Feds Say We Need Stronger IP Laws Because Grocery Stores Employ Lots Of People

from the but-think-of-the-poor-can-stackers dept

You may recall that, back in April, we criticized a Department of Commerce/US Patent and Trademark Office “study” that claimed it was trying to “better understand” intellectual property by adding up all the jobs in “IP-intensive” industries. We had significant concerns about the report, in particular the reasoning behind the methodology of how it chose “IP-intensive” jobs (and why it thought that had anything to do with stronger IP laws).

The folks over at KEI have put the problems of the report into plain view by digging into the details of the methodology, and realizing that the vast, vast majority of these “IP-intensive” industries are actually coming from the trademark side of things. Now, that’s fine, but trademark is an entirely different issue than copyrights and patents. And, even if we dig into the trademark side of things some big questions are raised about the methodology. For example, in counting up all these jobs, what “IP intensive” industry employs the most people?
Grocery stores.

According to the report, the number one IP intensive industry in terms of employment is “grocery stores,” with 2.5 million jobs. The six industries with more than a million jobs are the following:

1. Grocery stores, 2.5 million
2. Depository credit intermediation, 1.7 million
3. Computer systems and designs,. 1.6 million
4. Insurance carriers, 1.4 million
5. Management and technical consultants, 1.2 million
6. Clothing stores, 1.1 million

These are just a few of the industries the Department of Commerce calls IP-Intensive: Oil and gas extraction, Residential building construction, Grain and oilseed milling, Dairy product manufacturing, Lessors of real estate, Gambling industries, Household and institutional furniture, Pulp, paper, and paperboard mills, Sporting goods and musical instrument stores, Travel arrangement and reservation, etc.

Now, we can argue over just how much grocery stores rely on IP protection, but I think most normal people would agree that even if we abolished IP laws, grocery stores would likely still exist. Would they employ a different number of people? Possibly, though I’m not sure the difference would be significant. The simple fact is that even if grocery stores do benefit from trademark law, the number of jobs at grocery stores that exist because of trademark laws is minimal. And yet all of them are counted towards this total number — which is regularly being touted by the entertainment industry as proof as to how important stricter IP laws are.

But, you might be saying, you know what’s missing from the list above? Yes, that’s right: the entertainment industry. In fact, as KEI points out, the only sector in that list above that can “honestly” be described as “IP-intensive” is “computer systems and designs,” and if you look, those were some of the folks arguing most vociferously against copyright law expansions like SOPA and for patent reform that reduced the impact of patents. To use those jobs as evidence of the need for a stronger IP regime is downright misleading.

KEI points out that when you look at the number of jobs in the industries that people normally think of as relying on IP, the numbers are much smaller… and even then are potentially misleading in terms of the need and reliance on actual IP laws:

Industries like these overwhelm the statistics on jobs for the more legitimate choices, such as Sound recording industries (just 36.4 thousand jobs), or Software publishers (259.8 thousand), making it seem as though the IP-Intensive industries are truly enormous employers.

[….]

It was also pointed out that while the Software publishing sector was a high wage sector, it was a relatively small employer of the professionals in its key occupations. For example, less than 5 percent of computer programmers work for Software publishers. What do the other 95+ percent of computer programmers do? Quite a few build applications and services than use various open source free software platforms, which are both inexpensive and easy to customize.

And, where is the growth for employment? For the computer, mathematical science occupations, the rate of growth is three times higher outside of the Software Publishers Sector than inside the sector. So what can USPTO or the Economics and Statistics Administration tell us about the relationship between IP and employment? Not much, other than grocery stores, insurance companies and oil companies use a lot of trademarks, and not many people work in the sound recording industry.

The report itself explicitly states that it is not designed to be used to support any particular policy. Yet since it’s come out, and despite this ridiculous methodology, it is regularly cited by the MPAA, the RIAA and supporters of things like SOPA and ACTA as “proof” that we need these laws. In fact, Jamie Love from KEI notes that right after the event where they discussed these problems with the methodology of the report, and the fact that all these grocery store employees have been unwillingly drafted to claim they need more IP laws to protect the small number of jobs under the RIAA umbrella, he went to a meeting where a US trade official used the report to claim that it showed we needed to adopt ACTA:

After we left the TACD plenary where the IP and employment report was discussed, the TACD IP Policy Committee met with four US IP/Trade agencies, and three Directorates of the European Union. The meeting began with a US trade official telling us about this new employment study that showed the need for ACTA. No kidding. And, we will certainly continue to hear about this report, with very little understanding of how it was put together.

