Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hey! eBay's Right!

Again from the Journal, which I love -- I'm careful to stay away from the editorial pages, which by all accounts are stone crazy.
While patents may be property, the San Jose, Calif., Internet auctioneer argues, Congress never intended to give patent holders who don't use their inventions nearly insurmountable leverage over companies later found to infringe.
I've been such a tool! You know how you're told when you're a kid that the Big Auto Companies buy patents for improvements in safety, fuel efficiency and so forth just to keep competition from arising? That seems a little fishy, but hey, patents are property, right?

And then, one day, someone tells you why patents are property: to encourage innovation by guaranteeing an inventor monopoly profits for some time. And you see that the whole pharmaceutical industry is actually built around this. And this kind of intellectual structure around patents just fades into culture, and you accept it. Like I accepted my sister's assertion that if one stared at an object long enough, she or he would burn a hole in it. I finally reconsidered this as an undergraduate senior Physics major (it's not something I tried to use a lot.) It was just this crazy thing I believed in, like congressional oversight. Or patent law justifications.

Now, if we do strip patents from people who fail to use them, this will incite large companies to interfere with usage of threatening technologies until the whatever time frame we set expires. And there are probably a few other problems. But, really, why can't we let eBay win?


Anonymous said...

This was fascinating -- thanks for sharing! And yes, I think eBay's right...

Anonymous said...

BTW, that was me (Brad) who commented just now.