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Intellectual Property Rights

 
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Why is it such a big deal ? Is it another protectionist measure ?

Why does Asia have no idea how to use it Or no history of using it Or culturally it's not an issue?
Should each individual developer be aware of issues around IP ?
 
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Because capitalists want to assign ownership to every possible entity, otherwise it has no value.
 
Helen Thomas
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I hadn't thought of it as particularly capitalist. Just seems like a good idea.

But here's a link from Socialist review of IP and capitalism.Intellectual property and capitalism

Case in point : Production of the Ambassodor car in India stayed largely the same for over 50 years under license from the government. South Korea starting at roughly the same point economically as India 40 years ago managed to become a world leader for certain class of cars.

Any description how Intellectual Property or lack thereof could have driven the success/failure of the products would be welcome.
[ May 20, 2004: Message edited by: Helen Thomas ]
 
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If Intellectual Property law existed at that time it would have affected the above situation in that neither of these cars could have been produced without licensing the "idea" of a car from Ford (or whoever "owned" it). Intellectual property law is really only a "good idea" for lawyers and large companies that could afford to "own ideas". The reason that Asia has no idea how to use it is because they haven't bought into the idea that a corporation has to own everything and and because they aren't run by lawyers. The idea that someone can own an idea is only successful if you can convince others to follow your delusion, and people pushing this issue are afraid that they won't be able to convince these new markets that they "own the idea of one-click ordering" or some other such garbage.
 
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Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution:

The Congress shall have Power 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;



IP laws have existed in the US for quite some time. The purpose is to promote art and invention.

Without IP laws, there would be no copyright protection. You could legally copy any book, music, video etc. Up until recently the existing technology made this impractical, but the laws were there to protect it. The belief was that without such laws, the motivation to create is diminished since artists can't protect their work. This is the argument the music industry is making right now. While I'm no fan of the music industry in general, they do have a point. The reality is record sales have been hit since online music sharing.

Without IP laws, drug research may not work. This is the argument the pharmasutical industry is making right now. While I'm not of fan of them either, they might also have a point. A major drug (e.g. Claritin, Viagra) takes about $100M to develop over 10 years. The drug is simply a combination of chemicals. Any company can make them resulting is competition and a free market price. While under patent, they can charge a lot more (for a limited time) and recoup their investment.

Without IP laws, anyone can copy any software. When you go to places in Asia where international IP laws are not enforced, you can buy software (worth hundreds or thousands of dollars) for a few dollars each.

Patents typically last 19 years in the US.

Most nations, including most Asian nations subscribe to international patent laws. However, they don't always actively enforce them.

AFAIK, the car was not patented. Certain parts of the car (most of it) has been patented, e.g. variable speed wipers, as well as certain methods of producing cars. However I don't think the basic concept of a "horseless carriage" was ever patented.

--Mark
 
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While this is an interesting topic, it's really more of a MD than a Jobs discussion.


Actually, the desire for copyrights allegedly dates back to Classical times, but it was the printing press that caused laws to be passed. What we've seen lately is just another example of the acceleration of the times.

In fact, that acceleration's why I'd prefer that technology IP rights be limited to 3-5 years. By that time, anyone who's actually technologically productive should have moved far beyond what was being protected, and it's time to lift the monopoly so that everyone can share.

What we see more and more, however isn't use of IP rights to allow the developer to be rightfully compensated for work while still making it publicly available, but rather dog-in-the-manger situations where often the actual inventor doesn't get anything to speak of, but some other entity sets up a virtually impassible barrier, often based on a broad concept which neither the inventor nor the current rights-holder may have invested the necessary sweat to bring to practicality.

My favorite example is a photocopier. If you take one apart, you'll find it's full of parts with patent (or patent-pending) numbers all over them. Yet if I wanted to create a copying machine, I could assemble my own parts and do so. Even Xerox's original patents covered a method of photographically duplicating an image of a page onto another page and not the fundamental concept of copying. Their patents couldn't suppress mimeography or even many other forms of photo reproduction.