Before the report came out, the White House had reached out to me, and said that since they knew I was interested in these issues, they could set up an interview with the “economic experts” who put together the report. I tried to take them up on the offer. The response was so ridiculous and so embarrassing for the Department of Commerce that I have actually emailed them back asking them to make sure they really wanted me to run a story based on what was said. I’ll have a follow up story soon, either with that response or (hopefully) with a more substantive discussion, should they reconsider.

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85 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

‘either with that response or (hopefully) with a more substantive discussion’

or stating that they didn’t, after all, have the nerve or the decency to DISCUSS the issues and just wanted everyone to accept and believe what they say, possibly trying to add some sort of ‘incentive’ for you to comply (no insult intended to you)

Cory of PC (profile) says:

Huh, I never once thought of seeing Publix, Winn Dixie or anyone of the sort complaining about toughening up on IP enforcement. I’m imagining that if they did, Publix’s new slogan will probably be “Where shopping locally is a crime” or something (I’m having a hard time imagining something catchy). And if something like that happens, what will come to local produce stands? Will those be claim illegal like downloading anything on the Internet? Saying that buying fresh tomatoes from a farmer == illegally downloading 5 songs from the Pirate Bay?

… Huh, wait ’til I tell my parents that they’re criminals from buying from a produce stand in my hometown.

Anonymous Coward says:

Umm, the grocery business is very IP intensive. Almost every product in the store has a brand name. Many of them have specific formulations and such.

From stocking shelves to checking you out the door, the grocery business is all about IP.

You are just so fast to try to slam things that you can’t think past the end of your nose.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re:

The question is not whether or not there are a lot of trademarks involved in the grocery store business, it’s about whether or not consumption of food and thus business for grocery stores would decrease if we didn’t intensify completely unrelated laws enforcing harsher standards for patents and copyrights. Of course, it’s absurd to suggest that we need things like ACTA to protect grocery stores.

Further, grocery stores seem to have a tendency to undermine the business of the companies that produce the products they sell. Which chains are not creating their own generic versions of everyday items with labels like “compare to Tylenol? Cold and Flu?” They dilute trademarks, so they benefit from not having intense trademark enforcement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, that is the question CREATED by Mike.

The real question is “How many jobs are related to IP”?

Do you think, as an example, that you would have the comparison to Tylenol cold and flu if Tylenol never existed? Would you worry about a Ritz cracker?

The attempt by Mike is to slam the report without thought. Yet, these are industries who are incredibly dependant on IP, and the advanced made in IP for the retail marketplace. Our economy benefits from the cost savings that exist as a result of proper stocking, tracking, and sales techniques, allowing supermarkets to operate on smaller margins and to pass those savings on to consumers.

Companies like WalMart have invested literally hundreds of millions of dollars into perfecting their distribution and retail methods, shaving margins, and working to assure that consumers get the products they want when they want, where they want, and at a price they can afford. That is all as a result of custom software paid for by the company.

Of course, you can choose to focus only on brand name products on the shelves, but that would be standard Techdirt dishonesty at work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

[The MPAA/RIAA] have invested literally hundreds of millions of dollars into perfecting their distribution and retail methods, shaving margins, and working to assure that consumers get the products they want when they want, where they want, and at a price they can afford.

It’s so weird how untrue that statement is when one makes that small change.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The real question is “How many jobs are related to IP”?

Yes, that’s the question, and the answer is: almost none of what the copyright industry claims based on this report (which isn’t even supposed to be used for those claims).

Do you think, as an example, that you would have the comparison to Tylenol cold and flu if Tylenol never existed? Would you worry about a Ritz cracker?

Trademark law is a consumer protection law and is vastly different than copyright and patent IP law. And even if you can create some absurd link, protecting Tylenol’s trademark has nothing to do with why people buy Tylenol. They buy it because they’re sick and need medicine.

