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As noted here
, "Ayn Rand's newsletters used to end with a "Horror File" of monstrous but true quotations."
Along those lines, it's time to collect some choice trademark horror stories in one place. The main post will be here, on the Mises Blog, but I'll cross-post the initial post here too. But look there for updates (or to add suggestions in the comments). (Update: I have modified this post to also include outrageous examples from patent, copyright, and trade secret law. See below.)
As noted in Trademark versus Copyright and Patent, or: Is All IP Evil?
, it's not only patent and copyright that are unlibertarian and unjust. Modern trademark law is as well. I deal with tradmark rights on pp. 58-59 of Against Intellectual Property
, and also in some detail in Reply to Van Dun: Non-Aggression and Title Transfer
(esp. pp. 59-63). In my view, extensions of trademark law--rights against "trademark dilution" and cybersquatting, etc.--are obviously invalid. Further, federal trademark law is problematic since it is not authorized in the Constitution.
But even if federal trademark law were abolished, as well as modern extensions such as rights against trademark dilution, even common law trademark is problematic, for three primary reasons. First, it is enforced by the state, which gets everything wrong. Second (see First), the test of "consumer confusion" is usually applied ridiculously, treating consumers like indiscriminating idiots. Third, and worst of all, the right at issue is the right of the defrauded consumer, not the competitor. Trademark law ought to be reformed by abolishing the right of trademark "owners" to sue "infringers" (except perhaps as proxy for customers, when consent can be presumed or proved--as I discuss in this interview: Free Talk Live Interview on Reducing IP Costs (Jan. 20, 2010)), and treating this as a case of the customer's right to sue a vendor who defrauds him as to the nature of the good purchased. Some might argue that this is only a minor change, but it is not: such a change would make it clear that "knockoffs" are usually not a violation of anyone's rights: the buyer of a $10 "Rolex" is almost never defrauded--he knows what he's getting. Yet by giving an enforceable trademark right to the user of a mark, he can sue knockoff companies even though their customers are not defrauded and in fact are perfectly happy to buy the knockoff products.
The other fallacy is the view at work here that there is no such thing as reputation, or even identity, absent trademark law. But this is incorrect. Of course people and firms can have reputations even if trademark law is nonexistent. All that is required is that people be able to identify other people and firms, and communicate. Pro-trademark arguments often implicitly assume that this is not possible, absent state-enforced trademark law, which is ridiculous.
In any event, on to a collection of trademark outrages for the horror files (some of these are also listed in Reducing the Cost of IP Law):
- Court Says U Of Southern California Only One Who Can Use USC; Sorry U Of South Carolina
- Who Dat? America's National Football League causes outrage over catchphrase ban
- What's Next--Trademarking Language? Don't be *Ridiculous*!
