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Inventing the Telephone, Independently

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the i-invented-the-hippo dept.

203

An anonymous reader writes "There is a nice article about the history of the telephone at AmericanHeritage.com. Most of us know that Alexander Bell beat Elisha Gray to the patent office by mere hours to claim credit for the invention of the telephone, but did you know that two other inventors can also claim the invention, including Thomas Edison? Similar disputes about independent invention and patent ownership can be found regarding the television, the airplane, and the automobile. Maybe it really is true: the economic benefit of encouraging patents is like that of encouraging window breaking."

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so this was a war (0, Troll)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896866)

it was a war on the rights to the First Patent Post.

Re:so this was a war (1)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896998)

Wait a minute, if it was about Edison, then I think it was actually Tesla [google.com] who invented it!

Interesting... (5, Funny)

y00tz (952744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896868)

little known fact: Al Gore also invented the telephone.

Re:Interesting... (0, Offtopic)

JRGhaddar (448765) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896900)

little known fact:While God is credited with creating the heavens and the earth, Chuck Norris beat him to it.

Re:Interesting... (4, Interesting)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896929)

I don't think the "broken windows" analogy is a good one. A better one might be the tradition of some native american tribes to hold "wealth burning" parties, where the rich would demonstrate their wealth by burning it, thus necessitating the creation of more.

By taking a situation where there exists "plenty" and using legal fictions to create scarcity, they are clearly destroying wealth.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14896923)

He never said that he invented the telephone, he only said that he took the initiative.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14896987)

Actually, he said that he took initiave in creating the telephone, slight distinction, but important.

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897181)

Ridiculous. Everyone knows it was really Don Ameche. [ablecomm.com]

I've come to the conclusion (0)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897569)

that for some people, the Al Gore/Internet inspired jokes are like sex.

Sure, it's pretty much the same thing every time, but somehow it never becomes boring.

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14896869)

*I* invented the telephone you insensitive clods!

An idea whose time has come (1, Redundant)

edb (87448) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896870)

We will patent no invention before its time.

Re:An idea whose time has come (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14896890)

quick! patent that.

and like Calculus (5, Insightful)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896875)

Duplicating good ideas should be expected. Something like calculus shouldn't be trademarked, etc.

But if you place the threshhold high enough, patents (esp. for a limited duration and done right) can be very much warranted and beneficial.

Re:and like Calculus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897109)

"But if you place the threshhold high enough, patents (esp. for a limited duration and done right) can be very much warranted and beneficial."

Maybe, but how do you specify such a threshold? We already have a "non-obviousness" test, but in practice it seems to have absolutely no effect. We also have a "no prior art" test, but all this seems to do is encourage extortionists to patent minor changes to prior art.

Remember, this has to be a relatively objective, legally intuitive definition. Is such a thing even possible for patents, where the subject matter is, by definition, unknown?

Re:and like Calculus (1)

rollingcalf (605357) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897456)

"Remember, this has to be a relatively objective, legally intuitive definition. Is such a thing even possible for patents, where the subject matter is, by definition, unknown?"

It is impossible to have such a definition. But such objectiveness is not needed if they get away from the idea that inventors are entitled to patents. Patents need to be seen as a privilege and not a right, because a patent restricts the rights of millions of other people to do what they want with their own property.

I think there should be a patent quota, which is about 20% or less of the current number of patents granted per year (even 20% is probably too high -- there aren't that many useful patents granted). That total would be dividied into categories with sub-quotas within each category. Every year, panels of examiners would rate each application on a combination of factors (non-obviousness, usefulness, the likelihood of prior art (if its actual existence cannot be determined), the likelihood that the thing would be built anyway without a patent, the likelihood that it would actually be built if given a patent, etc.). Applicants can get extra points by stating that they want a shorter patent validity term or having a working model.

Those that don't meet a certain threshold of points get discarded; of those that remain, the best X number of them get patents up to the amount allowed by the quota. The next best 10% or so would get forwarded for consideration the following year, the rest are rejected outright.

Would this result in good patents being rejected? Sure. No patent system can be perfect. But it is better to err by NOT granting a few good ones than by granting several bogus patents. The bogus patents would find it very difficult to rise above the other applicants.

Re:and like Calculus (4, Interesting)

eric76 (679787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897116)

I wonder what it would be like if everyone who invented the same device could receive their own patents as long as their applications were filed before any were published.

One obvious effect would be that you could license it from whichever inventor with whome you could come to the best agreement.

I certainly can't see any logical reason why anyone who invented something independently of another should be deprived of the fruits of their own effort.

Still badly broken. (2, Interesting)

expro (597113) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897367)

I wonder what it would be like if everyone who invented the same device could receive their own patents as long as their applications were filed before any were published.