Companies like WalMart have invested literally hundreds of millions of dollars into perfecting their distribution and retail methods, shaving margins, and working to assure that consumers get the products they want when they want, where they want, and at a price they can afford. That is all as a result of custom software paid for by the company.

And that right there shows how Walmart has little to do with IP law. They had some software written to lower costs. The point of the software wasn’t to sell for profit, it was to make their business better by lowering costs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Wow Josh, hard to argue with you when you want to deny everything.

You don’t think people buy Tylenol because of the brand, because of the trust, because of all of the things that went into developing it? Wow.

You don’t think that Walmart’s computer systems (the ones that their employees use millions of times per day) isn’t IP intense work? Do you not think that they get a benefit out of the software, which they would lose if it wasn’t protected by law? You don’t think perhaps that people who work with computers every day are not in IP related jobs?

The “copyright industry” is making no claims. Mike is trying to stuff words in their mouths.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Wow Josh, hard to argue with you when you want to deny everything.

You have the largest, most intense, raging case of psychological projection ever.

The only thing I’m denying are your completely absurd arguments.

People buy Tylenol because they need medicine. They choose the Tylenol brand because they trust it, yes. They trust that brand because they know that Bob’s Aspirin can’t go and slap “Tylenol” onto a bottle and sell it. Trademarks are a consumer protection function. Johnson & Johnson doesn’t need copyright law to protect the Tylenol brand.

Yes, I can reasonably say that the thousands of Walmart workers using their computer system for inventory/shipping/billing/whatever are not doing IP intensive work. I can also reasonably say that copyright law has little to no impact on the benefit Walmart gets out of their software.

And I’m reasonably certain that just working with a computer every day does not automatically get you lumped into an IP related job by any sane definition thereof.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“Trademarks are a consumer protection function. Johnson & Johnson doesn’t need copyright law to protect the Tylenol brand.”

Is trademark not IP?

“Yes, I can reasonably say that the thousands of Walmart workers using their computer system for inventory/shipping/billing/whatever are not doing IP intensive work.”

You might want to try working there for a while. You would realize that the electronic guns, the laptops, and such are all as much a part of the day as helping customers.

Copyright law has a lot to do with what Walmart gets out of their software, because they know that nobody else has it.

“And I’m reasonably certain that just working with a computer every day does not automatically get you lumped into an IP related job by any sane definition thereof.”

Yet working every day with IP related products, using IP related software, to sell those IP related products in stories… well, you know the rest.

IP doesn’t start and end with copyright, regardless of what Mike is shoveling at you today.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I think part of the problem (at least *my* problem) is that we blanket a few ideas under the “IP” term. For example, “IP benefits the public, so we need more IP protection!” That sounds great, but now let’s break the ideas out a bit: “Trademark benefits the public, so we need more copyright and patent protection!” Even though I agree with the first half of the statement, the second half doesn’t necessarily follow.

Yes, I’d wager that everyone working in the United States today in some way or another uses a tool that somehow has some “IP” attached to it, whether that’s a trademark, copyright, patent, etc., but it doesn’t follow at all that stronger “IP” protections is better for that worker, or that person somehow “depends” on “IP.”

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Is trademark not IP?

The problem is the term “IP” – which is a completely artificial and only recently made up grouping of disparate things.

Patents – protection of inventions
Copyrights – protection of writings, images, sound, etc.
Trademarks – preventing consumer confusion

Yet working every day with IP related products, using IP related software, to sell those IP related products in stories… well, you know the rest.

That is clearly absurd.

By your definition, every single person working in the developed world and much of the rest fall into IP intensive industries.

Car salesman? Yep, he sells trademarked cars.
Mechanic? Yep, he uses trademarked, brand name parts in the car, and uses trademarked tools to install them.
Assembly-line worker? Yep, assembles the car.
Accounting guy in the office? Yep, signs all of the above’s paychecks, and uses software that is copyrighted.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

“Car salesman?” – actually he selling a trademark car, he also sells a whole pile of IP along with it. They are very certainly in an IP intensive industry.

“Mechanic?” – considering that they now require computer training and an understanding of electronics to work on cars, their jobs are at least somewhat dependent on IP.