- South Butt David versus North Face Goliath
- Lou Carlozo, Teen's charity name draws the McIre of McDonald's, Wallet Pop (Jan. 17, 2010) (McDonadl's claims Lauren McClusky's use of "McFest" for the name of a series of charity concerts she puts on infringes its "McFamily" brand)
- Budweiser trademark dispute (see also Chip Wood, A Bully-Boy Beer Brewer, Straight Talk (Oct. 16, 2007))
- 9th Circuit Appeals Court Says Its Ok To Criticize Trademarks After All, Against Monopoly (Sept. 26, 2007)
- Kinsella, Trademarks and Free Speech, Mises Blog (Aug. 8, 2007)
- idem, Beemer must be next
(BMW, Trademarks, and the letter "M"), Mises Blog (Mar. 20, 2007)
- idem, Hypocritical Apple (Trademark), Mises Blog (Jan. 11, 2007)
- ECJ: "Parmesian" Infringes PDO for "Parmigiano Reggiano," I/P Updates (Feb. 27, 2008)
- Mike Masnick, Engadget Mobile Threatened For Using T-Mobile's Trademarked Magenta, Techdirt (Mar. 31, 2008)
Taken (in part) from my article Radical Patent Reform Is Not on the Way, Appendix: Examples of Outrageous Patents and Judgments:
Examples of (at least apparently) ridiculous patents and patent applications abound (more at PatentLawPractice
- Amazon's "one-click" patent, asserted against rival Barnes & Noble;
- Cendant's assertion that Amazon violated Cendant's patent monopoly on recommending books to customers (since settled);
- The attempt of Dustin Stamper, Bush's Top Economist, to secure a patent regarding an application for a System And Method For Multi-State Tax Analysis, which claims "a method, comprising: creating one or more alternate entity structures based on a base entity structure, the base entity structure comprising one or more entities; determining a tax liability for each alternate entity structure and the base entity structure; and generating a result based on comparing each of the determined tax liabilities";
- Apple's patent application for digital Karaoke;
- the suit against Facebook by the holder of a patent for a "system for creating a community for users with common interests to interact in";
- the "absurdly broad patent [issued to Blackboard] for common uses of technology if that technology is employed in the context of education" (see also Patent Office Rejects Blackboard E-Learning Patent One Month After It Wins Lawsuit, Techdirt (Mar. 31, 2008);
- Compton's (now Encyclopedia Britannica's) patent that "broadly cover[s] any multimedia database allowing users to simultaneously search for text, graphics, and sounds basic features found in virtually every multimedia product on the market";
- Carfax's patent on a "method for perusing selected vehicles having a clean title history";
- Acacia's patent for putting a unique transaction number on a receipt;
- Pat. No. 6,368,227, covering swinging sideways on a swing;
The Supreme Court, in the 1882 case Atlantic Works v. Brady
, 107 US 192, itself lists examples of patents
issued to "gadgets that obviously have had no place in the constitutional scheme of advancing scientific knowledge
the simplest of devices." These included
- a particular doorknob made of clay rather than metal or wood, where differently shaped doorknobs had previously been made of clay;
- making collars of parchment paper where linen paper and linen had previously been used;
- a method for preserving fish by freezing them in a container that operates in the same manner as an ice-cream freezer.
- rubber caps put on wood pencils to serve as erasers;
- inserting a piece of rubber in a slot in the end of a wood pencil to serve as an eraser;
- a stamp for impressing initials in the side of a plug of tobacco;
- a hose reel of large diameter so that water may flow through the hose while it is wound on the reel;
- putting rollers on a machine to make it movable;
- using flat cord instead of round cord for the loop at the end of suspenders;
- placing rubber hand grips on bicycle handlebars;
- an oval rather than cylindrical toilet paper roll, to facilitate tearing off strips.
Below are a few notable or recent examples of large, significant, troubling, or apparently outrageous injunctions, damages awards, and the like:
- In Stent Patent War, Boston Scientific Caves (Again), Agrees to Pay Johnson & Johnson $1.725 Billion to Settle Three Cases;
- Qualcomm has been enjoined from importing chips that help conserve power in cell phones (discussion; latest developments). See also Eric Bangeman, ITC to Bar Import of New Handsets in Patent Dustup, ars technica (June 7, 2007); Nokia's Patent-Licensing Case against Qualcomm Dropped by Dutch Court, engadget (Nov. 14, 2007); Broadcom Wins Major Injunction against Qualcomm, engadget (Dec. 31, 2007); ITC Upholds Ruling, Reiterates that Nokia Didn't Violate Qualcomm Patents, engadget (Feb. 29, 2008).
- Texas-Sized Patent Win, Texas Lawyer (Feb. 21, 2008). A New Jersey doctor was awarded $432 Million as a "reasonable royalty" against Boston Scientific for infringing his "Method and Apparatus for Managing Macromolecular Distribution."
- Smartphones Patented
Just About Everyone Sued 1 Minute After Patent Issued, Techdirt (Jan. 24, 2008).
