The Real Battle: Permission vs. Innovation; Lawyers vs. Innovators
from the which-one-works-better dept
But there is still a culture gap here. Specifically, there are two ways of thinking about how business meets law: the permission model and the innovation model. In one, there's some gatekeeper that has set out a list of things you can do and things you can't. If you want to do something different that nobody has done, you can get permission from that gatekeeper to allow it, if it has enough merit and/or you have enough influence. In the other, you can do what you want, unless it's so harmful that someone takes action to stop you...We've seen (and made) similar arguments in the past about the difference between gatekeeping and innovation, but Alpert's writeup lays it out quite nicely and is a worthwhile read. Check it out.
[...] Patents turn an innovation system into a permission system by carving up the space of possible things you could do but haven't yet, and giving them to anyone who comes along and pays a fee to grab that piece of idea land. Patents don't stop someone from building a product, but they do force them to check with everyone who has patents in the area first and get their permission.
That impedes someone from building a better website that effectively competes with an existing one. It even stops organizations like transit agencies from doing the mostly-obvious, like letting riders track trains and buses in real time, because a "patent troll" has the patent and wants to extract money from anyone stepping nearby.
A number of technology/
policy/ economics writers, like Tim Lee, have been talking about the destructive effects of patents for some time, but running into resistance from an interesting quarter: lawyers. It seems that most lawyers, accustomed to the world of law where everything is set up with a rule, find the permission system of patents more familiar and comfortable than the innovation model. The problem is, familiar doesn't mean good; patents are slowing down Silicon Valley and favoring large, established companies.
It certainly explains the general clash between entrepreneurs and innovators and any regulatory body they seem to come up against. It's not just a disagreement about the best way to handle things, it's a conflict of totally different paradigms. That can make for much louder clashes and much more confusion. But not much actual innovation.
Part of this really may just be a hammer/nail problem. Politicians have a single real tool: regulation. So that's the tool they always use, in the belief that it will lead to innovation. But, innovation doesn't work by following rules, but by ripping apart the rulebook, and showing that the rules don't make sense. It goes beyond just a clash of cultures to a fundamentally different view of how innovation works.