Intellectual property laws stifle innovation, restrict choices
The recent court decision favoring Apple in their lawsuit against Samsung indicates a growing problem with intellectual property laws.
The infringements claimed against Samsung by Apple for things such as rounded icon corners and tap-to-zoom seem a little obvious and universal to touchscreen and smartphone technology, and frivolous to claim as unique to your brand.
But that’s the state of IP these days.
Although I am a believer in private property rights, I do not believe IP is private property, because ideas cannot truly be owned.
Even if you do believe that IP protection is a necessary part of innovation and artistic expression, surely you can agree that we’re at a point of ridiculousness when IP lawsuits deal with things like ‘tap-to-zoom.’
Judge Richard Posner, a Reagan-appointee to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, has made it known that he believes the proliferation of IP to be a growing problem and earlier this year threw out a lawsuit Apple had brought against Motorola, due to the claim of economic harm being too speculative, .
Additionally, John Tehranian, a Southwestern Law School professor, published a paper in 2007 titled “Infringement Nation.”
In it, he points out that, through everyday actions on the internet, an individual not engaging in file sharing can incur as much as $4.5 billion a year in potential copyright infringement liability.
One argument for IP protection is that it protects the producer from having their ideas stolen, as well as protecting the consumer from being being fooled into purchasing inferior goods.
However, this is not always the case.
Take counterfeit luxury goods, such as fake designer purses.
If you’re buying a Louis Vuitton bag for $50 on a sidewalk, or out of someone’s car for about $50, ( considering that Google Shopping search for Louis Vuitton bags indicates a price range of $500 and $3500), chances are you know that it’s a fake.
Also, the producers of designer goods aren’t losing business, as most people buying counterfeit goods wouldn’t be purchasing the real deal anyway.
Another argument says IP laws promote innovation and more choice, which was the original intention of patents in the United States.
The Founders wanted an economic incentive to foster innovation and production, so they offered patents as a temporary monopoly on the use of that idea, so that individuals would be encouraged to share new ideas.
But this argument seems to ignore one thing: human nature.
Consider those involved in science. Do you think they they are mostly swayed by economic incentive, or does the thrill of discovery drive them more?
Those who want to cure cancer and other diseases, do they crave economic reward, or the notoriety and knowledge they made a difference ?
Also, technological advancements are labor and cost saving in nature. Won’t people and industries still look for the most efficient way to produce goods with the lowest cost?
Innovation and growth are best promoted by the sharing of ideas, because all ideas build upon earlier ideas.
When overbearing IP laws unnaturally restrict ideas, we have less choice and growth in ideas. When ideas are shared freely, they combine with other ideas, and new ideas are born.
As Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”