- Farmer David Reaps What He Has Sown: A Patent Suit, Patent Baristas (Feb. 13, 2008) Even though "the practice of saving seeds after a harvest to plant the next season is as old as farming itself," patents prevent farmers from saving patented seeds.
- Apple, Starbucks Sued over Custom Music Gift Cards, AppleInsider (Feb. 20, 2008) A Utah couple sue Apple and Starbucks over their "'Song of the Day' promotion, which offers Starbucks customers a iTunes gift card for a complimentary, pre-selected song download." The suit is based on a patent on a "retail point of sale for online merchandising" which allows customers to buy a gift card from a brick-and-mortar store and then go home and redeem the card online.
- Apple Sued Over Caller ID on the iPhone, Techdirt (Feb. 27, 2008). The patent is on "matching up the phone number of an incoming call with a local contact database to display who is calling."
- The new 802.11n Wi-Fi standard (which promises to significantly increase Wi-Fi speed and range) is in jeopardy due to patent threats. See Bill Ray, Next Generation Wi-Fi Mired in Patent Fears, The Register (Sept. 21, 2007).
- SanDisk Sues 25 Companies for Patent Infringement: "Suits have been filed against 25 companies by the SanDisk corporation this week, as the company looks to stop businesses from shipping products it alleges are infringing on its work. SanDisk has filed suits against everyone from MP3 player manufacturers to USB hard drive creators. The list of defendants is staggering, and MacWorld notes if Sandisk succeeds it could have repercussions outside of the courtroom.
complaints could affect the prices and availability of products made by companies targeted in the suit if SanDisk wins and the companies are barred from importing products into the U.S."
- Patent Office Upholds Tivo's "Time Warp" Patent, EchoStar Not so Happy, engadget (Nov. 29, 2007); see also Tivo Inc. v. EchoStar Communications Corp. (S. D. Tex., Dec. 2, 2006); and TiVo Wins on Appeal: Permanent Injunction against EchoStar to be Reinstated, Patently-O (Jan. 31, 2008).
- Jacqui Cheng, U R SUED: Patent Holding Company Targets 131 Companies over SMS patents, ars technica (Nov. 13, 2007).
- The International Trade Commission (ITC) may ban imports of many popular hard drives that "are alleged to infringe on patents owned by California residents Steven and Mary Reiber related to a 'Dissipative ceramic bonding tool tip.'" Jacqui Cheng, Hard Times for Hard Drives: US May Ban Popular Imports, ars technica (Oct. 11, 2007).
- The VoIP phone service Vonage may be put out of business by patents. Sprint recently won a patent case against Vonage in which $69.5 million was awarded in damages. Sprint had planned "to ask the court to permanently ban Vonage from using its patented technology," but the case was subsequently settled for $80 million. However, in a separate patent lawsuit between Verizon and Vonage, the jury found that Vonage had violated three Verizon patents, and awarded Verizon $58 million in damages plus ongoing royalties. Vonage claims it has developed workarounds for two of the patents. See Kim Hart, Sprint Wins Patent Case Against Vonage: Reston Firm Awarded $69.5 Million in Second Blow to Internet Phone Company, Washington Post (Sept. 26, 2007); Peter Svensson, Vonage Settles Patent Suit with Sprint, BusinessWeek (Oct. 8, 2007). Latest: Vonage Settles with Verizon, Owes Up to $117.5 Million; Vonage, Nortel Call a Truce No Cash Changing Hands, engadget (Dec. 31, 2007).
- Kinsella, Revolutionary Television Design Killed by Patents (2007).
- BlackBerry's manufacturer, RIM, was forced to cough up $612.5 million after NTP used patent law to threaten to shut RIM down.
- Microsoft was on the receiving end of a $1.5 billion jury verdict for infringing an MP3 patent held by Alcatel-Lucent (which was recently overturned).
