A question about IP 6

Here is a question for all of you. If you have read any significant amount of my posts you may have already realized what I am about to say. I am very troubled by the concept of intellectual property. Two definitions that come from dictionary.com

intangible property that is the result of creativity (such as patents or trademarks or copyrights)


(IP) The ownership of ideas and control over the
tangible or virtual representation of those ideas. Use of
another person’s intellectual property may or may not involve
royalty payments or permission, but should always include
proper credit to the source.

The ownership of ideas is the part that bothers me the most. The whole concept is troubling. In a speech I heard by Lawrence Lessig he articulated a concept that resonates with me. If some has a tangible object like a camera, and another person takes it, the original possessor no longer has it and can no longer benefit from it. If one person has an idea and another person uses it, the first person still has the idea and can do what they want with it. The first person has not lost the benefit of that idea. They can still use the idea.

I’m not totally opposed to the idea of patents, because I think if someone comes up with a truly creative and original idea they should be able to make some money off that idea. But that should be based on a specific implementation of the idea. if someone comes up with a different or better way of doing the same thing they should be allowed to do that and compete. The basic idea should be open. That is what creates progress. People taking ideas and improving on them or coming up with better implementations. If someone cannot implement an idea they should not be given blanket monopoly control over a general concept. Even more importantly given the pace of technological development over the last few decades the length of any patent protection needs to be reduced not increased. I’m obviously rambling a bit here, but I’d like to know what other people think. Please comment on this post.

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6 thoughts on “A question about IP

  • trusty getto

    Far as I know, you can’t “own” an idea. An idea is just that, and idea. Anyone can have one and do with it what they please. Patents are for the implementation of ideas, not the ideas themselves, and you can’t copyright, trademark or otherwise protect an idea, so far as I’m aware. In that sense, the definition varies from what is actually protected by the law, as mere ideas are not.

  • Sam Post author

    You’re not supposed to be able to own an idea. Unfortunately in the last 10-15 years the patent system has completely broken down. There are so many applications that examiners just don’t have the time or the knowledge to properly examine them. One fo the most eggregious cases recently was the applications for patents for movie storylines. There are of course also some of the infamous internet “business model” pattents from the 90’s such as Amazon’s “One-Click Shopping” patent. And who can forget the sideways swinging patent. Currently the Supreme Court is considering a case over a patent for an idea. The system is out of control. Is it better for society and human progress to have a broken system that locks down ideas or no system at all?

  • trusty getto

    Clearly, Sam, it’s better to have a system that’s flawed than no system at all. The real question is how to go about fixing it, no? The law of IP is always 5-10 years behind the times. What makes that so bad now is that technology development seems to be accelerating, so back in the 90s, being 5 years behind wasn’t all that big of a deal compared to now.

    So what do we do?