to come from the invention for the duration of the patent. Also, any patent on something that has been in use or is obvious (basic software routines and many of the other items subject to frequent debate) should be invalidated and the bar should be raised for securing such patents.

    In short, patents are good when used correctly.

     

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  89.  
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    Kazi, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 4:13pm

    Re:

    Why is open source software as good, if not better, than non open source software?

    Why are "horizontal" and "vertical" not of real consequence in the psance of time and innvation? You're making an allegation without supporting evidence.

    In what jurisdictions are trade secrets used where it is so difficult to engineer? Don't make mere allegations, provide examples.

    You say "recoup cost", they are they supposed to be used to recoup cost or as a provit driver? One isn't the other and the other isn't the one.

    You're saying trade secrets are bad ... then is open source software bad? It's EXACTLY the opposity of a trade secret.

    Your key work is "licensed". Also, you're wrong with your allegation that one cant' make the same thing. One can easily make the same thing with the right skill set. Furthermore, one probably has a legal right to make such an item. Once cannot sell it for profit.

    Yay, you agree that "That does stifle any good that is to come from the invention for the duration of the patent.". This suggests you agree that Patents, at least in the current state, are nonsense.

    "Patent are good when used corrently". That a low bar. Anything is good when used correctly.

     

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 4:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Horizontal vs. Vertical

    On the other hand, at least the tollbooth existed. No invention, no tollbooth. Hard to innovate an engine that does not exist.

    You honestly think you're helping, don't you?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 5:14pm

    Re: Re:

    I like open source software, and it can be very much better than non open source software because it's open for others to fix and build upon. If an entity (person, group, or company) exists that can either produce it for free in their spare time away from their income earning trade, or through a different model that does not rely on the scarcity of the information, that's great, but some companies successfully exist by selling it closed-source, and that can be good, too. If open source wins the battle and closed-source business models die, I am perfectly fine with that.

    Regarding vertical and horizontal categorizations being of no real consequence, I provided some general ideas as examples, but take the telephone as a specific example. It's purpose was to facilitate communication across distances. It hung on the wall and you communicated through a receiver and speaker that were attached to the unit. Within the recent spanse of a patent's life or two, we now have cell phones that are completely wireless that do all sorts of things that a telephone never did. Each phone maker vertically built upon it's own innovations and borrowed ideas from others to the point where a modern cell phone and an early 1980s wall mounted phone look and perform very differently, but do the same primary function. If taken separately, they look like horizontal innovations, but they really were just a series of vertical innovations, building upon previous technology.

    "In what jurisdictions are trade secrets used where it is so difficult to engineer? Don't make mere allegations, provide examples."

    In the United States, for example. Chemical processes and product formulas are often held as trade secret. You can't always easily see how something is made by only seeing the finished product. I don't think trade secrets are bad, they are just a different method of protecting one's IP.

    "You say "recoup cost", they are they supposed to be used to recoup cost or as a provit driver? One isn't the other and the other isn't the one."

    You're right. They aren't the same, but patents can be used for both. Many things are patented that yield no profit, and actually result in an overall loss. However, some do, and that's what keeps innovators in business. There are usually many failures before a profit is made, and an individual or company would go broke or out of business if it weren't for some sort of IP protection. I like the idea of supporting advancement by allowing profit, especially when it's limited and targeted.

    "Your key work is "licensed". Also, you're wrong with your allegation that one cant' make the same thing. One can easily make the same thing with the right skill set. Furthermore, one probably has a legal right to make such an item. Once cannot sell it for profit."

    You're right, I didn't qualify "can't". You cannot legally make it and sell it for profit. You certainly can make it, given the know-how. Actually, a patent does not give you the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell, or import anything, it only gives you the right to exclude others from doing the same.

    "Yay, you agree that "That does stifle any good that is to come from the invention for the duration of the patent.". This suggests you agree that Patents, at least in the current state, are nonsense."

    Yep.

    ""Patent are good when used corrently". That a low bar. Anything is good when used correctly."

    My point was that they are not being used correctly, and that's what needs to be fixed. I don't think they should be abolished.

     

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    A Different Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 5:37pm

    PC's were patented and licensed... There are dozens of different PC's now. So a patent didn't stop innovation in that case.

