Off-TopicRant: Intellectual Property Rights Abuse

This week was a monumental decision by the Supreme Court. It declared natural DNA cannot be patented.  To me this was a “no brainer”.  And would be akin to someone trying to patent an element like Lithium, Argon, or Oxygen – “Hey, no breathing unless you’ve paid us for our oxygen patent.”

This was recently in the news because the company that held a patent on the human DNA responsible for breast cancer charges about $3,000 a test or more. Where as other companies have developed their own more economical tests that cost just a few hundred dollars. But Myriad claimed ownership of the DNA itself. Preventing people from receiving this diagnosis tests.

You want a large reason for our high medical costs, look to patents, and FDA approvals. And yes, I understand there is an investment in research. But the abuse is also rampant.  And people shouldn’t be dying so share holders can have nice yachts.

An example was the recent case where the FDA gave exclusive right to a phamaceutical corp to produce a progesterone drug that prevented premature labor.  The drug, had been in use since the 50’s.  It actually pre-dated the FDA. It was commonly $10-$30 a shot, and could require dozens of doses during a pregnancy. The drug was in fact an early cancer drug, but a number of doctors noted it seemed to prevent early labor. A later University study confirmed this effect, and it went into secondary use. The FDA decided on a whim to grant exclusive license to this old drug to a pharmaceutical company under the auspices that they would be able to produce it in higher quality. The result? The price went from as low as $10 a dose to an astounding $1,500/dose.  Remember, this big pharm company didn’t invent the drug, they did zero research in its creation nor the evaluation of its secondary use. There was absolutely no need to “recoup” the so-called billions of dollars

So again on Slashdot is a story on the song “Happy Birthday to You”. Numerous folk have been sued over this song. Millions have been made. And the copyright extended and extended.  A documentary has gone to prove that the copyright should be invalid. That the song is long past when it should be in public domain.  And with that proof, should Warner Music be forced to refund all those funds. (Because to be frank, I am sure they knew the song was older than their claim of having it published in a song book.)

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/happy-birthday-all-filmmaker-aims-568355

But lets get to the real crux of the issue with IP rights. They exist for one reason, and one reason only. To benefit and encourage creativity and innovation. They do not exist to profit anyone, other than the idea being that if creators and innovators were to profit, they would create more.  

Except there is a problem today. Very very few inventors or artists gain profit from their works. Today, nearly all the ownership of such rights are held by large corporations.  The writer’s of “Happy Birthday” cause pittance, it’s the conglomerate gate keepers who have made millions. Artists are reknown for receiving very little of the profits their music earn the big labels.

Even the big pharmaceutical companies that often claim billions in research. Are more often than not, simply buying small development labs. Many little labs work on projects, most go fail and bust. The promising ones get purchased by big pharmaceuticals. Which declare their hard work. The result is usually, the owner and a few partners get a nice cut, and all the rest of the employees find themselves jobless.

Likewise, in the world of patents. The corporations rule. I remember reading about the invention of the CD-ROM.  One man was a lead in the early development and research of optical technology. Then was laid off.  He later was on the team that developed the first commercial optical disc.  Once developed, he was laid off.  He later found himself on the team that actually developed the CD-ROM, only to be laid off again. And that has sadly become norm for the inventors.

So what do I propose? I mean,…we can’t do away with IP rights, can we?  I honestly, believe that the world would be better off today without them.  Patents are preventing innovation. Looking at Google who had to spend $8 billion to buy Motorola in order to defend themselves against lawsuits from Apple. Who had patents on grid of icons and numerous design and usability elements which ALL existed decades prior.

So yes, I honestly believe that the world would be better off. There are things I’d work toward building, except I know I’d likely face a lawsuit. Even though I had the ideas far before others did. And let’s be honest. Big companies violate and steal IP all the time. Little companies seldom have the means to sue, and win, and even if they do. The compensation is seldom equivalent.  SONY, pirated software code in the war to prevent piracy of their CDs.  Microsoft stole the light mouse technology after a year of negotiations and technology sharing.  Sure, they lost in court and had to pay $1 million in compensation. But they’ve made far more $$$ on the use of that technology.  And if we were to be fair, if the average Joe received a $150,000 fine on a $1 song.  Then shouldn’t bulti-billion dollar companies when they steal IP from the little guy, have to at a minimum, pay a 150,000x damage?

That said, I do think inventors should be encouraged. But our current system is failing to protect and encourage inventors, and it is failing to encourage innovation.  So we need to replace it. Serious, if the Patent office burned to the ground, it would probably do more for the economy than any other stimulous package.

So how to benefit the inventor?  I propose that companies cannot own patents.  That patents have to be for truly new and novel developments. Not evolutionary, nor a mere use alteration of use, nor be inherrent to the technology (ie: drag to unlock is merely an inherrent use of existent drag and drop code – it is not an invention, it’s merely a replication of the “switch”, itself being several centuries old). 

