Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

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Hot off the Presses: Patents in Financial Services

From Bob Hunt:

Just wanted to make you aware I have finished a new draft of my paper on business method patenting and US financial services.

This is a very substantially revised version of my paper from last year. I have added a section on the problems official R&D measurements and then I construct my own R&D measurements based on the occupational composition of financial industries. I have documented about two dozen business method patent suits that involve financial institutions, payment networks, and important vendors to the industry. And I wrote up an economist's perspective on about a dozen cases decided in the last two years that are relevant to business method patents.

The paper is here. To whet your appetite, an excerpt from the abstract:


A decade after the State Street decision, more than 1,000 business method patents are granted each year. Yet only one in ten are obtained by a financial institution. Most business method patents are also software patents.

Have these patents increased innovation in financial services? To address this question we construct new indicators of R&D intensity based on the occupational composition of financial industries. The financial sector appears more research intensive than official statistics would suggest, but less than the private economy taken as a whole. There is considerable variation across industries but little apparent trend. There does not appear to be an obvious effect from business method patents on sector's research intensity.

Looking ahead, three factors suggest the patent system may affect financial services as it has electronics: (1) the sector's heavy reliance on information technology; (2) the importance of standard setting; and (3) the strong network effects exhibited in many areas of finance. Even today litigation is not uncommon; we sketch a number of significant examples affecting financial exchanges and consumer payments.


Please change:

The paper is here. To whet your appetite...


The paper is here[WARNING: multi-megabyte PDF file]. To whet your appetite...

or similarly. Ordinary-looking links should not go direct to pdfs.

Ordinary-looking links should not go direct to pdfs.

Why is this?

So I can prepare mentally for having to wait several minutes to gain back control over my computer.

Let me propose an easy solution where everybody gains. You take zero extra effort, you improve the usability of your website, and the people who need it get the advance warning they so crave. Add the following to your style sheet:

a[href$="pdf"] { padding-right: 19px; background: transparent url(http://webdesign.maratz.com/lab/pdf_links_labeling/pdf.gif) no-repeat center right; }

Of course the url can point to an image on againstmonopoly.org instead.

Apparently I got a little over-zealous. The shorter version

a[href$="pdf"] { padding-right: 19px; background: url(http://webdesign.maratz.com/lab/pdf_links_labeling/pdf.gif) no-repeat right; }

seems to work just fine.

I never have a problem with pdfs. Maybe your computer needs more memory?
I'd lay the blame with the lousy PDF viewer's bad manners that hang the browser. I've also often experienced this problem. The solution is not with the site, but with the user to get a PDF downloader/reader plug-in for their browser (Firefox) that let's the download occur without hanging the browser. The problem has evidently been so bad that someone has created a plug-in to fix it.

But, in general, I would agree that hyperlinks to web pages need no special indiciation, whereas file downloads should at least specify the filename and filetype that will be downloaded, e.g. I'd provide a link to the paper as wp08-10.pdf.

It's not just the tendency of Adobe's plugin to hang the browser during the download. Many people use metered connections (e.g. mobile) or are even on dial-up, and want to know if a link leads to a multi-megabyte file instead of a few K of HTML and a few tens of K of jpegs, pngs, and gifs. The former have to pay by the meg and the latter will be waiting for ages for it to load, hang or no hang.
Style sheet for the pdf works like a charm.

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