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Copyright, Trademarks and Patents

  1. Jan 12, 2005 #1
    Would society be better of without copyright and patents? Or more or less of than today?

    Many would probably agree that Trademarks are necessary. Otherwise anyone could make a computer looking exactly like a Dell computer and sell it under this name, making it very difficult for consumers to know what they are buying. This would probably greatly diminish competition. Although one could buy directly from the producer or in special stores that promise to only have genuine products from certain producers. (Exactly that is happening in China with its weak trademark protection, many people prefer buying in large chain stores that promise to not sell inferior and cheap but in appearance identical products.)

    Patens and copyright are legal monopolies on information existing for a limited time. Those arguing for patents and copyrights could argue that:
    1. They provide an important incentive for many inventors and producers.
    2. Many things cannot be protected as trade secrets once a finished product is available to for purchase.
    3. Trade secrets are secrets. That means the information is not commonly available and is often needlessly duplicated by competitors.
    4. They are critical in copyright industries, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. At least in their current form.
    5. The exact rules, for example appropriate length of protection, could vary between different countries. Competition would then produce better rules.

    Those critical have argued that:
    1. Being monopolies, they lead to higher prices and usually inferior products.
    2. They are for no apparent reason only granted to certain kinds of information. For example, one cannot take a patent on a new mathematical theorem or a new way of organizing a company. Looking at pharmaceuticals, since one cannot take a patent on remedies used in traditional herbal medicine, almost all pharmaceutical research ignore these areas.
    3. There are many arbitrary rules with no evidence supporting the current system. For example, why should patents last 20 years? Why not 10 or 30 years?
    4. In most industries, patents are only a minor part of competitiveness.
    5. Patents cause much needless research in order to create almost identical products. For example, every successful medical patented drug usually gets several different almost identical competitors only differing in minor, non-essential part of the molecule. But much of the research and safety testing must be duplicated.
    6. The patent owner may be more or less delusional and not make the patent commonly available. For example, it has been argued that the industrial revolution was somewhat delayed until a critical patent on steam engines expired.
    7. Patents can be extremely broad which could increase costs for a whole sector. Alternatively, they can be very limited, meaning that it will time consuming and expensive to get permission from all patent owners. Often it is impossible to decide appropriate scope at the time the patent is granted.
    8. Many things can be protected instead as trade secrets.
    9. Much development takes places without patents. For example in mathematics, psychology, surgical procedures, military strategy, company structure, customer service, dancing or martial arts.
    10. Alternative financial incentives can be real-time subscription services, fan donations, live performances, state support, charity or advertising. And much development takes place due to altruism or for fame.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 12, 2005 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    I'm in favor of them in principle, but I'm not in favor of the extensions given to certain industries.
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