“Assembly-line worker?” – from computer controlled robots to production scheduling, their jobs are very much based on IP these days.

“Accounting guy in the office?” – well, considering that he sits in front of a computer all day, deals with automated time cards, reporting systems, and probably uses custom built software all the while doing it, he is probably very dependent on IP to do his job.

Are they IP workers? Perhaps not in the most narrow of ways, yet they are all depending on IP to make a living.

You sort of have to open your eyes (and your mind) a little more to understand it. You are almost there!

Belstain (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Depending on IP to make a living?

No they aren’t. All of the jobs you’ve listed are depending on certain tools to do their jobs but none of them have any reason to care about the IP involved in the creation and distribution of those tools.
They need a tool to do a job. As long as the tool does the job, it doesn’t matter who owns the patent or copyright. It doesn’t matter what name is on the box as long as the tool is up to the task. IP doesn’t make tools better, it makes them more expensive.

The only thing the end user sees from IP is the increased cost from protecting it and from limited competition in the market. Not to mention the opportunity costs from features that can’t be implemented in one tool because the patent owner refuses to license it for that use.

It’s the old “this tool has a really useful feature and this other tool has a different equally cool feature. I wish I could have a single tool with both features.” But you can’t, because that is illegal.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

yet they are all depending on IP to make a living.

Lets assume that copyright and patent law were completely abolished.

Please tell me exactly how it would impact those workers and prevent them from making a living.

The car salesman would still be selling cars, because people still need to buy cars to get around.

The machanic would still be fixing cars, because cars break and need to be repaired.

The assembly line worker would still be assembling cars for the same reason the salesman is selling them.

The accounting guy would still be sitting in his office, signing paychecks to all of the above.

Again, your definition of someone who is dependant on IP is so overly broad that it applies to everyone and is thus meaningless. That you are still clinging to it shows who the one is that needs to open their eyes.

Belstain (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

IP has almost no effect on the number of sales at Wal-Mart. Trademarks and brand image may effect what brand people buy, but with or without IP people would still buy roughly the same amount, just under a different name.

In cases where there are no IP protections (clothing) or where patents and copyrights have expired (common medicines) Wal-Mart can make their own generic products and undercut the name brands while still keeping the same or higher profit margin for themselves.

So, retailers like Wal-Mart should in fact favor LESS IP protections rather than more.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Just to throw out a datapoint, whenever I buy over-the-counter medication, I make a note of what chemical is in it, then buy whatever brand gives me the most of that chemical for my dollar, be it Tylenol, store-brand, generic, whatever. Then again, maybe I’m the only person who does this…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Do you not think that they get a benefit out of the software, which they would lose if it wasn’t protected by law?

Only standard laws against breaking and entering/destruction of property/etc. – not laws regarding IP.
I don’t see how copyright/trademarks/patents gives them benefits from custom software they’ve written for themselves.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“You don’t think people buy Tylenol because of the brand, because of the trust, because of all of the things that went into developing it? ” – More like the intensive ad campaigns and nothing to do with all of the things that went into developing it.

“You don’t think that Walmart’s computer systems” – After speaking with Linda M. Dillman I can 100% in full confidence tell you where open source can be used it is. And if all the other ip intensive software companies died tomorrow, the people in those firms would be quickly gobbled up by the WalMarts, Targets, etc, etc because they would have to stay in house.

“You don’t think perhaps that people who work with computers every day are not in IP related jobs?”
Yes, I am, and see the true cost of IP trolls and how many lawyers we employ to defend ourselves from them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

If it’s the branding that is the important part I reccomend you try Tylenol the next time you have an upset stomach and Pepto-Bismol next time you have a headache and tell us how well that works out for you. After all they are both extremely well known brands and therefore should be equally effective.

Meanwhile I think I will continue with a generic (or store brand) medicine to cure my ailments, and I will make my selection between those based on price.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Companies like WalMart have invested literally hundreds of millions of dollars into perfecting their distribution and retail methods, shaving margins, and working to assure that consumers get the products they want when they want, where they want, and at a price they can afford. That is all as a result of custom software paid for by the company.

