With homage to Jonathan Swift (born 350 years ago this month) and his eloquent satires, it is a melancholy object to many companies merely wanting to do business and individuals merely wanting to copy that they encounter patent, trademark and copyright owners standing in the way, blocking these companies from moving forward, and demanding money. Indeed, these multitudinous intellectual property holders all have their hands out and companies and people now have to carefully steer clear lest they fall victim to the demands of these predators.
Ideas nowadays are a dime a dozen and companies need to avoid all these patentees with their hands out. Also, all people should get the benefit of these ideas as soon as possible, as cheaply as possible, nay for free, the innovator patentees be damned. I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of patentees has created the deplorable state of the union, and a solution that is fair, cheap and easy of making things simpler for companies to operate, would help the public welfare and preserve the nation.
I am assured that most patents have little or no value and are not a salable commodity. I shall now, therefore, humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection. I have been assured by a knowing Englishman of my acquaintance in Washington, DC, that patents are useless to society and that all patentees are but greedy monopolists, whether individuals, universities or corporations. And I make no doubt that patents are worthless to the world as well, who, of course, should see things our way.
I do, therefore, humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundreds of thousands of patents awarded yearly, all be dedicated to the public, and all patents granted thus far be abrogated and the inventors flogged for their insolence in filing for a patent. Likewise, I humbly propose that all intellectual properties be forbidden, i.e., copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets as well, further benefiting the common weal and augmenting the Commons. As with patents, people should be able to have all songs and movies at their whim, and use whatever logos and trade secrets with impunity. Indeed, we should all be able to download and copy and pirate as we wish. Content owners who think otherwise should be fined and even imprisoned for their arrogance of creative expression and claims to ownership.
Now, there may be some naysayers out there who say that taking such measures would be harmful and that innovators would be less likely to innovate, thereby depriving the world of many important, perhaps critical, technological advancements. That, as Ayn Rand proclaimed, these takings would be to the detriment of all. Perhaps, but free is free, and people with good ideas should just share willingly, considering it their societal duty to aid their fellow man and benefit the common weal in all ways with no compensation whatsoever.
Similarly, some say that artists should not allow their fans to freely copy the latest songs and movies because this would remove the incentive to create. But, people create all the time and should just learn to share their creations with all and for all. Likewise, the argument against businesses just letting others use whatever logos or trademarks is that this would create chaos and confusion in the market place. Poppycock. Let the buyer beware is the mantra. Coke is Coke, and Lipitor is Lipitor, whoever makes it.
Sadly, this satirical homage to Swift has currency in this trying legal environment. The Federal Reserve Bank even published a study advocating the dismantlement of the U.S. patent system some years back, and many large tech companies would consider this acceptable – efficient infringement is not enough! The America Invents Act (AIA) has laid waste many of the advantages of being an innovator, but the Supreme Court is currently considering the constitutionality and propriety of some of the more troublesome aspects of the AIA.
Just as Swift’s solution to the crises of his day was abhorrent, i.e., eating the children of the poor for nourishment, eating the issue of our Founders is also abhorrent, as well as ill-advised. Our Founders recognized the value of patent and copyright systems, and inculcated this philosophy into the Constitution itself – and our nation has benefited thereby. Likewise, trademarks provide considerable benefits to us all. A societal reward for innovation and creativity is a small price to pay to assure our greatness for generations to come. Rewarding individual creators is key to our nation’s success. Yet, the patent system is in the midst of a great recalibration at present, with Congress and the Press aiding and abetting some corporations in the destruction of the patent system, protecting the corporate bottom line over creativity.