Against Monopoly

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.

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The golden age of beer innovation

The NEP-HIS blog has a nice discussion of a nice paper by Alessandro Nuvolari and James Sumner on innovations in the beer industry before 1850. There was rapid innovation without recourse to patents, even though patenting was an option to innovators.

Copyright going wrong to the extreme

How bad could copyright on music get? If all the wealth on Earth is owed to copyright holders? That is not enough. What if all the wealth in the Universe is owed to music copyright holders on Earth?

This seems to be the premise of a Awork of fiction, where aliens get hold of our radio waves and promptly get hooked on our music, until they notice they owe a bazillion to the RIAA. Is it fiction or futuristic, though? As the recently deceased Rad Bradbury said, he is not predicting the future, he is trying to prevent it.

HT: io9.

What if the web had been patented

Tim Berners-Lee came up twenty years ago with HTML, and thus the web was born. None of the technology or the standards have been patented, and see where it has brought us. Of course, the Internet could have had the same impact if HTML, HTTP and WWW had been patented, but that is highly unlikely.

For some ideas of how a patented web would have looked like, see this discussion on techdirt. This blog would certainly not have existed, and I can vouch my career would have been very different.

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.

Patents blocking stem cell research

One of the most promising areas for medical research are stem cells, and now that the Obama Administration has lifted many restrictions on their use, you would think this line of research would be booming. Not so according to Medindia which reports that there has been such a rush to patent in this area that research is in fact very difficult now.

The French say: if it is not Windows, it must have been pirated

The French government intends to slap a tax of 12 euros on any tablet unless it runs with Windows. One might wonder why France wants to pander Microsoft, but the logic is apparently that anything that is not Windows must be pirated, and that includes Android, Linux and even MacOS. The most bizarre is that a French company, Archos, would be hurt to the benefit of an American company.

Hat-tip: Numerama via TechEYE.net.

Unexpected consequences

The US Copyright Group is currently pursuing torrent users to recoup losses movie companies may have occurred. The damages sought are rather high, as expected, and they are asking thousands of users US$2500 so that the case can be dropped and not filed in court. Given the court costs in this US, this would be a sensible thing to do, unless those users somehow band together to share those costs.

Well, it turns out a lawyer has followed this train of thought and is now offering a legal kit for $19.95 that allows to fight against USCG. This is of course not at all what the latter intended, as it now itself has to go to court. The natural thing to do now is, of course, for USCG to sue this entrepreneurial lawyer who is causing it all these added costs, because it now has to deal with well informed defendants.

Details at the escapist.

Trademark Insanity

Trademark suits can often be rather silly and highlight the high legal costs of maintaining sanity. This week-end's press gives us two nice examples.

PennLive.com reports that US "chocolate" maker Hershey is suing competitor Mars because the color scheme of its new Dove candy is too similar to the existing Reese candy. If you follow the link, you will notice that the two wrappers do not look alike at all. The point of contention is about the color choices: orange and various shades of brown. Mind you, this is about chocolate, which usually comes in various shades of brown...

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that a NY-based company has trademarked "Daytona Beach Bike Week", a popular event in Florida, and is now pursuing souvenir makers and sellers in Daytona Beach.

When the government confers monopoly rights to drug companies

The BBC reports about a drug that was available cheaply, got tweaked in a minor way and now available only in a much more expensive format. While the story is not about patenting, it is very similar to it as it is about licensing a drug, in this case for use in the UK, and excluding the old, yet still perfectly effective, drug from use. This is exactly what a patent does, and there are countless examples of pharmaceutical companies doing exactly these very marginal improvements to extract major rents from sick people.

US Government says genes should not be patented

Yesterday's New York Times writes that the US Government has filed a brief stating that genes should not be eligible for patents. The arguments is that gene are part of nature and that extracting them without altering them does not change anything to their nature, much like when coal is extracted from the earth.

The brief seems to be a negotiated outcome among several federal agencies. The US patent office has not signed it.

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