- After Kodak sought more than $1 billion in damages from Sun Microsystems for patent infringement, Kodak finally settled for $92 million. (And according to one colleague, the verdict resulted "in the immediate shutdown of Kodak's entire instant photography division, with the immediate loss of 800 jobs. And, some say, the eventual failure of Polaroid due to lack of any real competition to keep them on their toes!")
- In another recent case, Freedom Wireless obtained a $150 million damages award against Boston Communications Group, Inc., which at the time had revenues of only about $100 million. In this case, the judge also refused to stay the injunction issues against BCGI (and by extension, its customers) pending appeal.
- Smith International was forced to pay Hughes Tool Company $204.8 million for infringement upon Hughes's patent for an "O-ring seal" rock bit, which led to Smith filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (this was in 1986, when $200 million was considered a large patent verdict).
- As of March 2003, the top 5 patent infringement damage awards ranged from $873 million (Polaroid v. Kodak, 1991) to $204.8 million (Hughes Tool v. Smith International, 1986). The top 5 patent settlements ranged from $1 billion to $300 million. Damage Awards and Settlements, IP Today (March 2003); see also Gregory Aharonian, Patent/Copyright Infringement Lawsuits/Licensing Awards. Sadly, a $200 million verdict seems normal nowadays. The recent $156 million patent-infringement verdict against AT&T, for example which could possibly be trebled by the judge now looks like small potatoes.
- Other recent cases include a $1.67 billion patent infringement verdict in favor of Johnson & Johnson against Abbott; a $400 million settlement paid to Abbot, by Medtronic, regarding stent devices; and a $716 million settlement paid to Johnson & Johnson by Boston Scientific (cardiac stents again).
Some of these are also listed in Reducing the Cost of IP Law
- RIAA Wants $1.5 Million Per CD Copied, Slashdot (Jan. 30, 2008);
- Ford Slaps Brand Enthusiasts, Returns Love With Legal Punch, AdRants (Jan. 14, 2008) (Ford Motor Company claims that they hold the rights to any image of a Ford vehicle, even if it's a picture you took of your own car);
- Jacqueline L. Salmon, NFL Pulls Plug On Big-Screen Church Parties For Super Bowl, Washington Post (Feb. 1, 2008) (NFL prohibits churches from having Super Bowl gatherings on TV sets or screens larger than 55 inches);
- Internet pirates could be banned from web, Telegraph (Feb. 12, 2008) (British proposal to punish individuals who illegally download music by banning them from the Internet); John Tehranian, Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap, Utah L. Rev. (forthcoming; SSRN);
- Cory Doctorow, Infringement Nation: we are all mega-crooks, Boing Boing (Nov. 17, 2007);
- Court Says You Can Copyright A Cease-And-Desist Letter, Techdirt (Jan. 25, 2008);
- Kinsella, Battling the Copyright Monster, Mises Blog (June 19, 2006);
- dem, Copyright Kills Amazing Music Project, Mises Blog (Jan. 2, 2008);
- idem, "Fair Use" and Copyright, Mises Blog (Aug. 17, 2007);
- idem, Copyrights and Dancing, Mises Blog (Feb. 20, 2007);
- idem, The "tolerated use" of copyrighted works, Mises Blog (Oct. 27, 2006);
- idem, Copyright and Birthday Cakes, Mises Blog (June 16, 2005);
- idem, Heroic Google Fighting Copyright Morass, Mises Blog (June 2, 2005);
- idem, Copyright Gone Mad, Mises Blog (Apr. 14, 2005);
- idem, Copyright and Freedom of Speech, Mises Blog (Nov. 8, 2004).
- Joost Smiers & Marieke van Schijndel, Imagine a World Without Copyright, International Herald Tribune (Sat. Oct. 8, 2005);
- Jessica Litman, Revising Copyright Law for the Information Age, 75 Oreg. L. Rev. 19 (1996);
- Kinsella, Copyrights in Fashion Designs?, Mises Blog (Sep. 27, 2006);
- Kinsella, Britain's Copyright Laws, Based on a 300-Year-Old Statute, Desperately Need Reshaping for the Digital Age, Mises Blog (Nov. 2, 2006).
