A Couple Videos About Our Crazy Patent System

from the you-might-enjoy... dept

We're hearing more and more talk about how broken the patent system is, and recently came across a pair of videos we figured some of you might enjoy. The first is a comedic riff on Apple's recent page turn design patent, leading Ron Charles to post an amusing video of how Apple might explain its patenting of "letters":
There are some good lines in there. "Everything we've done, is designed to be very capable, but also familiar. So our goal, was to take all the amazing things that people like to do... and own them."

On a slightly more serious note, economist Alex Tabarrok, has put together a video arguing for the end of software patents:
It's not a bad video, though I think the analysis is a bit overly simplistic, in that it kicks off with the idea that pharma patents make sense. The more you dig into the details of pharma patents, the more you realize that's not true either. However, even granting that, the argument he makes is the commonly seen economics argument that, at the very least, things like pharma and software display such different economic characteristics that it's silly to use the same patent system for both. Specifically, the sunk costs of innovation for software tend to be relatively low, so the protection a patent grants might not be useful. It also notes how patents can impede innovation. One thing I'm happy it includes is a note about how you get less innovation when you don't have competitors pushing you to keep innovating. That's a point that often gets missed in these debates.

Either way, I figured folks might enjoy both of these videos.

Filed Under: patents, software patents, videos


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  1. icon
    jameshogg (profile), 13 Dec 2012 @ 6:55am

    Re: Re:

    Well what you have to remember is that taxes are unavoidable. And there are specific taxes aimed at certain kinds of property such as alcohol, air travel, etc - all for reasons that may be necessary such as a degree of regulation on drugs and attempts to slow the process of global warming. I know I often speak like a Libertarian on here, but I think when it comes to issues of what should and should not be taxed a more Socialist perspective is needed. Taxes have to be a necessity, and one important thing that would be a lot more justified in falling into a taxation system is the development of scientific research - we all have a fair obligation to contribute to it.

    But of course, taxes would only be aimed at those who sell on the inventions to others and not those who build them in their own homes. The thing about patents is that we are dealing with physically scarce goods unlike copyright... so it is not like you can left-click and copy an invention 10,000 times with practically no cost. It takes time and resources.

    The development of scientific research has different philosophies than creativity and copyright. We are dealing with an issue that is a lot more common and vital amongst humanity. Patents make the mistake of playing the "intellectual property" card when just like copyright we are dealing with services, not goods. Patents also have a danger of falling for degrees of privatisation and distortion, a point proven in the patent trolling nonsense. This calls for a degree of accountability in what science deserves to be rewarded, and I think an independent regulator would also be able to prevent pharmaceuticals from cheating the system by adding antacids to current drugs and calling them new, just to patent all over again. Scientific reason when brought to the table more productively like this will not allow bullshit like that to slip under the radar.

    It's harder to imagine how crowdfunding could be a substitute for scientific R and D since profits are often accumulated over time, and not just in one payment. Besides, my idea of taxing those who duplicate the inventions IS accumulative crowdfunding, basically.

    Also, if global treaties were put forward around this idea (since scientific development is unilateral in this respect) then taxes would be lowered since more people are contributing - supply and demand, ironically enough!

    Here is another way of looking at it: education is often a social issue, when it comes to primary and secondary especially. And where I live, Scotland, it is also a social issue for tertiary education (the government pays our University tuition fees for us). The development of University education is becoming more globalised with online courses no doubt, but I reckon that there is still a universal sense of saying that young people have the right to education that is not discriminated based on their wealth and class.

    I reckon this principle has to apply to scientific development. It should not be privatised, and neither should education.

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