    Apples were patented and they weren't licensed, so only Apple makes Apple OS computers. I dare say innovation wasn't stopped in that arena either, but even if you feel that it was - I don't think consumers are suffering with wails and lamentations because of it.

    It's about the standards that need to be met to be considered unique and non-obvious, and patent usage protocols that ought to be debated here, not the concepts of invention, intellectual capital, or the protections thereof via the laws.

    Okay, so tweak the laws if they lend themselves to abuse by more than the occasional crank, but the idea that patents (and copyrights) are obsolete due to the advent of the internet and "non-depriving" perfect digital copies of virtual goods (the kinds of copies that can be made of software or digital media), runs counter to innovation of all sorts, and is (imho) just silly.

    Look. I'm not a cop. Pirate stuff if you want to pirate it. You and the law can play cat and mouse. At this point in the information technology battles, since the prevailing attitude on techdirt is that certain laws are "unenforceable", You might even win most of the time..

    But don't try to rationalize it by trying to convince yourself that the creators don't deserve this or that, or that the IP owning corporations are obligated to come up with a new business model that makes it ok for you not to pay them for something they are selling. If they go out of business because of piracy - then they just they do (yall have convinced me to seriously doubt their claims of imminent demise). They're big boys; They'll survive. And if creators and others want to do something different: viral, guerilla, loss-leader, or teaser-style marketing, I say "Great!" Let Business Evolve! Woohoo! The market is a crazy place. Personally, I'm a fan of NIN and what Trent's doing.

    But really, have some integrity techdirt community.

    I agree with Kazi:
    -------
    "Software is like sex, it's better when it's free." - Linus Torvalds

    Let's modify that a bit:

    "Technology is like sex, it's better when it's free."
    -------

    That is so true. So true. But you know what? A lot of people have to pay for it. The business around that "is like" thing he mentions? makes billions. It's the way of the world. Grow up. Now if you can steal it in a non-harming way - then good for you. I'm glad you're not harming anyone, but it is still stealing and if you get caught, there are penalties.

    Me: "blah, blah, blah...there are penalties."

    A Real E-pirate: (waiting for me to make a point that he hasn't already considered and factored into *his* new economy business model as a given) "And... so what? so I'm a criminal. (heh) Where are you going with this. Don't look at me like that, what.. You think I didn't know that? Look. If I was afraid of the penalties I wouldn't be doing this. You do the crime -(rolls eyes)- you might do the time.. So you want me to make you a copy of this or not?"

     

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    Kazi, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 6:37pm

    Re:

    Umm .... when Linus refers to "sex" he isn't refering to a business at all.

    He's more than likely refering to sex with his wife (gasp!) which is free and he can improve on it on a daily basis (gasp!). Sort of like open source software, right?! You're not paying extra for the kinky stuff and you're, for the most part, safe from STDs.

    The only reason "the business" you refer to makes billions (Whether you are refering to prostitution or pornography, I won't know nor do I want to know) , or did make billions, is because there wasn't as much free content available. Right now that market is flooded with free content because the line between "amateur" and "professional" is blurred - the entry point is extremely low. This even suggests that amateur content is a driver to sell professional content.

    Therefore, let's not mix Linus' quote with prostitution or pornography. He's refering to something you can improve on freely and take care of when it doesn't require a payment. At that point it becomes prostitution of knowledge, sort of like prostitution of the body. Both are evil.




    Also, taking on Apple vs. Microsoft ... Who is more sucessful? Apple or Microsoft by "opening up" their platform? Microsoft is. Apple did try "opening up" their platform but I believe they shut it down and bought out the company (Was it DEC? ... Probably not ... they where like the DELL / Gateway of Windows but for Apple) because the company was making more sales than Apple was computer wise. You may call the company successfull right now but Apple should be way more successfull had they just concentrated on the OS, left the hardware to 3rd parties, and develop a business model similar to Microsoft's. See, we have 2 examples here where 1 company (Apple) was concerned about locking down their platform while another (Microsoft) wasn't so concerned and won out the duel. Rightfully so. Guess what is happening to iPhone? I'll give you a hint: Android.

     

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    Matt (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 6:39pm

    Re:

    Ever seen what happens when a boat engine stalls? How about a flying car's engine?

     

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    Kazi, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 6:40pm

    Re: Re:

    Ooooo, you can equate STDs to lawsuit which you are safe from. Wow, I like the idea of "Technology is like sex, it's best when it's free!" It sort of seems bullet proof.