- For a humorous parody of copyright abuses by the RIAA, see CD Liner Notes of the Distant Present, Something Awful (Jan. 3, 2008).
Even trade secret law, the least objectionable of the four main types of IP, has been corrupted by the state.
[Posted at 02/03/2010 02:56 PM by Stephan Kinsella on IP Outrages comments(16)]
Another couple of examples you might want to add to the list are the Newcastle Brown case, and the Arsenal case.
In the Newcastle Brown case, a brewery applied for, and obtained a protected designation of origin ("PDO") for Newcastle Brown Ale, which was manufactured in Newcastle. The intention of PDOs is ostensibly to protect the consumer from inferior goods from outside the protected geographical area. So when the brewery decided to close the Newcastle brewery, and move production to Gateshead (across the river, but certainly not Newcastle, as any Geordie will tell you), the brewery then applied to have the PDO revoked, as apparently it was no longer in the consumer's interest that Newcastle Brown Ale was only capable of being brewed in Newcastle. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2007:210:0026:01:EN:HTML
In the Arsenal case, a trader was sued by Arsenal football club for trade mark infringement.
He was selling scarves and other items bearing Arsenal's registered trade marks, but had a clear disclaimer on his stall saying that they were not authorised merchandise. The first instance Judge, the late great Sir Hugh Laddie, found that the use of the marks was not to indicate origin (because of the disclaimer), but was merely a badge of allegiance, but he referred the matter to the European Court of Justice on a point of law related to trade mark infringement. The European Court took it upon itself to exceed its authority, and overturn a finding of fact which Laddie J had already made (namely that the use of the marks was not indicative of origin), and when the case was remitted back to the Laddie J, he was pretty scathing and disregarded the (nominally superior) court's ruling on the facts, on the basis that they had exceeded their authority.
Arsenal took the case to the Court of Appeal in England, which cravenly followed the ECJ's ruling, and rejected Laddie J's finding of fact (even though the appeal was again on a point of law), and found in favour of Arsenal and its brand protection.
On that dark day, the English law of trade marks moved from a consumer-protection regime, intended to give consumers a guarantee of origin, to corporation-friendly unfair trading regime, intended to maximise the monetary value of trademarks at the expense of consumers.
My final comment relates to the Budweiser dispute as an aside: anyone who has ever tasted both beers will tell you that you that Budvar is infinitely higher quality brew.
[Comment at 02/04/2010 01:14 AM by Andrew Katz]
Thanks for these links! By the way, I have just added a Reference List
to my economics blog with economic data series, history, bibliographies etc. for students & researchers. Currently over 200 meta sources, it will in the next days grow to over a thousand. Check it out and if you miss something, feel free to leave a comment. Will try and find statistics on trademarks now as well.
[Comment at 02/04/2010 03:58 AM by CrisisMaven]
Funnily enough, I made a comment about trademark
just a couple of days ago on TechDirt:
Trademark is about authorship (identity of manufacturer), and authorship constitutes a natural monopoly.
If Fred makes a vase then only Fred can truthfully claim that he made the vase. The government doesn't grant him this monopoly. Nature imbues him with it. The government is supposed to protect Fred's natural (aka moral) right to identify himself as the maker of the vase, and thus to deny anyone else from making false claims (identifying someone else as maker of Fred's vases, or identifying Fred as the maker of vases he didn't make).
Fred can mark his vases with a unique symbol or name to indicate his authorship, to identify himself as the manufacturer.
Trademark law is about a government regulated registry of such marks to avoid the same symbol being used in the same trading context (by different manufacturers) such that authorship risks becoming confused (in the marketplace). So, there is a small element of government granted monopoly in that the manufacturer who first registers a particular mark for a particular product in a particular context is able to prevent others using that mark where that risks confusing the identity of the product's manufacturer.