So just because there are a thousand IT guys at WalMart you can count every one-legged-smoke-stained-tooth-hag door greeter/cart monkey as part of the “IP intensive” industry?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: From the IP Madhouse

And all of this happens just because you had the gall to take a picture of the meal you had at the restaurant, or – EVEN WORSE – bought raw materials from Wal-Mart to RECREATE THE SAME MEAL FOR A CHEAPER PRICE. (How dare you, you monster.) You’ve made Wal-Mart a party in third-party infringmenet!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: From the IP Madhouse

“Hyperbole? Goodness no!

If IP were to disappear, the grocery chains would literally have to fire every stocker, cashier, butcher, baker, and manager.

All they’d have left is lonely, empty buildings which were once grocery stores.”

Nothing like being an overwrought jackass, is there?

Look, we all know there would be grocery stores without any IP. However, you have to accept that they would be less organized, less well stocked, would have more food rotting for lack of buyers, and the check out process would be back to the 60s (you know, girls at cash registers pushing buttons and clicking “add”, which prints it to the tape and adds it to the total). Oh, and all your stuff would be more expensive, because they wouldn’t be able to control inventory very well.

IP is an integral part of the economy, because it allows for incredible levels of efficiency that cannot be reached by other means. The grocery business, with it’s razor thin margins, needs IP to be able to survive in the marketplace.

Are you honestly willing to pay significantly higher for your groceries, just to be IP free?

Didn’t think so.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 From the IP Madhouse

However, you have to accept that they would be less organized, less well stocked, would have more food rotting for lack of buyers, and the check out process would be back to the 60s (you know, girls at cash registers pushing buttons and clicking “add”, which prints it to the tape and adds it to the total). Oh, and all your stuff would be more expensive, because they wouldn’t be able to control inventory very well.

I “have to” accept that? Says who? Show me the evidence.

No more being polite. That is complete and utter bullshit.

IP is an integral part of the economy, because it allows for incredible levels of efficiency that cannot be reached by other means. The grocery business, with it’s razor thin margins, needs IP to be able to survive in the marketplace.

You really are full of it. Grocery stores have razor thin margins, and thus strive for efficiency because of competition, not because some magical IP fairy hands out monopolies to get them to do better.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The Bar Code Scanner (to Anonymous Coward, #79)

Well, you know, they had barcode scanners back in 1980. You may be too young to remember that, but there it is. Any patents have long since expired. More basically, the practices of, say, Amazon are not fundamentally different from those of Sears Roebuck back in 1912. The only difference is that Amazon uses computers for tasks which were once done by hand, and they use the internet instead of the public mails. The Supreme Court has made it clear that this kind of mechanical translation is “immediately obvious.” I might add that there was an early version of WebVan as far back as the 1970’s, and of course there were grocery store delivery boys even earlier.

Incidentally, in the late 1970’s, my mother was actually working on a logistics and inventory program for the Palm Beach company in Cincinnati. Palm Beach made men’s suits, which were sewn together in small sewing shops all over the South, and the program kept track of where everything was. It was an IBM 370 shop, running PL/I. Again, that was a long time ago, and I’m not overly impressed by the claims of the patent troll du jour.

Experience shows that patent trolls deal in phony patents, very often ones which were obtained by practicing fraud on the Patent Office.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barcode

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Trademark…NOT COPYRIGHT.
I’ve been in the grocery business for the past six years. Not once have I EVER had to deal with ANYTHING approaching copyright. Nor do any of the 500-odd people employed at my store.
In fact, the only time that IP laws sorta maybe affected us was when one packed bread company sued another in court, saying the second company had deliberately copied the packaging for their (the first company’s) bread. This was trademark law, not copyright, and of the people who worked in my company, none of them had anything to do with it (these were two bread suppliers, independent from us. We had nothing to do with the court case).
Yet according to the report shown above…my job is IP intensive? My job would still exist if tomorrow all IP vanished. So would the jobs of everyone else in the store.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: Good Food vs. Trademarks

A curious thing about foods is that, the more trademarks they have, the lower the quality. If you are going to talk about juice or cheese, for example, the only label which counts is the USDA label. The government regulates what you can call juice or cheese, and what you can put in it. With regard to Rikuo (#20), I strongly suspect that the kind of bread he had a trademark dispute over was the kind of bread I avoid when possible. I like to buy rolls or baguettes, with a thick crust, preferably whole wheat, or sourdough, or rye bread (pumpernickel, schwartzbrot, etc.), with lots of different seeds and nuts, and bits of onion and garlic mixed into the dough, and preferably baked in the back of the store. If you want to get me to spend more on bread, your path is clear before you. Surprise me! The kind of bread which is heavily advertised on television, and has pictures of cartoon characters on the label, is so anemic that it resembles cardboard.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Almost every product in the store has a brand name.”
So if all those brands disappeared, the market wouldn’t replace them with other competitors products?