But this still cuts out all those who legitimately develop something obvious after it has been patented. What is obvious to one person may not be obvious to a patent examiner. Just because it was not obvious to a patent examiner does not mean it would not have been obvious to any number of others who are at the top of their fields and should have the right to do research without the landmines laid everywhere for them by the government-granted monopolies or even oligopolies you propose. It would still be badly broken. It denies others the right to independently develop without paying taxes to the one who hired the lawyers first.

Re:and like Calculus (1)

mikek3332002 (912228) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897460)

Well if it was imagine how much easyier it would be until a GNU clone came in thats worse then the orginal

...aha! (1)

Avyakata (825132) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896876)

Fancy that...issues with copyrighting. I never would have imagined such a thing!

Re:...aha! (1)

rm69990 (885744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897006)

We're talking about Patents here.

Thomas Jefferson was agaist patents? (5, Interesting)

thx1138_az (163286) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896879)

I seem to remember that Thomas Jefferson was against patents because he thought that invention was a natural course of evolution and that invention was inevitable product of the society and not the product of the individual. At least that's how I remember it.

Re:Thomas Jefferson was agaist patents (5, Informative)

thx1138_az (163286) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896895)

Ah! here's the link to Thomas Jefferson's take on patents. http://www.usewisdom.com/sayings/patentsj.html [usewisdom.com]

Re:Thomas Jefferson was agaist patents (0, Troll)

westlake (615356) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897567)

Thomas Jefferson's take on patents.

Jefferson's slaves, who had to translate his ideas into reality, might have appreciated some more immeadiate return for their labor.

Jefferson was blind to the Industrial Revolution but he surely understood only too well that the slave states were not going to be a hotbed of innovation.

Re:Thomas Jefferson was agaist patents? (3, Informative)

troll -1 (956834) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897012)

And Benjamin Franklin [mit.edu] was generally against patents. He declined to patent his invention of the Franklin Stove.

According to Article I, sec. 8 of the US Constitution patents are supposed to promote the progress of science.

Re:Thomas Jefferson was agaist patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897096)

Those were both ppl though, their employers didn't automatically own their thoughts. Maybe patents should be non transferable and owned by individuals with legitimate claims to the idea (instead of Mr.Burns).

Doesn't follow (5, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896882)

Maybe it really is true: the economic benefit of encouraging patents is like that of encouraging window breaking.

That doesn't follow from the fact that inventions are often independently reinvented. Inventions are so often independently reinvented because new inventions depend at least as much on having all of the supporting technologies and ideas in place as they do on the cleverness of the inventor. Once the prerequisites are in place, it's not surprising that several bright people will simultaneously hit on the way to put them together. However, it's still possible that without the knowledge that patents will allow them to protect the results of their success, inventors might not be *motivated* to create their inventions.

It's equally possible that the existence of patents doesn't provide any incentive to potential inventors. I think the truth is somewhere in between, but the main point is that the frequency of multiple independent invention doesn't really say anything one way or the other about the efficacy of patents as motivators for creating and publishing new ideas.

To elaborate slightly (3, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896892)

In other words, independent creation of invention occurs in part because the economic incentive of patents encourages many people to work on the problem simultaneously. Without that encouragement, perhaps none of them would have worked on the telephone and it might not have happened until much later.

Re:To elaborate slightly (1)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896917)

In other words, independent creation of invention occurs in part because the economic incentive of patents encourages many people to work on the problem simultaneously.

Care to provide any kind of proof that patents have anything to do with this whatsoever?

Without that encouragement, perhaps none of them would have worked on the telephone and it might not have happened until much later.

Perhaps, most likely, there would be a zillion other incentives to still invent those things.

People have been inventing stuff for thousands of years before anyone came up with the silly idea of patents, there is really no reason whatsoever to assume that inventions somehow depend on patents.

Re:To elaborate slightly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14896962)

You are basically asking someone to prove a negative.

The factual record is that there was more economic growth in 100 years than there was in the previous 1000. Patents were a key component of that. You can hypothesize that it would have happened without the modern patent system, but the fact is that it didn't.

Re:To elaborate slightly (2, Interesting)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897011)

You are basically asking someone to prove a negative.

Not at all. I asked for showing cause and effect.

The factual record is that there was more economic growth in 100 years than there was in the previous 1000. Patents were a key component of that. You can hypothesize that it would have happened without the modern patent system, but the fact is that it didn't.

See this post [slashdot.org]

Re:To elaborate slightly (1)

eric76 (679787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897139)

The factual record is that there was more economic growth in 100 years than there was in the previous 1000. Patents were a key component of that.

For the vast majority of inventions, I really doubt that patents made any difference at all.

How many inventors would quit inventing if the patent system was substantially cut back? How many companies would shut down their R&D departments?

I think that there would probably be cutbacks in the few industries where the cost of the R&D is so high that the only way to recoup the investment is by granting the inventors control of the invention for a number of years. For the rest, I doubt that the rate of invention would change much at all.