The problem with trademark is that holders overreach its purpose to prevent confusion and deceit, and attempt to claim exclusive use of their mark in all contexts. For that reason trademark law needs reforming, possibly even abolition.
Even so, even without the trademark registry, it should still be prohibited to deceive people (intentionally or through negligence) as to the identity of a product's manufacturer.
Branding of cattle with unique symbols is similar, though concerns the identity of the breeder or owner rather than the manufacturer.
[Comment at 02/04/2010 04:17 AM by Crosbie Fitch]
Here we go again w/ the incoherent notion of "natural monopoly." Can't you see, Crosbie, that your idiosyncratic use of terms is utterly unhelpful and only causes confusion? It adds nothing to the analysis.
[Comment at 02/04/2010 07:02 AM by Stephan Kinsella]
There is, of course, nothing idiosyncratic or incoherent about the notion of "natural monopoly": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_monopoly
[Comment at 02/04/2010 08:20 AM by Nobody Nowhere]
Stephan, the existence of natural monopolies does not risk validating unnatural, government granted monopolies.
Similarly, the fact that one can recognise intellectual property to be as natural as material property does not validate the granting of monopolies to the creators of intellectual work.
Language does not define the principle, it is used to label and describe the principle once it's been defined.
Thus it is not the word 'theft' that defines when a privacy violation has occurred, but the principle of privacy. Theft is simply the label applied to a particular kind of violation.
Monopoly doesn't just mean 'government granted'. It means any situation where something can only be provided or supplied by a single entity.
[Comment at 02/04/2010 09:27 AM by Crosbie Fitch]
Crosbie, as best I can make out, you are saying literally nothing.
[Comment at 02/04/2010 09:29 AM by Stephan Kinsella]
It is not the word 'theft' that defines when a privacy violation has occurred, but the principle of privacy.
Indeed, the word 'theft' applies instead when larceny has occurred. The phrase 'privacy violation' applies when a privacy violation has occurred.
[Comment at 02/04/2010 09:31 AM by Nobody Nowhere]
Stephan, the subtle ideological schism that lies between our positions renders everything I write as incoherent in your eyes, and consequently leaves you incapable of responding with anything other than vacuous criticism. It's probably best if you join me in an entente cordiale.
[Comment at 02/04/2010 09:50 AM by Crosbie Fitch]
Is that like a menage a trois?
[Comment at 02/04/2010 10:06 AM by Suzzle]
Crosbie, I don't think you deserve to be treated as a worthy enough adversary to even have such a detente with, sorry.
[Comment at 02/04/2010 12:37 PM by Stephan Kinsella]
Ok then Stephan, I'll carry on with the cogent argument for IP Naturalism, and you carry on unconstructively denouncing everything I write as incoherent or devoid of substance. Sounds like a rather Pyrrhic debating technique to me, but whatever floats your boat...
[Comment at 02/04/2010 01:10 PM by Crosbie Fitch]
Crosbie, you are not carryign on any argument. You are babbling incoherently. At last IP advocates have the decency to be wrong--they actually say something, so we can then at least say that and why they are wrong. You are saying nothing.
[Comment at 02/04/2010 01:11 PM by Stephan Kinsella]
From Imagine a World Without Copyright
We propose that the risk bearer - the artist, the producer or the patron - receive for works of this kind a one-year usufruct, or right to profit from the works.
So the "world without copyright" would in fact be with
The third situation for which we must conceive a solution is when a certain artistic creation is not likely to flourish in a competitive market, not even with a one-year usufruct. It may be the case that the public still has to develop a taste for it, but that we still find, from the perspective of cultural diversity, that such a work must be allowed to exist. For this situation it would be necessary to install a generous range of subsidies and other stimulating measures, because as a community we should be willing to carry the burden of offering all kinds of artistic expressions a fair chance.