The food market would no longer exist?

They will still sell food, they will still need their staff.

I am lucky to live in farm country and get to shop at a huge farmers market where 75% of what they sell is made by them. The other 25% is major brands. IP has no consequence on them. http://www.shady-maple.com/

You are just so fast to try to slam Mike that you can’t think past the end of your nose. FTFY

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This is the kind of ludicrous argument you get from people when you allow them to bundle consumer protection legislation like trademarks along with imaginary property.

Reclaim trademarks for consumers, they are for our benefit, whatever side benefits they may also give companies are purely secondary to the purpose of the legislation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

… That’s trademark law.
Food and Fassion have the least IP protection, there may be trademarks, but you can’t patent or copyright a shirt or a loaf of bread, it’s all trademarks and trade-secrets no real IP enforcement.
Brand Name = Trademark (not copyright or patent)
Specific formulation = Trade-secret NO PROTECTION AT ALL.

Try thinking for yourself instead of going with whatever the content industry are spouting.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

I like this game!

“Feds Say We Need Stronger IP Laws Because Grocery Stores Employ Lots Of People”

I see. So the Feds are making statements that essentially culminate in complete non-sequitors. Sounds like fun! I think I’ll give it a try:

1. We need stronger IP laws because hot dogs should never see a ketchup bottle

2. We need stronger IP laws because Psych is the greatest show on television

3. We need stronger IP laws because Nobush McThundersnatch is a great name for a porn star

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: I like this game!

“1. But I like ketchup”

Too bad. It doesn’t mix with the celery salt and sport peppers!

“2. … I need to watch more TV.”

I don’t know about more, but if you watch ANY Tv and Psych hasn’t been watched, you’re doing entertainment wrong.

“3. Isn’t Congress trying to do something about abolishing porn?”

Only if they’re actually TRYING to start the revolution….

Cory of PC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I like this game!

“Too bad. It doesn’t mix with the celery salt and sport peppers!”

Well at least ketchup will add flavor to the hotdogs they serve here where I live (and I’ll give the celery salt and sport pepper a shot when I find some, thanks!)

“I don’t know about more, but if you watch ANY Tv and Psych hasn’t been watched, you’re doing entertainment wrong.”

My current situation – people hog the TV, only watching sports, MTV, VH1, Fuse and BET. Basically crap (YMMV on sports). Haven’t really watched any TV where I’m at and I haven’t watched Psych yet, so… I guess I am taking my entertainment wrong.

“Only if they’re actually TRYING to start the revolution….”

Like what they were trying to do with SOPA?

TimothyAWiseman (profile) says:

Most government reports are designed to support a view...

Overally, this was a great article and thank you for putting it together.

I have to make a possibly significant quible about one thing: “The report itself explicitly states that it is not designed to be used to support any particular policy. “

I have not read this report, but if it is like others I have read, it is a common disclaimer on a huge array of government reports and even some datasets in acadameic papers. It is meant to show that the people who gathered the data were (at least supposed to be) unbiased and unaffected by politices or policy.

That in no way means that the statistics should not then be used by others, along with analysis, to actually support a view, just that the report itself is not take a position.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Most government reports are designed to support a view...

It is actually an interesting discussion. My experience in writing reports on subjects is that generally, the specific things you are starting out basing your research on, will colour the results.

The problem in reports are bad data and bad assumptions. You start out with only basic knowledge of the specific subject and though you have an idea about what to expect and how to find Wallie, you really do not know exactly how to show your findings. In social science you get huge variance based on questionaire-design and method of calculating derivative effects. In natural science you get outliers, variance and systematic errors based on flaws in experimental design.

