Eric Schmidt On How To Encourage Innovation

from the don't-see-anything-about-stronger-copyright-laws dept

A bunch of folks have been sending in Google CEO Eric Schmidt's recent op-ed on how to encourage more innovation in the US. The suggestions make perfect sense and there's nothing in there that I disagree with. He says Congress should encourage more competition, and be careful not to pass legislation that favors incumbents over upstarts. This is absolutely true, but the likelihood of that happening is pretty dismal, given how big a role big company lobbyists have in drafting legislation, and given how campaign contributions work today. He also talks about more open information access and the importance of keeping talented skilled workers here, rather than pushing them to other countries.

Of course, it's notable that he says nothing about intellectual property. I'm guessing this is on purpose. Technically, the lever that the Constitution supposedly gives Congress to encourage innovation is intellectual property policy -- but these days, that clearly conflicts with Schmidt's first point about not passing laws that favor incumbents. These days, that's exactly what copyright and patent policy have become: protectionist measures to prop up incumbents at the expense of real innovators.

So, on that note, it's really refreshing to see recommendations for what Congress can do to encourage innovation that doesn't include ratcheting up IP laws -- though, it's disappointing that he didn't go so far as to suggest moving those laws in the other direction.


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  1.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Feb 12th, 2010 @ 9:28am

    Maybe not so disappointing...

    By avoiding even bringing up IP, he prevents his core points from getting overrun by a copyright/patent debate.

    The simple fact of writing a piece on innovation that doesn't mention intellectual property is in itself a powerful idea, since it implicitly rejects the common assumption that the two are one-and-the-same and that no discussion of innovation can take place without having IP law at the core.

    I agree that I'd love to see Schmidt write a plea for IP reform, but I think that right now getting people's minds off IP and on to innovation as its own distinct concept might be a very clever approach.

     

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  2.  
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    A Dan (profile), Feb 12th, 2010 @ 10:14am

    Re: Maybe not so disappointing...

    I second this. Avoiding the copyright/patent questions altogether means he might not have to deal with the knee-jerk reactions tied to them.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    NAMELESS.ONE, Feb 12th, 2010 @ 11:50am

    NAMELESS.ONE on howto increase innovation

    end patents
    lesson copyright terms in any computer field to 5 years other areas of written works to 7- 10 years. AND WATCH the lazy buggers die out and the real innovation begin.

    can ya dig it brothers and sisters.
    R U LAZY people?

     

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  4.  
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    Derek Bredensteiner (profile), Feb 12th, 2010 @ 12:00pm

    Re: Maybe not so disappointing...

    Well said Marcus.

    I found Schmidt's piece wonderfully optimistic and of a different tone than my previous impressions of him. I'm still not sure I'd give him full credit of doing all that intentionally, but I wholeheartedly agree it would be nice to have constructive debate on the other aspects of innovation reform that went somewhere instead of stalling on the IP mess.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2010 @ 12:40pm

    "These days, that's exactly what copyright and patent policy have become: protectionist measures to prop up incumbents at the expense of real innovators. "

    IP has almost never been about promoting the progress, it has almost always been about unfairly enriching the elite.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2010 @ 1:01pm

    1) "Comments are closed" on washington post page -- are they idiots? Have they ever heard about CwF?

    2) Regarding TFA...

    > Government-funded research should be made public through "a Wikipedia of ideas,"

    Beat you to it, Eric!

    http://www.publicdomainideas.org/

     

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  7.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Feb 12th, 2010 @ 1:53pm

    The trick is that you argue against IP without saying it's IP. Then, when everyone agrees with you, you say "Cool, then we agree that IP is bad!" and they can't take it back.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2010 @ 3:03pm

    He should acknowledge that IP has good and bad like everything else. An alternative slant to these comments is that IP can protect the innovators (usually the small guys/startups) from having the incumbents (usually the big guys/elitists) simply steal their ideas once the ideas become popular. If IP is owned by the innovators instead of by holding companies then new innovation can continue with cash from licensing their IP to the big guys. Without IP, ideas can be stolen and commoditized by the big guys and big companies don't truly innovate that technology any further - ergo the death of innovation without protection for the original innovators/inventors.

     

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  9.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 12th, 2010 @ 6:20pm

    Re:

    An alternative slant to these comments is that IP can protect the innovators (usually the small guys/startups) from having the incumbents (usually the big guys/elitists) simply steal their ideas once the ideas become popular

    You can't steal an idea. You can copy it, but that's different. And normally, it's called competition and that's considered a good thing.