Why the distinction between "the public
" and "we
"? Who is this "we
" - some elite entitled to judge what good culture ought to be and what "the public has to develop a taste
" for? I guess when something is "not likely to flourish in a competitive market
", then it does not deserve to exist. If something flourishes even though there is not a sufficient demand for it on the market, it means that someone is being coerced and his real rights are trampled.
[Comment at 02/06/2010 04:21 AM by Samuel Hora]
@Crosbie: I agree *natural monopolies* do exist, despite any tendency for SK and Bill Stepp to shut their eyes and poke their ears and yell "nahnahnah" whenever the term comes up. Violent action forms a natural monopoly for the victor, because you can't compete equally when you're dead or injured, and your weapons can be taken from you by any assailant. The first person to invent any given weapon has a natural monopoly on who has access to that weapon, including the decision whether to bring that weapon to an open or anonymous market, or whether to kill anyone before they can create a similar weapon. I don't think you're using the term "natural monopoly" correctly here though, and I thank a certain Nobody for posting the Wikipedia link.
I agree that people have a "moral right" (societal not natural) to identify their own work as their own, and not have anyone claim their work, or claim that work done by someone else is their's. That "moral right" still doesn't extend to using a non-unique mark, for example a common name or dictionary word. Care must be taken that a mark is unique, so it's harder for someone else to accidentally use a duplicate mark. That's why we sign things "in our own hand" rather than with a standard font or block text -- personal signatures are much harder to duplicate by accident, even when people's names are exactly the same. If this unique identification process was really a "natural monopoly", plagiarism and forgery would not be problems, as "nature" would prevent such copies from happening without a cost-prohibitive amount of effort. This all gets into definitions of plagiarism, counterfeit, and forgery, which are outside of the bounds of Constitutional law concerning "limited times" monopolies that are granted for "useful arts and sciences". All these problem areas can instead be solved as consumer protections, which makes enforcement much easier. It's a lot easier for a consumer to claim being fooled, than for a rival producer to claim the same on their behalf. Part of the problem with current trademark law is that it largely rests on assumptions about knowing what's best for consumers, rather than just letting the consumers decide for themselves as problems arise.
SK: Yes we all agree that IP in all its forms are purely government granted monopolies. Proponents of IP think it's a useful government function, and opponents of IP don't think it's useful, but that doesn't mean all opponents think government isn't useful in general. We don't all agree that government is the sole source of monopoly (especially democratic governments which seek to avoid internal power monopolization via egalitarian voting rights, term limits, and administrative power balances). Choosing to ignore useful or historical counter-examples to your theories about monopoly is no replacement for actual debate. Yelling at straw men and subjective labeling doesn't count as debate.
[Comment at 02/07/2010 10:21 PM by Fred McTaker]
Fred, I recognise that 'natural monopoly' may have a more specialised meaning for economists, and that my usage may be less useful or common: a monopoly as a consequence of nature or a natural right, e.g. an individual's natural monopoly
over the use of their body, or the supply of its products.
However, whether or not this usage is common does not prevent what I describe from being a monopoly. This is why 'monopoly' in the context of IP is often qualified to be a 'state granted' monopoly.
I agree that people only have natural/moral rights as far as the truth is concerned, i.e. a right to the truth (against impairment) does not naturally warrant a monopoly on the use of any symbol or name. If there is only one individual (identical to you) then only you can claim to be that individual - however that doesn't mean you can assume a monopoly over the use of your name.
This is a real monopoly. That other people can lie does not invalidate it as a monopoly. Even if others offer imitation "Celebrity X's Freshly Worn Panties", they are still not actually the genuine article. They remain unable to supply such a monopoly controlled good - they can only defraud their customers.
Just as fraud does not prevent that monopoly from being a monopoly, so wilful infringement of state granted monopolies does not render those monopolies to be 'not monopolies'.
[Comment at 02/08/2010 07:19 AM by Crosbie Fitch]
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