Re:To elaborate slightly (1)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897549)

Hmm, I suppose you intended to reply to the parent of my post? at any rate, I agree with you, and I rather think that a patent system should cover those specific cases only.

Re:To elaborate slightly (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896973)

I'm not a historian, especially not a historian of patent law. I can't give you data. Sorry. Call yourself the winner of the argument if you like.

But I do know that the rate of inventions increased dramatically in the past couple of hundred years. The United States was a dramatic mover in technology from its inception as a country. Perhaps it's a coincidence that the US also had a strong notion of patents (inherited from England, another patent-awarding country and producer of many of the Industrial Revolution's first advances).

Patents during the Industrial Revolution were very different from what they are today. They were on mechanical inventions rather than mere ideas (especially unimplemented ideas). And the pace of innovation is so fast that we hardly need to encourage it; the speed of communication and the ability of customers to quickly switch from one technology to another provides different incentives to innovate and the slowing down of licensing a patent gets in the way. Change may well have made the patent system unnecessary today, but that doesn't necessarily invalidate its utility in the past, or the soundness of the original idea.

Re:To elaborate slightly (1)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897005)

I'm not a historian, especially not a historian of patent law. I can't give you data. Sorry. Call yourself the winner of the argument if you like.

I won't and that wasn't the point of my post really.

But I do know that the rate of inventions increased dramatically in the past couple of hundred years. The United States was a dramatic mover in technology from its inception as a country. Perhaps it's a coincidence that the US also had a strong notion of patents (inherited from England, another patent-awarding country and producer of many of the Industrial Revolution's first advances).

There are 2 things that coincide. That may point at a relationship, but does not in any way say that one caused the other, it merely makes it a possibility. It doesn't even say that there is such a relationship by definition.

One can as easily argue that patents are the result of those with some political or economic power wanting to have some control over inventions.

In the end it is very simple. In order to claim that patents are effective, one has to show cause and effect, not a mere coincidence.

If you're looking for synchronicity (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897641)

Look at freedom instead of patents.

A free people will use their imagination to improve their lives. Therefore, they will invent.

And, concerning strong patents, no, the US has not had particularly strong patents until fairly recently. Maybe it's a coincidence, but the telephone monopoly was broken up about the same time patents started being made too strong (by allowing algorithms, business methods, and other ideas to be made subject to patent, and the the swamp of re-tread patents that resulted, and the failure to check patents properly in the crush). Anyway, the telephone monopoly breakup is what has been fueling the innovation so that it could continue in spite of stronger patents.

And that is what SCO is on about. Darl should be excommunicated.

Re:To elaborate slightly (1)

Shihar (153932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897084)

Care to provide any kind of proof that patents have anything to do with this whatsoever?

Do you think that a pharmaceutical company would drop a billion dollars pushing a drug from discovery, to lab testing, to FDA approval if they were not guaranteed at least a few years to sell the drug without someone copying them for pocket change and under cutting them before they can turn a profit?

Re:To elaborate slightly (2, Insightful)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897568)

Being first to market, others needing time to figure out what you did and how it works give you a time advantage already.. Don't see any problem there.

Regardless, there may be some very very specific areas where patents make sense, but that doesn't mean that every field of technology or every inmvention has to be bothered by it really.

Re:To elaborate slightly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897119)

People have been inventing stuff for thousands of years before anyone came up with the silly idea of patents, there is really no reason whatsoever to assume that inventions somehow depend on patents.

Patents also give time benefits. They speed up the invention process by encouraging investment.
You can have companies spend millions or even billions of dollars to get new technology out next year (and give them sole rights for 20 years), or you can wait 50 years until a person develops the technology in his spare time. The benefit for the company is a short term monopoly, the benefit for society is 30 extra years with the invention.

Re:To elaborate slightly (1)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897559)

Patents also give time benefits. They speed up the invention process by encouraging investment.

That is an assumption, not a proven fact.

Also, investment != speed of invention. It has a relation, but if you believe that throwing money at a problem is enough to invent a solution, I suggest you go look into the invention of television. It is a simplistic way of looking at things that ignores reality in quite some cases.

You can have companies spend millions or even billions of dollars to get new technology out next year (and give them sole rights for 20 years), or you can wait 50 years until a person develops the technology in his spare time. The benefit for the company is a short term monopoly, the benefit for society is 30 extra years with the invention.

There is no proof of that, again, this is an assumption.