     

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    mobiGeek (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 7:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    Actually, if you have been paying attention, Mike is all in favor of whatever legislation has sound economic reasoning and measured results. If patents are shown to spur economic growth, then great...but where is the proof that patents in and of themselves advance progress in science and the arts? If it can't be proven, then why would any society accept such government intervention rather than let truly free markets thrive in a so-called "capitalist" society/culture?

     

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    Matt (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 7:32pm

    Re:

    Without social intervention, there is no "property" in the sense you are using the word, and certainly no "ownership." These are social concepts, legal concepts, not natural ones. They refer to a set of entitlements and privileges, chief among them the privilege to exclude others.

    Until fairly recently, there was no "intellectual property." Patents were pure economic monopolies, not over defined technology but over regions and people. Eventually, society recognized that those sorts of patents were not socially beneficial, and abolished (and even criminalized) them. We have not yet done that with "intellectual property," the newest breed of government-permitted monopolies. We should. IP is not obsolete because of the advent of the internet, IP was dangerous and ill-advised at its inception.

     

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    mobiGeek (profile), Sep 28th, 2009 @ 7:38pm

    Re: Re: Misconceptions

    So what is the motivation of the author of that book? And, since patents were already in the way, how can the author possibly support such a statement? There was no choice beyond paying the licenses, possibly tying the hands of those licensees from developing that technology in a way they wished to.

    By developing a non-encumbered version, they are at complete freedom to evolve the technology in whatever way they wish...except for all of the existing patents.

    So the patents may have caused the alternatives not because of the cost of the licenses, but possibly due to the control exerted by the licensors. Become to good a competitor, the licensor might yank your right to licenses, or whatever.

     

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    A Different Anonymous Coward, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 9:40pm

    Re: Re:

    "Better" when it's free means that there are times when it's good, but not "better." i.e. not free... that turn of phrase depends on one's distaste for the idea of paying for sex (fyi: I share it) to make it's point, but he didn't say it's only ok/good/acceptable if it's... he said "better." He mixed it. Not me. Since I don't know if he actually said that - feel free to change the quote if you like, I'm just giving you the respect of actually reading what you wrote.

    Regarding the blurring of the line between amateur and professional in that media sector, I never said that free content couldn't/shouldn't support protected content. And I mean this talking about digital and physical media in both "industries" if you will. I'm just saying that stealing protected content when someone wants to sell it, no matter how easy or safe it is for the thief, (giving someone counterfeit dollars for services rendered or shoplifting the DVD in the physical vs, lying when promising to pay or internet hacking in the virtual) it is still theft.

    If your point in the MS vs Apple discussion is that licensing to flood them market with everything from great down to subpar goods is "more successful" than higher quality control with out distributing licenses, we still don't have an argument against patents. Actually I think Apple does a much better job of CwF and creating a RtB, but Neither approach's use of IP definitions and protections has hindered innovation.. hence the rise of Android. If apple's vertical innovation is too slow, horizontal innovation will catch up and surpass it right?

    So like I said, the arguments here should be about degrees and tweaks, not overarching concepts that have been proven to facilitate high levels of innovation and competition in the capitalist economy experiment of America (vs the concurrent social and communist experiments in other places) for dozens of years in the post war (WWII) boom when our economy grew and grew with patent and copyright laws firmly in place to support the definitions and limits of intangible goods so that they could be priced, bought, and sold (what we now call monetized).

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 1:30am

    Re:

    PC's were patented and licensed... There are dozens of different PC's now. So a patent didn't stop innovation in that case.

    No one said stop innovation. We said slowed it down. And, actually, the basic setup of a PC was not patented.

     

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    Modern English Usage, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 7:25am

    Just one comment, I thought worth passing along.

    Throughout DC and even now within our law firm, I am hearing with more and more frequency the term "Masnick the clown" used to describe an anti-i.p. person (both copyright or patent).

    Usually it's used in the context of "we need to send a cease and desist letter to some "Masnick the clown" over the unauthorised use of . . .," or sometimes "client such and such is being criticized on a "blog" by some "Masnick the clown.""

    Just thought you should know.

     

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

  102.  
    identicon
    Kazi, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 7:40am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I really don't believe that the definition / turn of phrase depends on one distaste of the idea.

