Re: Very good discussion by me of Intellectual Property Rights ;-)

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Mon, 4 Jan 1999 09:06:34 -0800 (PST)

>But comanies won't invest millions of dollars in RD if someone else can
>look at what they;ve donw and just copy them without paying them back for it.
> It is a very good and relevant argument, but it has yet to be tested that
> development will be stopped if patents were stopped.

But it _has_ been tested: the thousands of years of human history before the newfangled idea of patents were as productive and creative as today. Agriculture, construction, toolmaking, money, clothing, cooking, boats, roads, water power, and countless other technologies that are so commonplace we hardly think of them as high-tech were all invented long before patents.

The argument that patents are necessary to support long-term R&D is circular: long-term R&D only exists because the patent system makes it more profitable to invest in long-term research in the hope of discovering something novel and patentable than to invest in the gradual, step-wise refinement of existing technologies that was the rule before patents. Creating an exclusive property right in "novelty" does precisely what any other similar subsidy does: it artificially raises the value of novelty at the expense of other things such as craftsmanship and service.

That may or may not be a good thing; novelty may be something we think is good to subsidize as part of our culture, much the way the French subsidize wine production. Or we may think that such novelty is so valuable that we want more than the natural amount of it. Even Dr. Friedman agrees that patents encourage the production of novelty; but the question naturally raised by that is this: we, as libertarians, don't ask what the "right" amount of bread or cars produced is; we assume it is whatever the market naturally produces. Why, then, do we attempt to produce the "right" amount of novelty by encouraging it with patents, rather than letting the free market decide that as well?

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,

are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC