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Another Call For Abolishing Patents, This One From the St. Louis Fed 315

Posted by Soulskill
from the system-and-method-for-creating-systems-and-methods dept.
New submitter WOOFYGOOFY writes "The most recent call for curtailing patents comes not just from an unexpected source, the St. Louis Fed, but also in its most basic form: total abolition of all patents. Via the Atlantic Monthly: a new working paper (PDF) from two members of the St. Louis Federal Reserve, Michele Boldrin and David Levine, in which they argue that while a weak patent system may mildly increase innovation with limited side-effects, such a system can never be contained and will inevitably lead to a stifling patent system such as that presently found in the U.S. They argue: '...strong patent systems retard innovation with many negative side-effects. ... the political demand for stronger patent protection comes from old and stagnant industries and firms, not from new and innovative ones. Hence the best solution is to abolish patents entirely through strong constitutional measures and to find other legislative instruments, less open to lobbying and rent-seeking.' They acknowledge that some industries could suffer under a such a system. They single out pharma, and suggest other legislative measures be found to foster innovation whenever there is clear evidence that laissez-faire under-supplies it."
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Another Call For Abolishing Patents, This One From the St. Louis Fed

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  • by TWX (665546) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:35PM (#41503585)
    ...why not change the duration, or require active production to defend a patent?

    For some industries, 17 years is a very long time. If the duration were lowered for software to something like five years that'd make more sense to me.

    For physical device patents, patent holders who fail to produce goods (and I don't mean to license the patent to another manufacturer without self-producing) a lack of production should spell the end. If they won't produce it then someone else could have the right to do so.
    • How about a duration of 0?

      What evidence is there that patents have brought products to market that otherwise would never have been made? What evidence is there that patents shortened time to market?

      • by Sentrion (964745)

        In many cases patents are the alternative to trade secrets. Many companies still choose to rely on trade secrets when the technology was discovered somewhat accidentally, when so much time and money are poured into R&D and there is no expectation that any other company will commit to the same level of effort, and/or when the company has some other reason to believe that competitors cannot or will not pursue the development of the protected technology. Trade secrets lead to a closed, uncooperative syst

        • by flaming error (1041742) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @02:13AM (#41504135) Journal

          'Trade secrets lead to a closed, uncooperative system"

          I think we can trace the roots of non-cooperation back to a competitive marketplace. Competition leads to trade secrets..

          The question is whether innovation would flourish more with patent protections, or without.

          With them, competition is forbidden until they expire, then they're public domain.

          Without them, competition is allowed immediately, everything is public domain for the reverse-engineering of it, and competitors are free to invent their own, possibly similar, designs.

          • by Type44Q (1233630)

            With them, competition is forbidden until they expire, then they're public domain.

            Without them, competition is allowed immediately, everything is public domain for the reverse-engineering of it, and competitors are free to invent their own, possibly similar, designs.

            Don't you have that backwards?

            • by Type44Q (1233630)

              Don't you have that backwards?

              Sorry; read that again and it made sense. Must be my sleep-addled mind. :)

          • by hazem (472289)

            There's two problems with this. If something requires a lot of up-front investment to invent for the first time, then who will have an incentive to make this investment when someone else can take their finished product, reverse engineer it? They can then sell it at a lower price because they don't have to recoup the costs of the initial inventing process?

            Plus, unless you have complete vertical integration of your supply chain, there's no such thing as a trade secret. Patents are the only thing that prote

            • by iive (721743)

              There's two problems with this. If something requires a lot of up-front investment to invent for the first time, then who will have an incentive to make this investment when someone else can take their finished product, reverse engineer it? They can then sell it at a lower price because they don't have to recoup the costs of the initial inventing process?

              Plus, unless you have complete vertical integration of your supply chain, there's no such thing as a trade secret. Patents are the only thing that protects the inventor when they try to go into production. Let's say you invent some cool widget but don't own your own manufacturing facility to produce it. So you go to a factory and pay them to make your widgets. Oops... they have a "production problem" and your product will be delayed. In the mean time, taking your plans, they run their own production and get their own version out into the marketplace before they even ship your product. What do you do then?

              I'm not saying the patent system is even close to perfect but it exists for a reason - to protect inventors so they are economically safe to invent things. Just ask Robert Kearns:
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Kearns [wikipedia.org].

              Nice reasoning. The only problem is that patents at the moment doesn't work (like this).

              1. If something requires up-front investment to invent for a first time... it will never be invented. Inventions are either done as hobby in the free time and for the expense of the inventor, by R&D department of a company that already works in the field or by universities that work in this field. No outsider would invest in something that may not even be possible.

              2. Patents are not the only things that protects a pr

          • Given jerks like Lemelson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome_H._Lemelson), of patent extension to the ultimate conclusion in the barcode scanning realm, innovation will be retarded in the extreme if we allow patents to continue. With the technology available now, especially with the advent of 3-D printers, patents may not even necessary to induce innovation in the near future. The technology available to us now makes reverse engineering much easier than it used to be.

            One example of trade secrets that I tr

        • by ballpoint (192660)

          Have you ever read technical patents ? In most cases the slang they're written in is meant to describe the "invention" as vaguely as possible but to stake claims as wide as possible. Either the invention is trivial, or its disclosure in the patent is simply useless for duplication.

          • by green1 (322787)

            Once upon a time you had to have a working model to get a patent, and your patent had to describe it in enough detail to reproduce it.
            That is the very least we should require if the patent system were to continue. Abolishing it altogether is a far more sensible option though.

        • Trade secrets lead to a closed, uncooperative system where "the wheel" so to speak is constantly reinvented and the pace of techological innovation is significantly slowed.

          When was the last time you looked up a patent rather than reinventing the wheel? Certainly whith software I am reinventing wheels on a daily basis, but it is easier and quicker for me to do this than find an appropriate patent and adapt it to my situation.

          Most software patents document the obvious. Those things that weren't obvious when they were filed will be considered obvious by the time they are granted. Modern patents are also so badly obfuscated by the patent writers that they probably can't be used as a basis of implementation anyway.

          There are some (non-software) patents that cover large portions of a whole product that I think may be beneficial uses of the patent system, but patents that cover only small components within a device are really not beneficial to society because no one is going to spend the time looking for a patent that covers what they want to do, and those who infringe almost always do so by independently inventing something without realising it was already patented.

          I support the idea of having to pay an inventor in situations where their invention has saved you from the R&D expense of developing it yourself, but I don't support the notion that you should have to pay them just because you inadvertently invented the same thing as them (and haence already had the R&D expense yourself.)

        • by Rockoon (1252108) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @06:16AM (#41504975)

          In many cases patents are the alternative to trade secrets. Many companies still choose to rely on trade secrets when the technology was discovered somewhat accidentally

          Indeed. This is the difference between patents on manufacturing technology and patents on consumer technology.

          The patents on manufacturing technology were the original intent of patents. The idea being that a company could trade knowledge of their manufacturing techniques for a limited exclusive on their use, so that all industries could later take advantage of greater efficiencies.

          With patents on consumer technology the trade-off justification does not apply, because the public already has access to the device and can thus reverse engineer it. This form of patent is simply a government enforced monopoly that otherwise would not exist.

          The really crazy part is that after this first bastardization of patents to apply to consumer technology, that then they (recently started to) allow insignificant changes in materials to usher in a new patent, such as software patents being renewed for "..on a mobile device." While the first bastardization is almost debatable, this second bastardization is so way over the top that its very hard to debate its justification with a straight face.

      • by jez9999 (618189)

        What evidence is there that patents have brought products to market that otherwise would never have been made?

        Well, in the UK, the rather famous example is Dyson vacuum cleaners [dyson.co.uk]. It's somewhat difficult for those of us who dislike patents to make the argument against in this case.

      • by MSG (12810)

        Coincidentally, I'm nearing the end of a fascinating book on this exact topic. "The Last Lone Inventor:
        A Tale of Genius, Deceit, and the Birth of Television" by Evan Schwartz. The book documents the struggle of Philo Farnsworth to produce the first television.

        The account is interesting for several reasons.

        First, it really adds perspective to the "non-obvious" requirement for patents. In the 1920's Farnsworth found backers that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, while the RCA group was paying MILLIONS

    • For physical device patents, patent holders who fail to produce goods (and I don't mean to license the patent to another manufacturer without self-producing) a lack of production should spell the end.

      Why? It's like saying architects should dig foundations & pour concrete.

      If I invent a new spanner, can I employ someone to make them? And define "make" - how far up the supply chain do I have to go? Do I have to smelt the iron? Mine the ore? Dig the mine?

      If they won't produce it then someone else coul

    • by Sentrion (964745) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @02:15AM (#41504147)

      So, if Joe Engineer develops the next new thing in his garage, he has to physically make each item by hand or directly hire staff and tool a factory from scratch to organically grow a manufacturing business that may not have anything new to manufacture after the patent expires but may take the life of the patent before finally supplying the initial demand? Why can't Joe Engineer develop his widget and license manufacturing to a company that is already established and capable. For Joe there is less upfront risk, faster time to market, and he won't be left "holding the bag" once the patent expires.

      Now, if Joe scribbles a block diagram on a napkin I could see the value of requiring Joe to initiate production (directly or through licensed manufacturers) before his patent can be enforced. Joe shouldn't have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for 6 or 7 years to pounce on a successful company that just so happened to utilize the method depicted in his block diagram, most likely not even considering the "invention" worthy of a patent due to obviousness.

      • by tyrione (134248)

        So, if Joe Engineer develops the next new thing in his garage, he has to physically make each item by hand or directly hire staff and tool a factory from scratch to organically grow a manufacturing business that may not have anything new to manufacture after the patent expires but may take the life of the patent before finally supplying the initial demand? Why can't Joe Engineer develop his widget and license manufacturing to a company that is already established and capable. For Joe there is less upfront risk, faster time to market, and he won't be left "holding the bag" once the patent expires.

        Now, if Joe scribbles a block diagram on a napkin I could see the value of requiring Joe to initiate production (directly or through licensed manufacturers) before his patent can be enforced. Joe shouldn't have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for 6 or 7 years to pounce on a successful company that just so happened to utilize the method depicted in his block diagram, most likely not even considering the "invention" worthy of a patent due to obviousness.

        This is slashdot. You're asking 99.9% of the people who know jack about actual Manufacturing and bringing a product to market to step back and realize their understanding of the Patent System is even less, including the Fed who are the last group of morons that anyone should listen to about innovation and patents.

        • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @01:22PM (#41507021)

          Blah blah blah. Stupid.

          Joe Engineer doesn't need a patent to contract out the manufacture of his New Shiny. He has contract law, which is considerably stronger, considerably better understood, and considerably fairer than patents. He can approach a manufacturer, give them the highest of high level descriptions to ask if they can manufacture the device and are interested in doing so, and if they say yes, he can (and nearly always does already, unless he's stupid), sign contracts with the manufacturer. Things like Nondisclosure Agreements and Noncompete contracts and exclusive manufacturing rights contracts. Then and only then does he reveal his blueprints and bills of materials and assembly procedures. Nowhere in any of that is a patent required to protect Joe's interests.

          If they say no, and then rush off to try to duplicate what he just described, he has lost nothing, because ideas are worthless, and all he described was an idea. Converting an idea into a product requires the aforementioned blueprints and BOMs and procedures, and while a very large manufacturer might be able to rush something through to produce their own versions of all of those things quicker than Joe did it alone, it's physically impossible for them to do it before Joe does, because Joe has already done it.

          This is where many of us have a severe problem with the current patent system as it is practiced. Patents don't have those things necessary to actually manufacture the implementation. They have an obfuscated worthless pile of crap words created by a lawyer for the sole purpose of encompassing as much of the idea as possible, while using weasel wording that manages to squeak by the alleged requirement in the law that patents can only patent implementations and not ideas. Decades of weasel wording has stretched that requirement so far out of shape that it's unrecognizable in any case.

          Also, this is Slashdot. Any number of us are IN manufacturing, and understand it quite well. Shut up.

  • pharma? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:37PM (#41503595)

    you're going to call out pharma as an example where the patent process provides a positive influence?

    may as well defend the patenting of gene sequences. or business models.

    the whole thing is corrupt

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by diamondmagic (877411)

      Yes, and I'd agree with them.

      Economics is a value-free science: just because it identifies winners and losers, it doesn't mean there is any sort of value judgement on if the respective parties deserve the winnings and losings.

      e.g. you can argue that maybe drug prohibition or minimum wage is a good thing, but don't try and deny that prohibition creates black markets, and that minimum creates unemployment among unskilled workers.

    • There is pretty clear evidence that without patents, big parma does not produce tested drugs. Testing a drug costs billions of dollars and there is no way that anyone would undertake that if they didn't think they could make billions on the other side.

      Now, you could argue that we would be better off awarding value to cures than drugs, but that would require someone placing a value on cures (something I'd be happy to have the government doing, but others might not like that so much).

      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        I think that if you remove all patents from pharma, you also need to remove the extremely long, strict processes required to put a product on the market. Since the arduous process is dictated by government, and equivalent protection should be provided to offset the cost.

      • Re:pharma? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by davester666 (731373) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @01:49AM (#41504055) Journal

        Perhaps then they should stop gaming the system, like patenting a drug for one use, then just before the patent expires, they patent it for another use. Voila, twice patent protection now, as others can't make the drug for the first use, because it might also be used for the second one. Lather, rinse, repeat.

        Also, continue to ignore repeated gaming of the so-called 'testing' phase, where because the costs are so large, there is incredible pressure to ensure the results result in the drug going to market.

        • by ballpoint (192660)

          Also, studies coming out of the woodwork documenting side effects when the patent is about to expire and generics would enter the market. Of course, the company has a New and Improved freshly patented replacement standing by.

      • The drugs that pharma produce have to be tested to be allowed to market, so having patents is redundant anyway. Passing the required testing takes many years, which itself provides a duration of market monopoly to any copycat company. And if a second company isn't a copycat, but happened to begin research on the drug during the testing phase, then any patent would render that research a loss.

      • by Sentrion (964745)

        I wouldn't mind seeing more public funding going into non-profit pharma R&D as an alternative to our present patent system. In most states, an action that demonstrates a "callous disregard for human life" and results in death constitutes second-degree murder. Possessing a life sustaining drug or even a cure for a terminal illness but selling it only to the wealthy or those with the right kind of health insurance at highly inflated prices could only be considered a "callous disregard for human life" if

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      Yup, most of the really really expensive stuff that has to do with pharma R&D has to do with government red tape and legal liability. Rather than giving pharma a free pass better to treat them equally and maybe work on the other end...
  • Drug Patents (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Psychotic_Wrath (693928) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:47PM (#41503639)
    I would agree that the patent system in the US is severely handicapped. But abolishing it entirely would severely handicap drug development.

    It takes years of testing to get a drug approved by the FDA, and that costs big big money to do. You get the drug approved by the FDA and then a chemist comes and makes the exact same thing, and your years of investment into research and development and clinical trials of that drug are going to not be paid off. Somebody would essentially walk the path that you made and they would reap the same benefits just simply by copying what you have done.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I would agree that the patent system in the US is severely handicapped. But abolishing it entirely would severely handicap drug development.

      Are new drugs actually better for you...or better for making money for big pharma. Discuss.

      • Re:Drug Patents (Score:5, Interesting)

        by robot256 (1635039) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @12:00AM (#41503717)
        This. If drug development were offloaded to socialized nonprofit organizations, they would have less incentive to falsify results or push drugs with minimal improvements as "the next big thing". Plus, maybe we would have less of this ridiculous "Talk to your doctor about Xyanoflexanol. May cause blindness, nuclear holocaust and explosive diarrhea" advertising.
        • This. If drug development were offloaded to socialized nonprofit organizations, they would have less incentive to falsify results or push drugs with minimal improvements as "the next big thing"

          IMO trials ought to be run by the FDA itself rather than the people who are going to profit if they can make a drug look better and less harmful than it really is.

          Throw out patents, evaluate at public expense, sell at slightly over the cost to manufacture. Everyone wins, except Big Pharma and Wall Street.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        It varies; they aren't all identical. The newer asthma preventative I started taking several years ago made me free of attacks & frequent bronchitis/pneumonia for the first time; the anti-depressant I'm on is thus far the one kind that increases energy rather than worsening lethargy (which is vital given my other health issues), and the pain patch I'm on lets me have continuous relief instead of the horrible roller-coaster ride that oral painkillers gave.

        The problem is when the pharmaceutical companies

      • Re:Drug Patents (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @08:37AM (#41505505)

        Boldrine and Levine have show rather conclusively that drug development tends to go where the patents are not in their book, Against Intellectual Monopoly (http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/against.htm). They also effectively demonstrate that the introduction of new drugs actually slowed with the introduction of patent protection in any country where patent protection is introduced.

        For some reason, the assumption that patents foster innovation is taken as a fact without looking at the evidence amassed so far. I think it's grand that Boldrine and Levine lend a voice to skepticism of the "patents foster innovation" mantra, but I wonder, just how did they get on the board in a district of the Federal Reserve?

    • Re:Drug Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

      by anon mouse-cow-aard (443646) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @12:05AM (#41503729) Journal
      yes. It is extremely expensive to create new forms of anti-depressants, and treatments for erectile dysfunction... meanwhile tropical diseases don't have a business case. If that's all patents cand fund, it would be more straightforward to fund merit-based research into worthwhile causes directly with taxes (NIH), rather than have the market invent more profitable problems to address and completely avoid the ones that would do the world the most good. ... http://canadasworld.wordpress.com/2009/11/29/orphan-drugs-for-orphan-diseases-the-non-profit-pharmaceutical-model/ [wordpress.com]
      • It might be more efficient, but there is the question as to if it would ever actually happen.

    • Re:Drug Patents (Score:5, Interesting)

      by penix1 (722987) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @12:14AM (#41503765) Homepage

      It takes years of testing to get a drug approved by the FDA, and that costs big big money to do. You get the drug approved by the FDA and then a chemist comes and makes the exact same thing, and your years of investment into research and development and clinical trials of that drug are going to not be paid off. Somebody would essentially walk the path that you made and they would reap the same benefits just simply by copying what you have done.

      That would be true if they were spending their own money on the research. They aren't though. They are spending public funds from the NIH then patenting the results and making obscene profits on it. Want to fix it? Simple. Make NIH funding contingent on royalty free results. After all, it is our money making these companies rich.

      • Re:Drug Patents (Score:5, Insightful)

        by shaitand (626655) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @12:49AM (#41503891) Journal

        Aside from just abolishing patents, IP should be abolished in all forms for anything produced with public funds. Get rid of the contractor bug.

      • by Ubi_NL (313657)

        This is such horse shit. Nih pays at max a few million for starter projects. The 1billion generally required for phase II and III never comes from NIH. If you dont know how pharma works dont act like you do.

      • Re:Drug Patents (Score:4, Informative)

        by Rich0 (548339) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @09:29AM (#41505711) Homepage

        You're missing a few things. The fact is that the NIH doesn't pay for clinical trials and development, and this is where most of the costs of drug development come from. The NIH might pay for the underlying idea, and that idea might even be the most important part of the whole thing, but the fact is that the other stuff still costs a lot of money.

        Then there is the issue that most of the NIH leads don't pan out - but they still cost a lot of money. So, companies plow a lot of money into duds that have to be made back on successes.

        If you made NIH funding contingent on royalty-free results then nobody would make use of anything the NIH produces, unless the NIH funded the trials as well. Now, I think that is actually a perfectly valid model, but don't be under any illusions that drugs would be cheaper if that were done. The only thing that might change is how those costs are recovered (maybe the pills would be cheap or free, but the taxpayers would bear the difference).

        People talk about the costs of drugs, but I think what really bothers people is the regressive way that those costs are recovered. There isn't much you can do about the total cost (that isn't to say that we can't continue to research ways to reduce it), but there is a lot that can be done to change how it is paid for.

    • by shaitand (626655)

      "It takes years of testing to get a drug approved by the FDA, and that costs big big money to do."

      Something that would have to be fixed if we get rid of drug patents. We shouldn't leave the patent system in place just to work around the broken FDA system. That needs fixed anyway. The FDA currently shields drug companies from liability.

    • by jader3rd (2222716)
      If all companies had to do the same amount of drug testing with the FDA there'd still be an incentive to get your drug past the FDA, because the FDA would prevent other companies from selling the same drug, because the copy cats would need to get past the FDA too.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Actually, getting rid of patents would basically handicap innovation, because we'd be stuck in a sea of sameness.

      If you want to see, take a look at China - they don't respect patents, so what do we have? Tons of iPod lookalikes, iPhone lookalikes (including some that run Android), fake network gear, fake chips, etc.

      That's because the Chinese have figured out it's cheaper to copy innovation and sell for less than to try to do any real R&D. Let the sucker company spend the money doing all the hard work, t

  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Saturday September 29, 2012 @11:50PM (#41503653) Journal

    Why just patents? Copyright must go too.

    • Central banking would be gone too.
    • by tyrione (134248)

      Why just patents? Copyright must go too.

      Coming from someone incapable of acquiring either in producing something worth buying by consumers that makes no sense. No one capable of creative works worthy of copyrights and making a living or intellectual property worthy of patenting to make a living makes such a moronic proposition.

  • Patents are supposed to be a (time-limited) barrier to competition. They're supposed to be the way the inventor gets payed for his invention. Without patents there's little incentive to develop inventions into technologies --- technologies that would be quickly copied. People who don't understand this probably would really suck as businessmen.

    The present patent system is a travesty, a farce, an outrage --- not much more than a license for lawyers to steal. But the answer to a broken patent system is a f

    • by robot256 (1635039) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @12:15AM (#41503773)

      The ideal system of government is a benevolent dictator. One person acting with consistent policy and absolute power putting the interests of the majority above special interests and himself. While it is possible to find such a person once every few centuries, it is impossible to maintain this system of government because a bad dictator will inevitably rise and send everything to hell. Every society in the world has gone through the motions of trying to "fix" their monarchy, and suffered revolution after revolution "fixing" their system trying to find a better single ruler. But now, we have realized it was always a losing battle and abandoned the monarchy altogether. Representative governments may be inefficient and suboptimal, but they are stable for the long term and do not require violent "fixes" periodically.

      The argument presented by this article is that patent systems behave in the same way. While a "fixed" patent system would be ideal, its corruption inevitably recurs no matter how many times we actually manage to "fix" it because of how it inherently distributes money and influence among the concerned parties. The only solution, therefore, is to abolish the system entirely and use a completely different paradigm to produce suboptimal but stable results. In many industries that may in fact be laissez-faire, while in others we may need different, more targeted approaches.

      • by shaitand (626655)

        " Representative governments may be inefficient and suboptimal, but they are stable for the long term and do not require violent "fixes" periodically. "

        I'll agree with the stable part. As for the rest, it is more likely that provide enough of an illusion of fairness and they divide people into enough factions that it is difficult for those willing to implement the violent "fix" to gain enough support to pull it off. That is a far cry from not needing the fix.

        • by robot256 (1635039)

          I guess the point is that to the average person, as long as there isn't a war in the streets, life goes on. It's better to have 100 years of mediocrity than 20 years of brilliance, 5 years of bloodshed, and another 20 years of brilliance.

          Thing is, I don't see any way to change the patent system short of the moral equivalent of a violent revolution. If we're going to go that far, why not take it a step further so we don't have to do it again in another 50 or 100 years.

    • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @12:25AM (#41503825)
      Except the idea of a patent system is fundamentally flawed. Legal monopolies are rarely an effective legal tool, and information is not one of the exceptions.
    • by shaitand (626655) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @12:54AM (#41503907) Journal

      If only these economists at the Federal Reserve knew as much about economics as you John_3000.

      Now if we could just figure out how they got people to invent things before patents.

    • Patents have always been a contract between innovators and society to promote the progress of the arts and sciences, emphasis on progress. I personally agree with the St. Louis Fed that the times have changed and patents have become more of a hindrance than an incentive for progress. Back when America first established the patent system as a part of its experimental government the economy was almost totally based on agriculture. Scientific progress was difficult as there was only a small minority of the pop

    • I think you're undervaluing the power of part-time collective action. Take for example, Wikipedia.

      To produce a conventional encyclopedia you need to hire a large editorial staff and pay numerous experts a decent amount to write the articles. But with thousands of people contributing and mutually editing each other in a more or less freely editiable online encyclopeida, you lose the need for a large staff and numerous contributors. With advances in computer automation, you could theoretically reduce your sta

    • by tyrione (134248)

      Patents are supposed to be a (time-limited) barrier to competition. They're supposed to be the way the inventor gets payed for his invention. Without patents there's little incentive to develop inventions into technologies --- technologies that would be quickly copied. People who don't understand this probably would really suck as businessmen.

      The present patent system is a travesty, a farce, an outrage --- not much more than a license for lawyers to steal. But the answer to a broken patent system is a fixed patent system, not no patent system.

      They don't understand it because they lack the talent, brains and imagination to make a living off of the patent and copyright systems.

  • ...to get people on board for Audit the Fed. This could cause billions of lobbying dollars to head to congress to promote auditing and ending the Fed.
  • Levine and Boldrin (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This is not actually new, by the way -- Levine and Boldrin have been making this argument for years. I had Levine for a seminar on this matter four years ago when I was at Washington University, and it seemed like this was already a well-grooved line of rhetoric for him. Heck, they've even got a book that's been out since 2005. Here are some of the places where they're making this argument:

    http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/general/intellectual/against.htm
    http://www.againstmonopoly.org/

  • by Kojow777 (929199) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @12:16AM (#41503775)

    Wow, someone should patent that idea!

  • From the QE3 Cunar.....Canard dept? It sure sounds good, and they've manged to print something other than currency - a PDF file! Not quite sure whether to remain skeptical, be pleasantly surprised, pinch or patent myself. Wonder what The Chairman's got to say about this? Ben, will you lend us some advice? ...Ben?
  • and payment is a small percentage of price based on usage metering by something like the Patent Office. Except it wouldn't be the Patent Office. It'd be the Usage Office or something. The money for the payments would come from a surcharge on things invented within the last however-many years. And payments would be made for, say, half that many years. After that, the thing would enter the public domain.

    People would still get paid for being brilliant inventors, but they couldn't rest on a useless monopoly.
  • Friday I visited my U.S. Senator's office and requested that action be taken to fix our broken patent system. While many reforms are needed, I believe one quick fix could be implemented with minimal affect to the current system in practice but likely dramatic affect in actuality.

    Free Patent Filings when entered into Public Domain

    Essentially, most ideas are often conceived of by individuals before major corporations file. Seriously, does ANYONE believe Apple invented the idea of changing settings such as vo

  • by rossdee (243626) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @04:42AM (#41504665)

    WTE is the St Louis Fed ?

    I thought all Fed(eral institutions) were based in DC

  • by cvtan (752695) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @08:09AM (#41505377)
    I first read this as: "Another Call for Abolishing Parents"

Programmers do it bit by bit.

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