Contrast this with something like Eolas' patent. They take a well-known paradigm: making things happen in a window, combine it with another well-known paradigm: the web browser, and Hey! Presto! they get a patent so broad that it can stop the world's largest software company in its tracks, make Flash liable, impact Quicktime and Real and put a major chill on Java applets.
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
While this is an interesting topic, it's really more of a MD than a Jobs discussion.



That thought crossed my mind, but I decided to give it a few more posts, since we have had previous IP discussions related to jobs. If it moves towards jobs, I'll kept it here, if not, I'll move it.

--Mark
 
Helen Thomas
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Lets see if this discussion can be moved towards jobs.

A job contract usually includes a clause that all work by the employee on the job is the property of the employing company. Signing the contract means that the employee accepts that. While working on the job the employee may then come up with an idea but decides to take it to another company to implement because conditions are better. The first employer would have every right to claim it owns the IP on any future products. Right ? Even without their taking out a patent beforehand ?

To further the development and competitiveness of high tech industries and to encourage innovation in the computer-related technologies and software fields shouldn't innovators be provided with the legal protection they need to successfully promote their inventions ?

Developers in R&D sectors perhaps should understand this area thoroughly.

Or to take Tim's example :


What we see more and more, however isn't use of IP rights to allow the developer to be rightfully compensated for work while still making it publicly available, but rather dog-in-the-manger situations where often the actual inventor doesn't get anything to speak of, but some other entity sets up a virtually impassible barrier, often based on a broad concept which neither the inventor nor the current rights-holder may have invested the necessary sweat to bring to practicality.



A developer may see the fruits of his labour in someone else's patch.
One could shrug it off as "That's life" I suppose.. Or remain blissfully unaware that some rocket science was based on one's humble creations.

(If this was MD the dicussion could continue with politicians and how there is no passion in politics anymore but mass swings from Loony Left to Loony Right following gross misappropriation of ideology. 50's ideology at that!)
[ May 21, 2004: Message edited by: Helen Thomas ]
 
Mark Herschberg
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Originally posted by Helen Thomas:
While working on the job the employee may then come up with an idea but decides to take it to another company to implement because conditions are better. The first employer would have every right to claim it owns the IP on any future products. Right ? Even without their taking out a patent beforehand?



(Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.)

Maybe.

If it's work related to the company, then yes, they own it. As a general rule, think about if this is something you would have been able to do if you had never worked at that company.

On the otherhand, if it's work that you do own your own, then it should belong to you. Lab notebooks and related documents should be kept to prove that it was independent research.

--Mark
 
Helen Thomas
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Thanks Mark.

Intellectual Property in the Information Age: A Classroom Guide to Copyright

I guess some of the above will carry forwards from academia to the workplace.

I never realised that once copyrights expire the works are then put into the public domain.
 
Nathan Pruett
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I'm not against patents or copyrights, per se, but recently when the word 'IP' is invoked, it brings up all the abuses of the system that embody corporate law today. Insane copyright lengths. All the things that shouldn't be protected under patents or copyrights - but are anyway.

No, the concept of the 'horseless carriage' wasn't patented, but if the current view of IP in the business world was in place then it could have happened. The Eolas "browser plugin" patent, has already been mentioned. What about the Xerox PARC's AOP patent? Amazon's one-click ordering?

Patents may last 19 years, but what about copyrights, which recently were extended to life plus 70 years? And somehow this is retroactive... so nothing has entered the public domain since 1998, and nothing will be able to until 2019. It's not suprising Helen was suprised that copyrighted works enter the public domain after their copyrights expire... the public domain has been effectively destroyed to increase corporate profits. Other issues, such as copyrighted works physically degrading to the point of being unrecoverable by the time copyright expires is covered in Why Copyright Laws Hurt Culture in Wired magazine.

