defending the right to innovate
Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.
Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.
There is a nice interview with the president of Ultimate Fighting Championships (Dana White) in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, on June 7th, in the Sports section. This sport now seems to be bigger (in terms of revenue) than both boxing and WWF. Who came up with the idea? According to White: "this thing started in 1993 when a bunch of TV guys wanted to answer the question, "What fighting style is best?" Would a boxer beat a wrestler? And so on .... These guys never knew they were creating a sport at all. They just sort of fell into it." Innovation here proceeded as it often does -- through good luck.
Yesterday's New York Times had an obituary for Calvert DeForest aka "Larry (Bud) Melman" of "Late Night With David Letterman" fame. It reported, as some of you may remember, that NBC claimed ownership of the Larry (Bud) name when Letterman moved to CBS ---- and Calvert was barred from using the name again. Another example, perhaps small, of the evils of intellectual monopoly. link here
A NYT article (May 9th, p A4), "Vinters with personal flair can't brag on wine labels", discusses how a new trade agreement between the EU and United States puts sharp limits on labeling of wine bottles. It seems small European growers may not be able to indicate they use oak barrels and other methods that would distinguish themselves from the larger, more "industrial" U.S. wine makers.
Without patents, innovations will be imitated, and hence not developed. So goes the logic underlying most economic models of innovation. The case of the development of containerized shipping (a major transportation innovation) offers valuable lessons regarding this logic. If an innovation was to be easily imitated, the innovation of putting cargo in a box would seem to be a good candidate. Someone would load the first box on a ship, and then everyone would start doing it. Yet as Marc Levinson discusses in the 25 April, 2006 edition of the Financial Times, "Unforeseen consequence: how a box transformed the world," it took the industry a long time to understand how important the box would be, and how to use it. In fact, "the most remarkable aspect of its [the box] history is that no one foresaw how the box would change everything it touched, from ships and ports to patterns of global trade."
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that city plumbers are blocking new waterless urinals since they require less pipe and hence less work. In the story the reporter, Inga Saffron, contacted mayoral candidates to find out where they stood on the issue. Typical answer: no comment.
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