Archive for the ‘Intellectual property, which I think is neither’ Category


patents + taxes = insanity squared

June 1, 2009

Yes, over sixty patents have been issued for “tax planning methods.”  You discover (or contrive?) a loophole, then patent its use. Subsequent taxpayers (or tax avoiders) who might happen on the same idea are obligated to contact you and arrange to license your innovation.  This is not what the Framers had in mind when they empowered Congress

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

Cong. Rick Boucher introduced a bill a couple of years ago to limit the benefits patent holders could obtain for such patents (summarized here(doc) with full text here(pdf)).   A message today from Vaughn Henry implies that this has been reintroduced.


Privatizing Federal patents

September 16, 2008

NASA has engaged a Chicago company, Ocean Tomo, to auction off “a suite of 25 patents.” This is considered to be transferring technology to the private sector.   I guess an auction is better than sleazy private deals.  The main point to remember is that a patent is not the right to use an invention, it is only the right to prevent others from doing so.  (via slashdot)


Open source approach to reducing CO2

August 5, 2008
  • First, you heat limestone to a very high temperature, until it breaks down into lime and carbon dioxide.
  • Then you put the lime into the sea, where it reacts with carbon dioxide dissolved in the seawater.
  • The second step absorbs twice as much CO2 as the first releases,  the released CO2 has industrial uses, and the heating can be done with “free” energy.

So says Cquestrate founder Tim Kruger. He says it works in theory,  but needs to be demonstrated as practical. Most intriguing, he’s doing it as open source, so it will be free of patents and anyone can try it.

According to the site, Kruger is a management consultant, so it’s not hard to see how he could benefit from this innovation even without IP “rights.”

Thanks to the Undercover Economist.


Lava Lamps patent-free too?

July 1, 2008

A sidebar in today’s Chicago Tribune certainly implies that, like Coca-Cola, lava lamps are manufactured without patent protection, but as a trade secret.  Invented in 1963, the lava lamp’s patent would long since have expired (tho lawyers seem to know ways to effectively extend such things).

btw, the manufacturer says it isn’t officially called a “lava lamp,” but rather a “Lava brand motion lamp.”


Slashdot discussion on IP

May 26, 2008

The general issue of “Intellectual ‘Property'” was raised today on Slashdot, and the ensuing discussion makes just about all the important points. Most people accept some sort of IP, but length of protection, especially for copyrights, is too long. Some question whether IP is legitimate at all; others point out that patents do require holders to provide details of their inventions, thus preventing long-term trade secrets. And there’s a link to what seems to be a fine book Against Intellectual Property, which can be purchased in hardcopy or downloaded free.


Magicians protect intellectual property without law

September 13, 2007

Magicians’ secrets really can’t be effectively copyrighted or patented, and trade secret law is of limited use, so how have professional magicians been able to keep most of their best tricks pretty much secret from the public? It’s by a set of strongly-enforced “common norms” among the profession, which allows “sharing” among those in the trade, but prohibits revealing more than trivial secrets. Violators are punished by expulsion from magicians’ organizations, and other techniques which make it difficult to continue working in the field.

From Jacob Loshin’s Secrets Revealed: How Magicians Protect Intellectual Property Without Law (pdf), via boingboing.


“Intellectual Property” vs. Future Archaeologists

March 16, 2007

There’s already a lot of old digital files that no one can read.  And “Digital Rights Management” limitations will make future archaeologists’ tasks even more difficult.  So says Phil Zimmerman, the inventor of PGP encryption.

“I think intellectual property law has gone a little bit crazy and is counter-productive for society,” says Zimmermann, referring to masses of archives of film that needs to be moved to modern media before it degrades completely. “You need to transfer it but the copyright holder is dead, and no-one knows how to contact the estate.