    If IP is owned by the innovators instead of by holding companies then new innovation can continue with cash from licensing their IP to the big guys. Without IP, ideas can be stolen and commoditized by the big guys and big companies don't truly innovate that technology any further - ergo the death of innovation without protection for the original innovators/inventors.

    Except that's rarely the case. New companies come along and disrupt large incumbents all the time, and usually those large incumbents don't realize what's happening or why, and even if they try to copy they usually fail at it. IBM tried to copy Microsoft when it was small, and failed. Microsoft tried to copy Google when it was much smaller and failed. Blockbuster tried to copy Netflix and failed. The list goes on and on. It's not that easy for big stodgy companies to "just copy" smaller companies.

     

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  10.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Feb 13th, 2010 @ 9:38am

    Re: NAMELESS.ONE on howto increase innovation

    You're right... I was going to do that yesterday, actually, and the day before too, but I'm so lazy. If only I had a better work ethic I would have drastically reformed copyright law by now.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    staff, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 8:16am

    fraud

    "These days, that's exactly what copyright and patent policy have become: protectionist measures to prop up incumbents at the expense of real innovators."

    What you mean to say is...that's what the proposed patent bill has become.

    Patent reform is a fraud on America. It is patently un-American.
    Please see http://truereform.piausa.org/ for a different/opposing view on patent reform.

     

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  12.  
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    vic Kley, Feb 15th, 2010 @ 9:41am

    Eric Schmidt and Google

    Eric Schmidt and Google showed us exactly how they feel about invention they ran a contest last year called 10 to the 100, they said they would fund to the tune of a couple million a piece the chosen inventions. They required us to give up ownership so that our socially focused ideas could see support. They asked for a video (hard and quite expensive for a two man group). Then after making us wait almost a year longer for the result they said:

    "So rather than posting individual idea submissions, we've decided to do something a little different. We've pooled similar ideas into a set of 16 top idea themes aimed at addressing some important common goals, from making government more transparent to driving innovation in public transport."

    No winners, no names, no actual projects and as near as we can tell no money.

    So screw Eric Schmidt, because he screwed us- a 150,000 entries! His word and that of Google is trash. He scammed us good but he only gets one shot.

     

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  13.  
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    eric wahlgren, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 7:52am

    Patents sitting doing nothing but collecting dust

    Congress, is overlooking the fact that it is at this time imperative to be using sources that can help function in today's world of "fresh thinking." Though being a somewhat touchy topic of who's ideas get published and who's don't is not something that should be set in stone once "patented." The individual has the right to forfeit his/her own idea to someone that has the resources to do something with that idea. The era of innovation is upon us now. We are fools to not be using everything at our disposal at this point.

     

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  14.  
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    Ronald J Riley (profile), Feb 19th, 2010 @ 8:00pm

    Re: Patents sitting doing nothing but collecting dust

    In today's world America's and other developed countries economic systems are being undermined by transnational corporations export of our collective intellectual capital to developing countries. They extract most of the differential value for their own profit. Americans are losing jobs and most of the rest of the economic value which inventors would produce and perhaps the most damaging side effect is that in the absence of income our countries lose subsequent inventions and the economic benefits which those inventors would have produced.

    These companies band together and try to starve inventors into abandoning their inventions or they try to sucker the inventors in a declaratory judgment (DJ) situation in order to bankrupt the inventor.

    Whole industries often conspire to freeze inventors out, Rambus is a good example of this. Bob Kearns and the intermittent wiper control is another example. Bob Kearns was one of the first dozen members of the Professional Inventors Alliance. Gordon Gould's case (inventor of the Laser) is another example.

    Arguments that inventors should forfeit their inventions will only serve to further entrench transnational companies and inventors will not be willing to invest their time and money in that situation.

    Even Mike Masnick will suffer, because his business does not produce anything of lasting value and all non invention based business are not creating new wealth. Someone has to be creating wealth which is then passed through a multitude of businesses which are not themselves creating new wealth. That whole food chain will wither and die without a source of new wealth.

    Ronald J. Riley,


    I am speaking only on my own behalf.
    Affiliations:
    President - www.PIAUSA.org - RJR at PIAUSA.org
    Executive Director - www.InventorEd.org - RJR at InvEd.org
    Senior Fellow - www.PatentPolicy.org
    President - Alliance for American Innovation
    Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
    Washington, DC
    Direct (810) 597-0194 / (202) 318-1595 - 9 am to 8 pm EST.

     

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