Any scientific discipline has those problems and how you structure your work and report is essential in eliminating as much of that bias as possible. Unfortunately, the abstract is one of the primary places in the report, where bias and preconceptions run rampant. Another is discussion, which is a significant part of what most other people will see of the report if you make a presentation.

My point is that: Sure they are probably mostly unbiased in their treatment of data. However, they will never be able to avoid personal bias in the result communication and that is all that matters.

If you like a challenge: Find the EP legal service report on ACTA, the legal scolars opinion from 2010 and the report created for the Greens and look at what parts of ACTA they bring forth for closer analysis and see their objective statements on them. They are almost the same.
Their discussion, conclusions and abstract? Almost no agreement there…

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

OMGOMGOMG

The response was so ridiculous and so embarrassing for the Department of Commerce that I have actually emailed them back asking them to make sure they really wanted me to run a story based on what was said.

No way you’re gonna drop a bomb like that and just walk away! You have to tell us what they said! Won’t you think of the children?!?

Anonymous Monkey (profile) says:

Re: OMGOMGOMG

LOL! I don’t think Mike would do any of us that way. He’s prolly had a “Wait..What?!” moment and really wanted to give them the chance to take their foot out of their mouth before they start chewing on the ankles. Otherwise he’d probably embarrass them to no end with what he has now.

Still, I’d LOVE to see what the original response was compared to the one he’s waiting on… (He’d prolly do it anyway *grin*)

Anonymous Coward says:

Jesus Christ! Don’t you people know if we get rid of all IP laws people will stop eating and eventually die.

IP laws have been found to have a large connection with hunger.

I know you all like to think hunger comes from your body when it’s running low on energy but it’s a lie. Not to mention if they abolish IP laws gravity will cease to exist on earth and we will float away, but hey we won’t be hungry.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

It’s even worse than the article suggests.

Grocery stores, for example, would employ more people without IP. Without trademark, in particular, brand premiums would disappear. Beyond basic staple foods, demand for groceries is moderately elastic, so a drop in prices would increase volume. They might lose one or two trademark lawyers on retainer, but they’d gain a fair number of clerks, loader/unloaders, shelf-stockers, etc. to service the increased volume of product being moved.

Musical instruments is another clear growth case. A much larger amount of public domain music would make the instruments more valuable. Also, institutional buyers such as schools would have music department budgets that suddenly no longer had big expenses in licensing or purchasing extremely overpriced sheet music, and no more ASCAP/BMI/etc. fees. All that freed-up budget might well be folded into buying more useful things for the students, and newer/better instruments could obviously be expected to capture at least a part of that money.

More generally, we should expect that the removal of monopolies of any kind would increase employment. Consumers stop paying the hidden tax composed of the monopoly rents on anything they buy that has monopoly rents folded into its price, and that freed-up money will, by and large, be spent somewhere, often on more of the same things — meaning the more “IP-intensive” a sector likely the more job growth in that sector if IP were abolished. Certainly, everything with elastic demand and a price tag concealing substantial monopoly rents would grow, and employment in its manufacture and distribution would grow correspondingly.

Another cost imposed by IP and similar government-granted monopolies is less direct than the monopoly rents: the lawyers’ fees. Even if you buy a generic product with no monopoly rents hidden in its price whatsoever, the manufacturer (and the middlemen in the distribution chain) probably employ some IP lawyers to deal with patent trolls, DMCA notices, trademark disputes, and/or other types of incoming IP-related complaints, threats, and suits, baseless though these may be. They may also be paying now and again to quietly settle a patent suit or to license a questionable patent, in particular, and to obtain defensive patents and to obtain and maintain trademarks (even while not leveraging their marks to charge a name-brand premium, which would constitute a monopoly rent).

Without IP, all of these costs that inflate the prices of generic products would disappear as well as all IP-enabled monopoly rents. And those vanishing costs would also result in volume increases in cases where demand was elastic.

Or, the tl;dr version: “Monopoly makes a thing scarce, dear, and bad”. By implication, its removal makes the thing less scarce, i.e. increases volume. Increased volume, not increased price, is what drives increased employment. Employment increases when they do more work, not when they do the same work but make more money. The latter just results in fatcats pocketing more money and poorer, less active consumers suffering under higher unemployment.

