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Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Blocking Technology

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.


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SOPA/PIPA and ??

This domain closure stuff is seriously bad news. If the report is to believed a site that provides online forms to hundreds of thousands of users was cut off by their internet provider (Go Daddy - well they were idiots for using Go Daddy for DNS services) at the request of the Secret Service who were investigating something or other - and investigating so hard that they promised they'd look into the site closure in a few days.

If every government bureaucrat (not to speak of those from the MPAA and RIAA) can close down a site with hundreds of thousands of users for a few days because of alleged bad behavior by one of those users we are in deep trouble.

Look, suppose somebody committed telephone fraud in the State of North Dakota. Would that justify shutting down all telephone service in North Dakota while the fraud was investigated? How well would the economy function if we allowed this sort of thing?

Your patent system at work

The conclusion seems to be that we can't have tablets or smart phones because every device violates someone's patent. See how the patent system encourage innovation?

NPR notices patent trolls

The notion that patent trolls, made possible by the institution of patents, are a very serious impediment to innovation is slowly making its way in public opinion. A nice and recent example is a nice piece by NPR, the national public broadcaster in the US: When patents attack. The link includes an MP3 of the episode.

Hat tip: orgtheory.net.

Nortel patents; Guess who pays!

If you read either the newspapers or the business press, you still won't really be sure about the details of Nortel's sale of its patents, but apparently some were sold to a consortium of Microsoft, Apple, etc. and some were sold to individual companies link here. This is being played as a defeat for Google which made an initial bid and subsequent competitive bids but dropped out after the price rose above $4 billion. It might equally be viewed as a victory for Google, having made arch-competitors pay far more than they dreamed of having to.

The real losers here were us consumers who will pay more for things produced under the patents. We will also see less inter-company competition and less innovation. This further cements the already long standing position of the incumbents, which will also restrict innovation.

Still think patents promote innovation?

ACTA in Europe

The Americans are trying to force ACTA - think super-DMCA - down the throat of Europe. While it's been watered down a bit, it's still quite obnoxious, and almost bound to choke off innovation. Via Hinnerk Gnutzmann a group of European academics, largely lawyers, has a petition against the current form of the ACTA. It's quite a moderate document - it conceded the basic usefulness of ACTA, which I view as very counterproductive - but still represents a step in the right direction. If I were a European academic I would sign it.

All too believable

Is there no technology so good that "patent holders" don't want to block it? This is why I hate IP. If they had patents when the agricultural revolution hit, we'd still be hunter-gatherers.

Intellectual Property vs. Global Warming

The damage done by intellectual property goes well beyond the prevention of the downloading of music. Yesterday's story about a Goldman Sachs employee downloading proprietary information was not exactly an example of a violation of intellectual property laws, but rather a theft of trade secrets -- perhaps a distinction without a difference.

Below, is a story about Toyota, supposedly benign force in the green economy by virtue of the Prius. Here is another side of the story in which Toyota is using intellectual property to make competition difficult.

One might be sympathetic to Toyota you were selling socks or toothpaste, but global warming seems to be too important to be gamed by such shenanigans.

Murphy, John. 2009. "Toyota Builds Thicket of Patents Around Hybrid To Block Competitors." Wall Street Journal (1 July): p. B 1.

"The Obama administration's tough new fuel-efficiency standards could pose problems for some car makers, but Toyota Motor Corp. is hoping to benefit. The Japanese company is betting the rules will give an advantage to its expanding lineup of hybrid vehicles, and it also aims to boost revenue by licensing to other car makers the patents that protect its fuel-saving technologies. Since it started developing the gas-electric Prius more than a decade ago, Toyota has kept its attorneys just as busy as its engineers, meticulously filing for patents on more than 2,000 systems and components for its best-selling hybrid. Its third-generation Prius, which hit showrooms in May, accounts for about half of those patents alone. Toyota's goal: to make it difficult for other auto makers to develop their own hybrids without seeking licensing from Toyota."

French firm has patents on using computers to choose medical treatment

Is anybody here aware of the website, HarmfulPatents.org link here? It is a new ally in the fight against patent-based monopoly. Mike Masnick gets a hat tip for this one, in his site, link here. HarmfulPatents is run by a doctor-professor at Stanford, Dr. Robert Shafer. He had developed a database on HIV that is used to identify possible treatments. Then he and his university got sued by Advanced Biological Laboratories, a French firm which claims that its patents cover the use of computers to make diagnostic decisions. Stanford settled, but the doctor hasn't, starting the website and asking the patent office to re-examine and invalidate the patents. ABL's settlement with Stanford ends the suit against Dr Shafer and allows not-for-profit use of his database. Final irony in this outrage: the European Patent Office rejected the patents on the grounds they were obvious.

Elsevier

Elsevier is a publisher which now owns the rights to most academic journals. This has been a sore point in the academic community for a long time. In effect because of the way copyright works, they own the rights to a large fraction of existing scientific publications, as well as the names (and reputations) of journals. Their business model is one of squeezing libraries for high subscription prices usually for a package of journal, including one reputable one, and a lot that are not so much so. You can read about efforts by economists in general and Ted Berstrom in particular to end this situation here. There are two key points: first Elsevier makes articles expensive and difficult to access. Second, they recognize that they are a dying industry - the model of authors, editors and referees providing their services for free and Elsevier collecting from the libraries is obsolete now that redistribution is possible via the web. So (smartly from their point of view) they are squeezing out the last drops of blood. But it is worse than that - they apparently have a new business model in which they are paid by lobbyists to create fake journals to publish articles supporting the lobbyists point of view. You can find detail on the Economic Logic Blog,

They haven't got rid of the libraries yet

Although they are working hard. Stephan points us to a list of libraries available online.

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Most Recent Comments

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Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

Les patent trolls ne sont pas toujours des officines

Patent Lawyers Who Don't Toe the Line Should Be Punished! Moreover "the single most destructive force to innovation is patents". We'd like to unite with you

Bonfire of the Missalettes!

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Does the decline in total factor productivity explain the drop in innovation? I wondered about TFP, because I had heard that TFP was increasing. Apparently, it depends on who

Music without copyright I do agree with all the ideas you have presented in your post. They are very convincing and will

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Patents on 3D Printing Challenged by Prior Art To Loup Vaillant: "So, you think we wouldn't have had those 9 technologies without patents? I can

Patents on 3D Printing Challenged by Prior Art @anonymous: So, you think we wouldn't have had those 9 technologies without patents? I can accept

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