Opinion Piece On IP: Satire, Trolling... Or Just Seriously Confused?

from the can't-figure-it-out dept

I've had the column by Michael Kanellos of open all day. I keep returning to it and trying to figure out how an opinion piece could have gone so wrong. Officially, it's called "Why I love patents and copyrights" but is so far off the charts bizarre that I can't quite figure out what Kanellos intended the column to be. It may simply be trolling for links and traffic. Or, it might actually be satire. I can understand why some people who haven't looked at the research would say that without IP tech innovation would slow to a crawl (the research suggests the opposite, but that's ok), but to then suggest that the only reason that open source exists is to spite Microsoft's proprietary software shows a bizarre and totally incorrect understanding of the world of software development. But where the column really clearly slips into satire is the following: "Think of Larry Page toiling away on the early PageRank patents. Think of Mark and Colleen Hayward. Imagine all those evenings they had to spend listening to Donovan spout Celtic gibberish or helping get John Bonham out of hotel security custody during those years they amassed their photo and video collection. Surely some reward is in order." Larry Page wasn't toiling over patents -- he was toiling over the actual technology of making Google work. The actual idea behind PageRank was borrowed, copied or "inspired" by work done at MIT by Jon Kleinberg. And the idea that without patents Google wouldn't be in the dominant position it's in today is just ridiculous. Google's position has nothing to do with its patents, but its ability to develop a useful service people find value in using. As for the story of the Haywards... well, that's clearly a joke, right? Please? Either way, it seems like a really odd and confused piece, even if it is satire. Kanellos never bothers to back up his position, uses a few anecdotal examples, ignores the actual problems and constraints of intellectual property and seems to brush off anyone who disagrees with him as never having done anything creative. Of course, it's also doing some damage to's reputation, as many of its readers are smart enough to wonder why the site would bother to publish something like this.
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  1. icon
    Mike (profile), 11 May 2007 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Misguided IP Rantings

    I actually work full time in intellectual property and I can tell you that, like many other issues, it is complex. You absolutely cannot make a statement that there is no need for patents or that nobody every rips off another company's designs/ products/ technology.

    Have I made either of those statements?

    Many companies deliberately employ a fast-follower business model in which they systematically copy the products/ technologies/ designs of others.

    Yes, and in the real world, that's called competition. It helps drive more innovation faster. It's good for society. There are plenty of studies that support this.

    This does not give them the right to use the valuable innovations created by others to serve their customers. In such situations, a patent or technology license is often the solution that allows the innovator to earn a bit from its invention while the sales & marketing leader benefits as well by delivering the best solution.

    That's the party line, sure, but when you look at the research it doesn't support this. First of all, you are clearly confusing innovation and invention in the paragraph above. The key, constitutional reason for patents is to promote innovation -- yet, they tend to promote invention instead. Invention is a part of innovation, but only a part. It's NOT intended to be a welfare system for inventors as many people like to think. It's only supposed to serve to help put in place incentives where none would occur others (market failure).

    Your extreme rantings would be akin to my saying that there is no need for blogs because we already have newspapers and magazines available to publish any useful information so what possible worthwhile material could a blog publish? Blogs should be abolished right?

    No, I'm not sure how thoroughly you've read my discussions on this topic, but that's not what I said at all. I'm not talking about abolishing any kind of product. I'm talking about removing inefficient, government regulations that are barriers to innovation.

    This is an issue with 2 sides. Try thinking about it a little.

    I have and continue to back up all my positions with detailed explanations, research and examples. "Try thinking about it a little" is condescending and simply wrong. I think about it constantly. If you have a specific problem with my position, let me know what it is and we can discuss. Telling me I haven't thought about is wrong. Point out something I got wrong and then let's discuss.

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