I see the current IP abuses as the greatest threat to the software industry in America today. (Yes, even bigger than outsourcing!) If this current trend continues, only countries that ignore the crazy interpretation of IP that is put forward now will be able to create anything - while companies in America will just sue each other and have to tiptoe around various licensing agreements. If innovation is outlawed, only outlaws will innovate.
 
Tim Holloway
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Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:



If it's work related to the company, then yes, they own it. As a general rule, think about if this is something you would have been able to do if you had never worked at that company.

--Mark



Well put. When a potential employer asked me about IP rights 10 years or so back, my response was that he was hiring me for the learning, abilities and tools that I brought to the job, that some of the tools I had developed were being carried forward from when I had worked at other places, and that I would hope that the same courtesy would be extended to whatever future employers I had.

Not all employers are that enlightened. One of the supposedly best places to work in America has (had?) a policy that whatever you worked on on their time using their equipment was theirs and whatever you worked on on your time and your equipment was also theirs.

Carried to extremes, this attitude, like non-compete contracts, could potentially make one unemployable anywhere else for the rest of their life. I'm not a litigious person, but no one yet has offered me the kind of compensation that would make me deposit all that I have built up and all that I might develop from that base on their particular doorstep and walk away forever, nor have I been guaranteed an income for life for doing so(*). I would view excessively onerous claims to be unfair restriction on my ability to earn an income and would have no problems placing that view in front of a jury.

OTOH, my test is the same as Mark's. If it's industry-related technology, it belongs to the employer. If it's not industry-related, but my employer might be able to market it profitably (a situation that I may shortly see happen), I'd attempt to resolve the matter with my employer. If it's a better way of processing JavaDocs I cook up at home and part of the time I did that I was working for an insurance company, and there was no way they'd ever do anything but sit on it even if they did own it, I'd hope they'd have the decency to allow me to release it, at least on a non-profit basis.


* One of the benefits that business lost when employees went from being "permanent" to <sarcasm>Our most valuable assets</sarcasm> (a/k/a perma-temps) is that they have weakened their ability to claim sovreignity over people's non-core products since these side projects may now be spanning positions at multiple employers.
 
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As it stands now restrictions that make you unemployable are null and void, they're not legal even if you signed on to them.
This was actually implemented just a few years ago to get rid of clauses in mainly IT contracts that made people unemployable by having extremely broad wording like "may not take employment in the same sector of industry for 5 years".

There have been cases of contracts stating work done in your own time is owned by the company but I doubt those can be enforced (at least here) unless MAYBE that work is directly in competition with the work you perform for the company.

Without IP rights there can be no innovation as already mentioned.
In the (distant) past such rights were more or less implicitly protected, these days they're laid down in law.
There is abuse from both sides of the spectrum.
On the left we see the pirates and thieves bent on stealing other's IP and/or the products created from that IP, on the right we see some unscrupulous companies and individuals trying to leech money from other companies and individuals by patenting increasingly broad concepts (the one-click patent is an example of this but hardly the best as it is not all that broad).

Legitimate innovators are caught in the crossfire, having to invest heavily both to protect their own IP and strangled by the ever increasing amount of frivolous patents that make it almost impossible to create something that doesn't violate something in some way unintentionally.
 
Helen Thomas
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Some of the things experts have to say about invention

"This report summarizes findings and recommendations of a yearlong study of invention and inventiveness. We have aimed, through an interdisciplinary approach to the subject, to shed new light on invention and on the special kind of creativity involved in inventing.
While much has been written about innovation and entrepreneurship, there is a paucity of literature dealing in an interdisciplinary way with invention and inventiveness. While there is much literature dealing with creativity generally, there is little that deals deeply with the specific form of creativity that is inventiveness."
Experts on Invention: Enhancing Inventiveness for Quality of Life, Competitiveness and Sustainability

Experts Concerned About Future of Invention
[ June 03, 2004: Message edited by: Helen Thomas ]
 
Don't get me started about those stupid light bulbs.
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