Christian Engström, Pirat

2 oktober 2012

The Case for Abolishing Patents (Yes, All of Them)

Filed under: English,fri kunskap — Christian Engström @ 17:42

The Atlantic has a very interesting article with the title The Case for Abolishing Patents (Yes, All of Them):

Our patent system is a mess. It’s a fount of expensive litigation that allows aging companies to linger around by bullying their more innovative competitors in court.

Critics have suggested plenty of reasonable reforms, from eliminating software patents to clamping down on ”trolls” who buy up patent portfolios only so they can file lawsuits. But do we need a more radical solution? Would we be possibly be better off without any patents at all?

That’s the striking suggestion from a Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis working paper by Michele Boldrin and David Levine, professors at Washington University in St. Louis who argue that any patent system, no matter how well conceived, is bound to devolve into the kind of quagmire we’re dealing with today.

Read more at The Atlantic

It is very nice to hear some other voices than just us Pirates suggesting this.

3 kommentarer

  1. Well, actually in the article they *do* differentiate between patents in different technical areas and end up with at list ofmore modest proposals they think would improve the (US) patent system. Some of them definitely also applicable to the European patent system.

    It is true that they challenge and invalidate the common claims of patents as fostering innovation and productivity but on the other hand they never even with a word mention the (in my opinion) noble endeavour of constructing a gigantic technical encyclopedia, searchable, retrievable and with a standardized terminology that is the other side of the patent coin. The spirit of the enlightenment never falls upon them.

    It is also certainly true when they observe that only self-interest seems to have a voice in the patent legislative world. Unfortunately that also includes the rational choice economists behind this article that seem incapable of understanding that the encyclopedic vision is a value in itself, detached from group economic interests.

    We have argued about this before so I do not expect to convince in any way.

    Kommentar av viktualiebroder — 2 oktober 2012 @ 22:07

  2. Viktualiebroder wrote:

    …the (in my opinion) noble endeavour of constructing a gigantic technical encyclopedia, searchable, retrievable and with a standardized terminology that is the other side of the patent coin. The spirit of the enlightenment…

    I agree that the construction of a gigantic technical encyclopedia would indeed be a noble endeavour, in the spirit of enlightenment.

    But let us recognize the fact that the patent system has failed to produce that. As is specifically mentioned in the report, most modern patent are written in such a way that the confer very little knowledge, and engineers are often explicitly forbidden by company policy from reading patent databases (because it increases the risk of triple damages due to willful infringement).

    It is true that the patent profession often uses the arguement that patents lead to disclosure of things that would otherwise remain secret (and presumably never invented by anybody else). But as the report shows, this claim is simply not true.

    A technical encyclopedia like the one you describe, freely avaiable without cost do everybody in the world, would be a great thing. The patent system has proved unable to produce this (in 150 years).

    This is almost certainly because monopolies are not a good tool for either creating or dissiminating new knowledge. Contrast the patent system’s failure in this respect with the astounding success of Wikipedia. Openness and collaboration have shown that they can create a general encyclopedia in a way that nobody would have thought possible.

    If we really want a technical searchable encyclopedia like you say, we should look to Wikipedia, not the patent system, for a model.

    Kommentar av Christian Engström — 2 oktober 2012 @ 22:29

  3. The authors of the article also published a book a few years ago that is worth reading, It’s available online here:

    Kommentar av David — 3 oktober 2012 @ 12:28

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