If I had the power I would abolish all IP in a heartbeat — not just because of the free speech, innovation-hindering, access-to-lifesaving-medicines, and other issues IP raises, but because our economy is in dire straits and we clearly need a lot more of two things in particular: jobs and consumer confidence/spending power. Getting rid of IP is something that would give a substantial boost to those things at a stroke of a pen, at least after weathering a brief period of fairly serious upheaval.

And because of the innovation-promoting effects of competition and lack of chilling effects from patent trolls, in particular, it would be the gift that kept on giving. A more vibrant startup economy would keep producing new jobs at a higher rate than now.

Want to fix the economy? Abolish IP.

Maybe amend the definition of fraud to clearly include passing off one product as another — if I pay for Coca-Cola and get Bob’s Cola instead, I’ve been ripped off (unless Bob’s cola is better, anyway). Certainly I haven’t gotten what I paid for. That should suffice for everything trademark law was ever good for on the consumer-protection front, and would move the right of action from the company being mimicked to the state and complaining consumers and consumer organizations, the parties actually potentially harmed by deceptive labeling.

As for patents and copyright, I’m convinced by now that they’re all bathwater, no baby.

Want to bail out the economy? Abolish IP.

Hans says:

Imaginary Property

This is an example of the payoff for inventing the concept of IP. Pure genius.

It clearly has immense value in obfuscating the dialog here on TechDirt, where people need to be constantly reminded of the difference between patents and copyrights. But getting everyone working for a company that uses a trademark considered “IP intensive”? Priceless.

staff says:

more dissembling

“Before the report came out, the White House had reached out to me…”

That explains why they are so hopelessly backwards on IP issues. The only thing you know about patents is you don’t have any.

“patent reform”…America Invents Act, vers 2.0, 3.0…

?This is not a patent reform bill? Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) complained, despite other democrats praising the overhaul. ?This is a big corporation patent giveaway that tramples on the right of small inventors.?

Senator Cantwell is right. Just because they call it ?reform? doesn?t mean it is. The agents of banks, huge multinationals, and China are at it again trying to brain wash and bankrupt America.

They should have called these bills the America STOPS Inventing Act or ASIA, because that?s where they?re sending all our jobs.

The patent bill (vers 2, 3, etc) is nothing less than another monumental federal giveaway for banks, huge multinationals, and China and an off shoring job killing nightmare for America. Even the leading patent expert in China has stated the bill will help them steal our inventions. Who are the supporters of this bill working for??

Patent reform is a fraud on America. This bill will not do what they claim it will. What it will do is help large multinational corporations maintain their monopolies by robbing and destroying their small entity and startup competitors (so it will do exactly what the large multinationals paid for) and with them the jobs they would have created. The bill will make it harder and more expensive for small firms to get and enforce their patents. Without patents we cant get funded. In this way large firms are able to play king of the hill and keep their small competitors from reaching the top as they have. Yet small entities create the lion’s share of new jobs. According to recent studies by the Kauffman Foundation and economists at the U.S. Census Bureau, ?startups aren?t everything when it comes to job growth. They?re the only thing.? This bill is a wholesale destroyer of US jobs. Those wishing to help fight this bill should contact us as below.

Small entities and inventors have been given far too little voice on this bill when one considers that they rely far more heavily on the patent system than do large firms who can control their markets by their size alone. The smaller the firm, the more they rely on patents -especially startups and individual inventors. Congress tinkering with patent law while gagging inventors is like a surgeon operating before examining the patient.

Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways and set America on a course for sustainable prosperity, not large corporation lobbied poverty, should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

Please see http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html for a different/opposing view on patent reform.
http://docs.piausa.org/

rmstallman (user link) says:

Bogus Concept

The fundamental flaw in the US government’s arguments is that they
are based on a bogus concept: “intellectual property”. It is bogus
because it generalizes about laws that really have nothing in common,
of which copyright and trademark are two out of ten or more.
To advocate “stronger IP laws” is so vague as to be meaningless,
and so is advocating “weaker IP laws”.

http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.html.

To think clearly about this issue requires rejecting the term
“IP” and discussing one law at a time. If the US government fails
to do that, we should rebuke it, not follow it into confusion.

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