Why Intellectual Property is the State's Latest Taser


The history of patents shows this is not the case.

I highly recommend Against Intellectual Monopoly by Boldrin and Levine. I
would be happy to lend it to you. Let me know.

Here's an excerpt from a review of the book:
Arguments against intellectual monopoly can be a little complicated. It's
easy to say that patents and copyrights are necessary to pay back authors
and inventors for their risks and creativity. Does it occur without
government intervention in the forms of patents and copyrights? Does piracy
actually put the legitimate creators and inventors out of business?

One striking example from the book was the Linux company Red Hat, which
distributes the open-source Linux platform and provides support. Its
pirating competitors sell the same thing for cheaper (and indeed, the whole
thing is available for free!) and yet Red Hat has grown and its competitors
have shrunken or disappeared altogether. Boldrin and Levine point out that
while something may be free, people are still willing to pay for other
peoples' knowledge. There is value in knowledge, and consumers don't always
have the time to educate themselves. Those with a background in economics
will remind themselves immediately that there is no such thing as a free
lunch: even pirated material has an opportunity cost of time, or might
require a certain level of knowledge.

Warm regards, Michael

Hi Michael,

My question was more personal than intellectual. "Would you,
personally, spend oodles of time and money in bringing something to market when you knew you had no chance to recoup your expenses because people will just help themselves to your invention?" Included in the question is the assumption that you wanted to make as much money as your talents would allow you (that leaves the Linux model out), and you were not in the business for personal satisfaction alone (Linux). Included in the assumption, is the unpleasant fact that in order to make the money you want, the government needs to step in and protect your interests. A compromise that I believe has been tried is allowing private sector associations to monitor your inventions and shame those who claim the benefits without the talent or hard work.


Allow me to comment on that Marcy. A real entrepreneur doesn't concern themselves with such practical thinking. They only think about the opportunity and promise of reward but do not need the reward itself. I've labored developing a software program and unique business model for 23 years in my business. For a long time no one understood. Now I'm being copied.

I may make money doing what I do....or I may not. But it doesn't make any difference. What I built is what I thought buyers and sellers needed and it didn't exist. In some ways it was an act of love. And hopefully the world will be better off for it. It would be nice if I was remembered for it but I really don't care.

Being an entrepreneur is a kind of obsession. Those who chase money are often entrepreneurs...more like business opportunists. And that's fine. Everyone has to do what they have to do. Some entrepreneurs make money and other don't. But a real entrepreneur will not stop what they are compelled to do because there is a risk they might have something copied or taken from them and have their reward snatched. We do our best to guard against it. But sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.


You seem to be projecting your feelings as a general characteristic of
entrepeneurs. Plenty of entrepeneurs disagree with what you just said.


Just ask Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison. Regarding the nomenclature entrepreneurs vs opportunists, it would be difficult for me to accept that the terms would be applied without personal prejudices.

Again, all this is not to say that there are no folks out there who love to invent and innovate without thought of financial success or personal recognition. However, it is my opinion that they are not the sole model of the entrepreneur. And just as society accepts protecting the physical merchandise in a businessperson's store, which came to the store as a result of the owner's hard work and brainpower, society protects what the inventor develops. In these two examples, of course, the businessman can give away his widgets for free and the inventor can make his invention available to everyone. Go right ahead! But what about those who would not? I guess we do without their widgets or their inventions?

The argument against patents reminds me of Warren Buffet's campaign about the rich needing to pay more taxes. Go right ahead, Mr. Buffet, and pay all you want! Just leave those who do not agree alone!




When I started my business...Forbes had an article on entrepreneurship. The feature story was about a person who had started a business providing foodservice to airlines. While a bit different from her competitors, it was basically the same thing with a twist. A gentleman from San Rafael wrote to Forbes suggesting that she wasn't breaking any new ground doing what she was doing and that it wasn't a particularly good example of entrepreneurship. In his published commentary he wrote "The entrepreneur only vaguely sees the light of the sun in a thick fog. They are driven to find the sunlight despite the fact it is very hard to see and often disappears completely for long periods of time. They show others where they saw light and tell people about it but can't currently see it who they are crazy. That is the life of an entrepreneur." I found him in the phone book (yes that long ago) and we met. He had successfully started a business that revolutionized aspects of the insurance business. And he was passionate about entrepreneurship.

Another famous statement often repeated about the only benefit of being an entrepreneur is that "you get to pull arrows out of your ass"....get it, those following you are constantly trying to pick you off. Regardless of laws, copyrights, patents and more....the refuge of scoundrels....there will always be those who are tearing away at the establishment for the good of the people and the fun of it. They are, in my humble opinion, the entrepreneurs.

Please define the "entrepreneurs" who disagree. Note in the definition of entrepreneur (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneur ) that "risk taking" is a critical part of the equation. If one applies risk avoidance strategies to their business model such state enforced constructs as copyrights and patents...aren't they somehow less entrepreneurial?


I love the vision of the ideal entrepreneur also, just as I love the vision of the American cowboy riding towards the sunset. These are icons we indeed should hold on to.