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 @ 5:13am

    The inverse is not also true

    It is worth noting that I.P. law only attaches to new art, not any kind of merit in that art, and that it doesn't apply in any capacity in the defense of the intrinsic value in standardization.

    Compatibility is an idea that the law explicitly rejects as a protectable right. "new art" is indistinguishable from malicious proprieterization as far as the law is concerned.

    IOW protocols generally can't be patented because their entire purpose is to be standardized, but standardization has no value before the law because to constrain development to any kind of standard would constrain new art.

    EEE is based on this inversion.

    It really makes policing combatibility impossible. Some will say that is the price you pay, and I don't necessarily have a problem with that, so much as WHO the price is paid to and why.

    I.P. law as it stands, does not protect innovation, it protects market share. 3 things the USPTO could do to join the current century:

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

    2. Upgrade from tiff, (you crusty old trolls)

    3. 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.

    Part of this is really up to the open source community. There needs to be some sort of product license similar to GNU that is oriented specifically towards patenting "encoding systems", and licensing ONLY in the event that a compatability is maintained. Much like the java license that inspired a certain lawsuit that changed the course of American history.

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