Arnold Kling  

The Intellectual Property Mess

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Warren Toomey writes,


Although AT&T quickly settled its legal disputes with Berkeley Software Design and the University of California, legal wrangling over intellectual property claims to various parts of Unix and Linux have continued over the years, often involving byzantine corporate relations. By 2004, no fewer than five major lawsuits had been filed. Just this past August, a software company called the TSG Group (formerly known as the SCO Group), lost a bid in court to claim ownership of Unix copyrights that Novell had acquired when it purchased the Unix System Laboratories from AT&T in 1993.

Pointer from Tyler Cowen.

Hal Varian of Google describes the current situation in patent litigation as one of Mutually Assured Destruction. That is, they way you protect yourself from patent litigation is to acquired some patents yourself, so that you can threaten to counter-sue anybody who sues you. Ugh.

When I get around to reading Launching the Innovation Renaissance, I hope to find that Alex Tabarrok has a solution to this mess.


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COMMENTS (3 to date)
Joseph K writes:

It's actually worse than that because the "mutually assured destruction" defense only works against companies that can actually be sued. Defensive patents are no help against patent trolls that can't be sued because they're simply not producing anything.

bryan willman writes:

because the mechanisms that reward innovation and development - rents and litigation to collect said rents - are also mechanisms of abuse, we are stuck.

worse, the current system is heavily slanted towards bigness - it is very costly to get a patent, very costly to prosecute one, etc. so large parties employ drawn-out costly defence in depth schemes.

PrometheeFeu writes:

Oh look. Government-granted monopolies lead to hugely inefficient rent-seeking. I think Tyler may be wrong about there not being many low-hanging fruits. Dump or severely restrict both patents and copyright and you will see an almost immediate productivity boost.

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