    What he is doing is saying two services (Software/Sex) can be paid for but why pay for it when it is available for free (Software/Sex) and you can vastly improve on it.

    He probably didn't use "better" as in ok/good/acceptable/morally acceptable as he's not looking for that debate at all. Furthermore, if one wanted to, one could figure out that the quote is praise for his wife in a nice and nerdy way. It also shows good character and humor on the side of Linus. The quote, furthermore, can be made dirty but those are additions not presented there by Linus.

    The right response, to throw a bone in the argument, would be "How would you know?!". Why? We don't specifically know about the software. Nonetheless, if we tried the other part the wife would castrate one and have a celebration with the friends. Software can't castrate us (Thank god).

    -------

    Licensing to flood the markets works then and is a more effective strategy that not licensing. Therefore, you are suggesting something. Furthermore, patents failed apple on the GUI interface and failed apple on the licensing of technology (Because they didn't, they were too concerned about their bottom line not, like Bill Gates was, getting a computer in every home).

    Your last paragraph is merely unsupported statements. I'm envisioning you bare chested on a cliff hitting your chest screaming "PATENTS ROCK AS USUAL! PWNED YO!"

     

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  103.  
    identicon
    Kazi, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 7:52am

    Re:

    I find it ironic that a person called "Modern English Usage" hasn't mastered the basics of "English Usage" when using quotation marks. Sad. You're a lawyer too? Must have gotten through the cracks somehow.

     

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  104.  
    identicon
    staff3, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 8:03am

    folly

    "We've highlighted numerous studies that have shown how patents tend to hinder overall innovation"

    It remind me of a story about how Edison asked a mathematician who worked for him to calculate the volume of a bottle. After perhaps an hour working elaborate formulas the mathematician came back and gave him the answer. Edison then filled the bottle with water and poured it into a measuring cup. Your experts are like the mathematician. All they really need to do is ask inventors and they will tell you. The folly of fools.

     

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  105.  
    identicon
    Kazi, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 8:13am

    Re: folly

    So wouldn't a lack of patents simply the process a thousand times ... don't see your point, if there is any beyond mockery.

     

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  106.  
    identicon
    bshock, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 9:31am

    The horizontal vs. vertical innovation hypothesis would have more credibility 50 years ago, when patents were written relatively specifically. Considering that today's patents are so vague and generalized, a patent holder these days might easily claim that the second type of flying car engine in the hypothetical example violated the original patent.

     

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

  107.  
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    Almost Anonymous (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 10:21am

    Re: Re:

    Argh! Don't give them ideas!!!!

    Theoretical Patent #7,912,118 : A method of delivering data to an end-user through a system of interconnected electronics, including but not limited to: a storage medium, a display device, an input device, and a centralized circuitry repository (also known as a "mother" board).

    It's the "method of" patents that give me fits.

     

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

  108.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 10:37am

    Re:

    Throughout DC and even now within our law firm, I am hearing with more and more frequency the term "Masnick the clown" used to describe an anti-i.p. person (both copyright or patent).

    As unlikely as I find that to be, I'll take it as a huge compliment.

    In the meantime, you might want to consider that when posting such a thing directly from your work computer, you're not particularly anonymous. Now that I know you work for one of the major law firms helping firms abuse patent laws against the public good, I'll make sure to start noting that in future posts.

    Hell, your website practically screams out loud how you help companies abuse the public with that front page graphic. How proud you must be to work for a firm that helps pharma steal from the sick to give to the rich. Congrats for being able to sleep at night.

     

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

  109.  
    identicon
    George Margolin, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Re: The first is not always the best...

    Mike -- read what you just wrote: Hell, I could just as easily make up numbers that are equally meaningless." THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU JUST DID! Think about it. Albert Onestone

     

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

  110.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Re:

    You should have stopped at "compliment".

    I would not dismiss the possibility that this individual did not comment as a personal criticism. Nowhere does he suggest he subscribes to what he says others are saying.

     

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

  111.  
    icon
    mobiGeek (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 12:44pm

    Re:

    Just one comment I thought worth passing along. You know the name "Masnick" and are hearing it used in the halls and on the streets around you.

    His message is getting heard. Phase 1 completed successfully.

     

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

  112.  
    identicon
    Kazi, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    He was mocking Mike and Mike just returned the mocking. No harm done.

