Techdirt Reading List: The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation

from the imitation-is-more-than-just-flattery dept

We're back again with another in our weekly reading list posts of books we think our community will find interesting and thought provoking. Once again, buying the book via the Amazon links in this story also helps support Techdirt.


This week, we've got the wonderful book The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation by law professors Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman. We have written about the book before and have even hosted some excerpts from the book, but it's a really great and important read. We mentioned it earlier this week in our story about the attempts to lock up pot with intellectual property protections -- because that story reflected much of what's in the Knockoff Economy.

The key point of the book is to highlight that the very premise behind many calls for intellectual property protection doesn't stand up to much scrutiny. Defenders of the system usually insist that copyrights and patents are necessary for creating the incentives to create or to innovate in a market. Yet, Raustiala and Sprigman carefully detail a bunch of different industries that don't have intellectual property protection, and over and over again, they see the same thing: more competition and more innovation, rather than less. For many years, we've highlighted the fact that it is frequently competition that drives innovation, yet so much of our public policy is based on the fallacy that it's monopoly rights that drive innovation. Thus, the Knockoff Economy is a really useful work in highlighting that perhaps the very premise that so much intellectual property protection is based on is wrong.

That's not to say, necessarily, that copyrights or patents have no place (though I know some of you do believe that) at all in modern society. But, at the very least, we should be looking at what is the actual impact of those laws, and are they really increasing innovation or doing something else entirely.
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Filed Under: imitation, innovation, knockoff economy, reading list, techdirt reading list


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2015 @ 9:20am

    Re: The inverse is not also true

    "It is worth noting that I.P. law only attaches to new art"

    A lot of things that ideally shouldn't get any protection often do end up getting protection.

    It's also worth mentioning that IP is predominantly lobbied for by business interests and not the public and so this should raise skepticism over the interests it's designed to serve.

    "Compatibility is an idea that the law explicitly rejects as a protectable right."

    You seem to be making things up. Apple devices, for instance, have proprietary connectors which prevents others from making compatible ones. In fact a lot of IP is exactly about allowing companies to make things proprietary and to lock out competitors from making anything compatible with them. Apple has had a long history of this.

    "1. Implement a lower registration fee for patent lefted I.P."

    The USPTO already has enough problems with approving very low quality patents that should never have been approved. To lower the fee will simply encourage more companies to apply for even more frivolous patents further bombarding the USPTO with more patents that they don't have the resources or time to fully investigate and it would provide the USPTO with even less funds that they can use to hire someone to spend more time necessary to fully investigate a patent before approving it.

    "Investigate and arrest some of the institutions doing systematized MIM attacks against the USPTO and it's clients, of which there are DOZENS, including a number of large corporations."

    [citation needed]

    This seems like more unsourced imaginary nonsense that you're making up that seems in line with the crazy Google conspiracy theories that the shills around here come up with when they blame Google for everything possible and claim that Google is secretly paying Techdirt. The source is that you had a dream.

    and exactly how are these corporations getting in between the USPTO and its 'clients'. and since when does the USPTO have 'clients'. Its only 'clients' should be the public interest not those applying for patents. Your post seems to be an admission that the USPTO's purpose is to serve its clients that pay it to process patents and not the public. The USPTO is not a business and these posts kinda show the type of mentality that IP defenders tend to have. The government shouldn't be about the public but about the client businesses that pay the government for special privileges.

    So do explain how these corporations are allegedly getting in between the USPTO and their 'clients'. Because the way it works (oversimplifying) is you have

    web server
    ISP (well, there is more in the middle but to simplify)
    Client

    So for someone to get in between they would need some access in between. Are you suggesting the ISP, in the middle, is acquiring that access? Or maybe the NSA? Or are all of these corporations that you claim are getting in between the two secretly working with ISPs and the NSA.

    and does the USPTO really have bad security on their website that their website isn't signed (uhm ... I just visited their website and I don't see an https). Perhaps the solution then is for the USPTO to implement some more security to their website to prevent MITM attacks.

    Regardless all of this Internet and security stuff is way past your coherency (given how incoherent your sentences are I can't reasonably expect you to be the type of person with enough coherency to understand this stuff) and you are simply making things up out of nowhere.

    Or are you complaining that companies either petition the USPTO over bad patents or seek to get them overturned in court and that should be illegal and they should be arrested for that because by petitioning the USPTO over bad patents or getting them overturned in court they are getting in between the USPTO and its 'clients' (it's hard to tell given how poorly you express yourself. Typical IP defender, too lazy to make their intent clear because it requires too much work and IP defenders want everything for free which is what IP laws are based upon).

    Your post seems mostly too incoherent to really respond to but at least these are some points worth mentioning.

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