Excellent article over at the EFF stating “let the market decide” on the Apple v. Samsung patent issue.


Personally I think patents are nothing but “artificial barriers to entry” and don’t belong in a free market. Well, mostly…more on that later. In general I think they cause more harm than good, and are nothing more than a method of creating privatized taxation.


I’ve had many colleagues in engineering look at me like I’m insane. Oh, we’re talking about my attitude on patents. I’ve had many colleagues in engineering yell and scream at me saying “how dare you oppose patents!”. Their idea is that patents protect all of _their_ hard work, and all of the investment of the firm in _their_ idea.

Ok. Have you ever read Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions“? Damn good book. Among other things he discusses how many advances were not one person’s doing, but came in to being simultaneously by independent developers. Calculus anyone? I’m a strong proponent of this concept that ideas are not individualistic brainstorms, but the are things that happen because it’s the right time for them to happen. It’s something of a zeitgeist thing. Throughout history, people have come up with the same ideas at the same time. The simplest reason is because the technology and information available to all are pretty much the same, at least in a meta, historical perspective, and the needs of society are the same, so…inventors/techies solve the same problems. I won’t get in to the more out there reasons, but those are phun too.

So given this sort of historical reality, who really came up with the idea? I feel that ideas are “copies without an original“. Our meme flooded ‘net is a major example of this.

So if more than one inventor has the “idea”, who gets the patent? Some argue that the patent belongs to the one who worked hard, built a prototype, and got their first. Ok, that’s a great meritocracy dream, but really, who gets the patent? The one with the deepest pockets and the most lawyers. A system that supposedly was designed to protect hard work and investment (so that investment and hard work could boost that person’s returns) ends up being a barrier to the “American dream”, and only protecting those who have already have “made it”. This doesn’t allow for a marketplace of ideas, it creates a protected class, those with the best lawyers.

“But, but…without patents, nopony wants to invent new things! Capitalism would become stagnant! No one will take risks if they can’t protect those risks! It’ll be the death of Adam Smith and progress by competition!”

What.The.Fuck.Ever. Do you really believe that? That if it were riskier across the board to invest capital, that all of a sudden the capitalists wouldn’t want to make more money by investing? Huh? Geeze, some of the supposed right-wing “capitalists” sure have dizzying intellects. That or they will claim anything that risks their personal wealth is “not true capitalism”.

Let’s look at some real world examples: fashion, and Formula 1. (Yes, I believe that most important discussions can somehow be connected to Formula 1). Intellectual property protection in these realms? Non-existent. Keep it secret, keep it safe…yeah, until race day or the next runway show, and boom, all your stuff is out there for everypony to see and copy.

Yet, not only are these realms competitive, they are hyper competitive. Total capitalism “survival of the fittest”. Compare the rapid pace of development in Formula 1 versus what goes on in Detroit. You know, Detroit, that castle of capitalism, the city with the best tech, most start-ups…I’m sure Adam Smith is uber proud.

Ok, so I will admit, I’ve got mixed feelings about all of this. Those who know me know that I am a techpreneur and inventor. I’ve got my own products that I would like to market, and I don’t have deep pockets for quick deployment…so is a patent my only option to protect “my idea”? Do I fret about losing value from my hard work, or do I just do my best and let the market decide? Either way, I doubt the patent system will work for me. It really doesn’t help the independent inventor without a lot of capital. It’s all about Apple and Samsung arguing over inventions that, frankly, are “obvious to one well versed in the field”, and shouldn’t be patentable in the first place.

Perhaps my situation, concern of losing value of “my ideas” being copied, would be less of a concern in the “artificial barriers to entry” weren’t there, and it was much easier for everypony to join the game.

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