Gavin R. Putland,  BE PhD

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 (Comment)

Why patents are ‘basically iniquitous’

. . . Copyrights stop you from copying other peoples thoughts, but don't stop you from independently thinking similar thoughts and profiting from them. Patents do both. Hence copyrights encourage creativity by protecting you from blatant copiers, whereas patents stifle creativity through the fear that someone else, unknown to you, may have laid or may be about to lay an exclusive claim to some trivial part of your invention or to some ridiculously broad generalization of it, in which case your ignorance of that circumstance will not protect you, and the other party will be able to take your complex idea in return for not suing you over a simple one. This contrast concerning independent reinvention is the fundamental difference between copyright law and patent law, and the fundamental reason why copyrights are basically just while patents are basically iniquitous. As the conflation of land with capital as “means of production” leads either to the privatization of both (capitalism) or to the nationalization of both (socialism), so the conflation of patents with copyrights as “intellectual property” (IP) leads either to the acceptance of both (the capitalist/monopolist position) or to the rejection of both (the libertarian/anarchist position).

[From Alternative Economic Review, No.2 (November 2007). Posted here Aug.18, 2010. See also “Make patents like copyrights”.]

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