     

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

  113.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 2:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Not necessarily correct. Perhaps we was making a mocking comment. Then again, perhaps he was only passing along comments he was hearing from others. Since one cannot be sure which applies, a retort based upon an assumption that the first of the forgoing applies is in my opinion premature. Hence my comment that the response should have been truncated at the word "compliment".

     

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

  114.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 3:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Hence my comment that the response should have been truncated at the word "compliment".

    And when you are my boss, then you have the right to tell me what I can and cannot post. Until then, I get to make that decision.

     

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

  115.  
    identicon
    Kazi, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 3:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Usually it's used in the context of "we need to send a cease and desist letter to some "Masnick the clown" over the unauthorised use of . . .," or sometimes "client such and such is being criticized on a "blog" by some "Masnick the clown.""


    You're telling me that isn't being mocking? People wirte differently when mocking and not mocking. The comments are clearly aimed to be insulting, thus mocking - especially usage of "clown".

     

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

  116.  
    identicon
    Benefacio, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 4:33pm

    Confusing

    "Is society better off with a totally different type of flying car? Or are we better served by having lots more resources put towards making the flying car better serve our needs? I'd argue the latter, but w'ould be interested to hear from people who argue the former."

    Mike, are you saying we should ignore snaps and zippers and only concentrate on improving buttons and button holes? Are you, maybe, trying to point out we should have stuck with improving horse and buggy transport and ignored the automobile? Are you, perhaps, trying to say this whole internet thing is a waste of resources and we should stick to the tried and true physical storage containers for content distribution?

    I don't think you have thought the position quoted above through very far because it appears to me that you have successfully argued the former, not the latter. You have shown time and again how wrong it is to rely on a single path to success; how single paths leave us vulnerable to changes in market dynamics. To present a specific case, you have shown how authors, artists and media distributors have missed years of money making opportunity by following the single and limited innovation path of physical storage containers as a method for distributing content; a path that you repeatedly point out is out-dated and becoming obsolete even though there is still plenty of opportunity for innovation along this path.

    I think that anyone needing further convincing that single path is inherently wrong should spend more time in a natural history museum and consider all the resources that were wasted in trying to make one idea the best it could be. Diversity is not just a good idea for survival of species.

    "Patents promote horizontal innovation"

    I agree with Mike and others that patents do not and have never promoted innovation. But then, that is not what the patent system is designed to do.

     

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

  117.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 5:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I do not recall expressing anything other than an opinion, and in my opinion you would have quite nicely held the high ground by simply stopping with the first sentence. All everything else in the comment accomplished was to cede away some of the high ground.

    You will write whatever you want to write, and nothing I say will ever change that.

     

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

  118.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 6:55pm

    Re: Confusing

    Mike, are you saying we should ignore snaps and zippers and only concentrate on improving buttons and button holes? Are you, maybe, trying to point out we should have stuck with improving horse and buggy transport and ignored the automobile? Are you, perhaps, trying to say this whole internet thing is a waste of resources and we should stick to the tried and true physical storage containers for content distribution?

    I'm saying none of the above. Not sure why you would assume any of that.

    I don't think you have thought the position quoted above through very far because it appears to me that you have successfully argued the former, not the latter. You have shown time and again how wrong it is to rely on a single path to success; how single paths leave us vulnerable to changes in market dynamics

    Indeed. But a lack of patents doesn't force people into a single path. A patent system, on the other hand, often pushes people onto wasteful paths.

    I think that anyone needing further convincing that single path is inherently wrong should spend more time in a natural history museum and consider all the resources that were wasted in trying to make one idea the best it could be. Diversity is not just a good idea for survival of species.

    Indeed. But why not let that diversity happen naturally, rather than through an artificially forced mechanism?

    I agree with Mike and others that patents do not and have never promoted innovation. But then, that is not what the patent system is designed to do.

    Um. That's EXACTLY what the patent system was designed to do. "Promote the progress of science and the useful arts..." Or have I read that wrong?

     

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

  119.  
    identicon
    Benefacio, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 4:36am

    Re: Re: Confusing

    "Um. That's EXACTLY what the patent system was designed to do. "Promote the progress of science and the useful arts..." Or have I read that wrong?"