Why not, have the patents belong solely to individual inventors. Patents should not prevent someone else from building a better and cheaper mousetrap. As for the economic benefit, I propose the patent holder (or the company that employs them), receives a tax break.

So let’s say a guy invents the hover pod. Rather than saying he is the only one who can make hover pods. Anyone can….but whatever hover pod company employs the inventor, receives a 10% tax break for hover pods.

What would this do?  Basically, it would start to guarantee that inventors would have continual employment. In fact, most companies would likely just pay an annual amount in order to receive that 10% and just tell the inventor to stay home. Invent more. And the inventor might do just that, and who knows. Maybe he’ll be hired by another company for a different invention.  Eventually, Edisons and Bells and DaVinci’s would find themselves with steady streams of income that allow them the freedom and means to produce.  And these patents would be for the life of the patent holder (+ 21 for their children – so if the patent holder dies, their children receive the benefit until age 21.)

Now we have a system that encourages innovation, but does NOT prevent someone from building a better mousetrap, a cheaper mousetrap, or from receiving life saving medical treatment.

Published in: on June 14, 2013 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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IP…We own everything!

Why I oppose intellectual property rights…In its present form

In a recent decision a U.K. judge determined that a photo violated the copyright of another for having a similar look and feel.

[See discussion at DPReview.com, one of the best sites on the web for digital camera and lens reviews.]

But a simple Google search reveals that this is both a common subject matter and a common processing technique. There are hundreds if not thousands of like photos. This example greatly exemplifies the flawed nature of our intellectual property laws in Western society. And while this is a U.K. court decision. Realize that much of the IP laws in the Western World are pushed by the same media conglomerates. Many of the laws are similar because they are driven by the same interests. Namely, U.S./Western corporate cartels which pressure/buy-off U.S. legislators who then pressure other nations to adopt the laws that the copyright cartels have paid our legislators to pass.

Recently, we saw an amazing thing happen in politics regarding the proposed SOPA/PIPA bills. We witnessed a huge industry with a massive and entrenched lobbying arm that has been purchasing politicians for years received the biggest public smackdown in history.

We saw politicians discover the game has dramatically changed. And that the internet industry is not to be taken lightly. How did this come about?

Simple, some of the biggest sites staged a campaign of awareness and service removal. Sites such as Wikipedia became inaccessible. Many other popular sites had intro pages one had to click through in order to continue. Many blogs and smaller internet sites were adding to the mojo. I myself did not, as the determination of the vote had already been turned and the bill was no longer going to pass or be a threat in it’s present form.

In fact, the demonstration of power by the internet industry was very hedged. They new they had already won weeks ago. They did it more so as a demonstration. And yet that simple demonstration sent ripples waves through the entire political system. Imagine what would have happened if Google and Amazon actually shut down access to their entire systems for one day.  For those unaware, a huge portion of the internet runs on Amazon’s Cloud Service, including big companies such as Netflix.

But why is this happening? Where is this war brewing from? And who is right? What is causing this chaos?

I believe that it is due to a universal hegemony of thought control and ownership. Most people have been taught that intellectual property is property and that it can be stolen, and must be protected. But few are introduced to the concepts surrounding the establishment of intellectual property laws, and what their purpose is.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution states
“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”

No where was the intention of IP to protect monetary profit of cartels.  But that is what it has become.

A couple of key elements are including in that clause. To Promote progress of science & arts. Secure for a limited time. Authors & inventors. Writings and discoveries.

First clause states the reason: “To promote progress”, as such, if the law is not promoting progress one can deem it to be failing it’s purpose.

When a company like Google spends $8 billion dollars buying a company such as Motorola for the sheer reason to shield themselves from legal lawsuits by Apple and Microsoft, one truly has to question is progress being impeded?

The situation has become akin to a game of Jenga. So many blocks stacked on top of one another that to remove one causes the entire tower to fall down.

Second, “for a limited time”, if this is not met than the law is in violation of the passage that grants it authority.

Disney has pushed for copyright extensions. Largely to prevent Mickey Mouse and others of it’s work from entering public domain. Originally the laws specified up to 28 years for a copyright. This has continualy been extended to the point that it now lasts for 120 year or 70 years after death of author. It is hard to refer to such as “a limited time” when it exceeds the lifespan of humanity.

The result is that nothing is entering the public domain. No new works are becoming freely available to the benefit of humanity.

But why should they? I am sure some of my capitalist minded friends believe that they should be owned and profited by in perpetuity. But the problems is that ideas and invention derive and build upon each other. If you apply universal unending copyright law throughout history, you create a system that not only doesn’t promote progress but makes it impossible.

Disney, a stuanch financer of perpetual copyrights built itself on the creative ideas of others Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, Snow White, Pinnochio, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sword in the Stone, Aladdin,….shal I go on and on? Their success is built on the creativity of others.

Likewise with invention. The automobile cannot be constructed without the gear. No gear without the invention of the wheel. A perpetual right and exclusion results in an end of progress.

Next part of the clause we look at addresses who was to benefit “Authors and Inventors”.