    I think you have read that wrong. Innovation benefits the economy first and the arts and science after. Patents benefit the arts and science first and MAY benefit the economy IF innovation occurs when bringing a product to market. The way I see it, a patent without a product is research; a patent with a product that no one buys is research and development; a patent with a product that people buy is innovation. Everytime a patent is filed the arts and science is advanced and the system does what it was designed to do; entice the sharing of information with the lure of easy money.

    "Indeed. But why not let that diversity happen naturally, rather than through an artificially forced mechanism?"

    It does and you have pointed that out many times. My position is why not have both?

    "I'm saying none of the above. Not sure why you would assume any of that."

    I assume nothing, which is why I asked. All of those examples were successfully presented by you in past posts as examples of bad business models that failed because they continued to follow one path of innovation rather than diservifying into alternative horizontal paths. Or was that not the message you were trying to get across?

    Hmmm, let me present your words back as I read them; we could be on that whole semantical thing again....

    Is society better off with a (totally different) multiple types of flying cars? Or are we better served by having lots more resources put towards making (the) one type of flying car better serve our needs?

    If that is not the position you wanted to discuss then please elaborate with more detail.

     

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

  120.  
    icon
    mobiGeek (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Confusing

    Patents benefit the arts and science first

    Care to back that up with any form of proof? Anything AT ALL?

     

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

  121.  
    identicon
    Benefacio, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 3:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Confusing

    I did, didn't you read the rest of the post? Let me ask your opinion. What do you think a patent, at its most basic level, represents?

    I think it represents research at the very least. I do not think it represents all research but it does represent some research. Not every researcher produces papers for scientific journals, just as not every researcher takes out a patent or even produces results that could lead to a patent, but EVERY patent is available for review due to the public nature of the patent system. Even patents that are hoarded benefit us all.

    I point out that a patent benefits the arts and sciences first because the benefit happens on public disclosure, which as I understand the system happens after a claim is filed, rather than when a product has successfully been brought to market.

    To recap, knowledge benefits and promotes the arts and science and patents add to the public store of knowledge. The patent system entices people to share information that would not ordinarily do so. It is not all about what works, i.e.innovation, but also what doesn't work.

     

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

  122.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 6:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Confusing

    I think it represents research at the very least. I do not think it represents all research but it does represent some research. Not every researcher produces papers for scientific journals, just as not every researcher takes out a patent or even produces results that could lead to a patent, but EVERY patent is available for review due to the public nature of the patent system. Even patents that are hoarded benefit us all.

    Ah... you're one of those folks who believes in the disclosure myth. That's been busted ages ago. First, rarely do patents reveal anything actually useful. If they did... you might have an argument. Second, if it's true that the disclosure is so beneficial, then there's *greater* value in keeping it as a trade secret. The only reason to disclose a patent is if you have a high probability of someone else coming up with the same solution separately, and you want to block them (anti-competition). Third, thanks to willful infringement laws, many companies forbid engineers from even looking at patents.

    As we were recently discussing, a recent study showed that the *vast* majority of patent infringement claims show *no* evidence that an invention was copied. Given how many independent inventions have been massively stifled, while so few people use patents for R&D purposes, isn't it possible, no, likely, that the harm done outweighs the benefit?

    Yes... actually... because that's what EVERY STUDY has shown.

     

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

  123.  
    identicon
    Benefacio, Oct 1st, 2009 @ 7:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Confusing

    Hmmm, I was not discussing the benefit/harm equation to patents, not sure why you want to bring this up. Honestly, the only disagreement I have with you on this aspect of patent discussions is that you fall into the trap of blaming the system instead of the individuals abusing the system. Please point to the statutes that force a patent holder to charge for use of a patent or are forced to prevent anyone else from improving on it.

    We are discussing whether or not patents and the patent system promotes innovation. Your contention is that it does, at least in design but not in practice. I am saying it does not and never has either here in the U.S. or anywhere else.

    "First, rarely do patents reveal anything actually useful. If they did... you might have an argument."

    Interesting; Mike if you continue to ignore your own admissions then this discussion, if it continues, will be difficult. You admit that patents have the ability to provide information that promotes art and science which is good enough to validate my position.

    Mike, you keep talking results but have shown nothing to validate your claim that patents are designed to promote innovation. I just do not see any design aspect past or present that aids inventors in getting their products to the marketplace and be successful. Isn't that what separates invention from innovation? Are you trying to say that "Promote the progress of science and the useful arts..." equals invention or innovation?

     

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


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