Is this being held true today? Who is benefitting? While the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) likes to talk about theft and piracy. Anyone familiar with the history of RIAA knows that few have ever stolen more from the artists. An industry cartel that is famed not just for failing to pay artists their due but for being gatekeepers who controlled the industry forcing all artists (until very recently) to go through them in a process where the artists lost much of the right to their creative works.

Likewise in the industry of invention. Very few individuals are receiving patents. It has become a facet of society only accessible to the corporation entity. Even when an individual conceives of some new ‘thing’, it often becomes the property of the employer. Inventors are more often than not laid off after the completion of their design rather than profiting by it and being able to further their inventive skills.

Furthermore, everything has become patentable, or ownable. T-Mobile claims to own a shade of pink and will sue any business that uses it. Amazon believes they have the sole right to check out a user with a single click. Billions of dollars are being spent on patent wars in our court systems, many of which are over intuitive logical progression of thought. For example, a few decades ago the internet was created. Several thousand years ago auctions were created. Yet somehow the idea of an auction on the internet is worthy of the granting of a patent. Newspapers have been around. Now there are e-readers. Does the mere publishing on a newspaper on a new technology constitute invention? I do not think so.

But here is a bigger problem. Invention is becoming the exclusive right of big companies. I have ideas. Ideas I’ve had for years. Some potentially patentable, but I cannot afford the approx. cost of $10,000 to file a patent. Even $1,000 to file a provisional patent is outside the scope of many. Most of my ideas I am not seeking to profit by, and would gladly put into public domain for others to use. Yet our Patent office does not facilitate such, quite the opposite. The swamped patent office doesn’t even really vet most submissions. They collect their money and let tax payer dollars be wasted in the court system by frivolous lawsuits. Which are often won due to the ignorance of judges on these matters. (As seen in the example at top.)

IP laws are becoming stronger and stronger and covering broader and broader applications. While at the same time they are being consolidated in ownership. A handful of industry agents control a large portion of the new creative and innovative works.

Realize that in 2009 there were 482,871 patents filed. Of that, 4,914 were filed by IBM. Literaly 1% of all patents gained in 2009 was by a single company. Talk about being the 1%.

New legislation, such as the America Invents Act will only further this divide. Raising costs of filing patents AND making America a “first to file” nation. Which means while you’re trying to perfect your idea and raise the cash to file, someone with deep pockets could copy your idea and file before you and own your invention.

The scenario has the potential to be even more grave in the future. Some may wonder “Why is a gun blog, talking about copyright?” Besides the fact that many of us bloggers have to dance the line or risk litigation.  I view Intellectual Property as one of the most dangerous threats to society with the potential danger from it only being surpassed by slavery.

What….I’m crazy…or sure sounds like it. And you might be right. But hear me out.

Recent advancements in technology have begun to allow us to understand the brain in a much greater way. Already we’re starting to see prosthetics controlled by the mind. Replacement mechanical eyes that allow the brain to see. There has even been progress made in “reading one’s thoughts”. Granted, all these technologies are very rudimentary. But in 40 years they could become commonplace. What happens if iPhone are no longer in your hand, but in your head. Perhaps even with extra memory storage for your brain. What happens when you whistle that song? Or that tune gets stuck in your head. Suddenly, you might find yourself owing money to a copyright cartel because you saw a trailer for the new Smurfs movie and now you can’t get that stupid song out of your head “La la la la la”.

But the truth is, that Intellectual Property, if not checked and balanced has the potential to become a form of slavery. One in which your thoughts and ideas are owned, and the mere engaging of such creativity could cost you money.

That kind of tyranny, would require an over-throw by force and arms if necessary. Such a world would not be one I would want to live in or see my children subjected too.

Thankfully, with the recent (re)action on SOPA/PIPA, I have a small hope that we might be able to start bringing some sanity and balance to intellectual property laws. Sadly, I think it will be slow and a long time coming.

There are better solutions. One’s that would achieve the goals stated in the Constitution far better, encouraging progress, benefitting the inventors and artists and fostering a more open business climate. One such concept would only allow individuals to acquire patents. And would merely provide a tax break to whatever company employed the patent holder. This strategy does not preclude another company from building and selling a better mousetrap. It just let’s the company that employs the patent holder have a competitive edge. And would create a system where inventors are kept employed, and given freedom and funds to further invent. As opposed to our current system which encourages inventors to be discarded.

And while it is more complex issue that a simple post can detail, and would require a more complex solution. The real point here is that there are serious problems with the present system that are not being addressed, while at the same time new law after new law is being passed to further the divide from original intention to present.  This has been allowed to happen largely because the common person is unfamiliar with the argument.

Downloading is stealing, right?  Really, stealing deprives another of their object. Downloading cloning. What happens when you can simply print a car or a house.  That’s crazy right? What if I told that such technology was potentially right around the corner?

When we create laws. We need to be forward thinking, and consider how these laws will affect the future – both for good and for bad.   

Published in: on January 26, 2012 at 3:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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