There is no system to compare with to see which works better. There are however quite some cases where the patent system van be shown to have delayed the availability of inventions for decades. (Farnsworth and the TV once more, but for something really interesting, try to find some information about a Dutch guy called 'Leegwater' and the invention of the windmill driven pump and sawmill in the 1500s or early 1600s)

Re:To elaborate slightly (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897526)

I've done three inventions that have been duplicated by others in the forms of a patent, CUJ article, and patent application. The stuff I did was either patented or part of a open source project so this would all be verifiable if I provided specific details. All the patents, mine or others, are as a result of normal job duty. While you get a slightly better job appraisal it's a royal pain to do a patent so there's no great encentive here. Anyway, three is a pretty good argument that stuff will be invented anyway. Now I just have to wait for my other published ideas to get patented by someone else. It doesn't bother me since I don't make any money off of my ideas.

Re:Doesn't follow (2, Insightful)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896897)

Read the article that quote points to. A bad patent is like throwing a rock through a window, an patent lawyers are like glaziers arguing that broken windows are good for (their) economy.

Re:Doesn't follow (2, Insightful)

GreenHell (209242) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896918)

Unless you're suggesting that all patents are bad patents, then I'm not sure the article really applies.

your sig (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897107)

hahahahaha i love your sig

Re:Doesn't follow (2, Interesting)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896934)

It's equally possible that the existence of patents doesn't provide any incentive to potential inventors. I think the truth is somewhere in between, but the main point is that the frequency of multiple independent invention doesn't really say anything one way or the other about the efficacy of patents as motivators for creating and publishing new ideas.

What it does say is that most inventions do not take unique capabilities or unique ideas, and that the temporary economic monopoly in quite a few cases gets assigned to the random inventor who happens to be at the patent office first, and not by definition to the one who put in the most efford, made the best variation on the invention, made the best documentation or anything like that.

What is more, if you look at the RCA vs Farnsworth battle about TV, patents can in fact delay the introduction of an invention by decades easily.

Re:Doesn't follow (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896961)

Of course the truth is somewhere in the middle - duh! The outcry against patents is that in this day and age that it's being pushed to one extreme. It's not about the lone inventor in his basement or even the researcher in his lab - it's about corporations and their lawyers.

Instead of asking if patents are single incentive for inventors and thus is crucial - perhaps this article should have us asking - do patents hurt inventors and despite them, we, as a society, get things done? After all, there was Alexander Graham Bell and then there were 3-4 other guys whose efforts meant collectively zilch after the patent was granted.

Don't get me wrong, I like that in order to get patents, companies have trade the knowledge in exchange for protection - so that we don't have secretive guilds like in the middle ages any longer - but it's coming to a point where many things that just require a semi-unique situtation + an hour's thought are becoming patentable.

Re:Doesn't follow (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897092)

"I like that in order to get patents, companies have trade the knowledge in exchange for protection"

There are some advantages to the function of patents, and this is the one that stands out as the greatest advantage.

But the dilemma is a false one, we're not faced with a choice between monopoly or secrecey. There are many other ways we could accomplish the same thing; for example, we could scrap the monopoly part of patents and instead let the patent office hand out the money directly. That way the conflict of managing the actual cost of overgranting patents becomes an internal problem in the patent office, the budget for extra innovation incentive becomes an ordinary political fiscal issue, and the incentive to get the problem corrected falls squarely among patent holders, as they'd be the ones getting less money per valid patents if there were too many.

It's not an either/or proposition, we can have the good of the patent system without the bad, and we can have it in a way that doesnt damage a free market economy. Such non-monopoly systems of intellectual property incentives would also be extrordinarily friendly towards free software and small inventors, as such publishers/holders could be awarded a financial incentive _without_ having to take an antagonistic stand against their users.

Re:Doesn't follow (2, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896994)

Look up Douglas Englebart. The poor guy was so ahead of his time that any awarded patents would be useless.

I don't see the benefit of awarding patents to everything. Perhaps there should be just a limited number of patents awarded a year. Pick the top 1000 or something.

Or the top 1000 get 20 year protection, the next 10,000 get only 10 years. and the rest get 3 years ;).

Re:Doesn't follow (1)

rollingcalf (605357) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897486)

I totally agree. In fact, I independently came up with the same idea, like what happens with many patents! I wrote my post above [slashdot.org] on the same thing (having a patent quota) before reading yours.

Elisha Gray (4, Interesting)

Dimwit (36756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896905)

I don't normally post to Slashdot anymore, but I just want to point out that Elisha Gray is my great, great, great grandfather. Not that I saw any of the money. Ah well. It's something to tell the kids.

Re:Elisha Gray (1)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896950)

"My great great great great grandfather may or may not have invented the phone"?

Impressive.

Re:Elisha Gray (1)

thx1138_az (163286) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896981)

Welcome to /. Elisha Gray gets at least partial credit for the inventing of you :-) So far there is no patent on that. I suppose that our children are our only real lasting contribution... Oh! sorry to cut this short but I have to go; my phone is ringing, ttfn. But seriously my friend... welcome.

You can have too much of a good thing (5, Insightful)

PapayaSF (721268) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896910)

Yes, patents can be abused, as with submarine patents [wikipedia.org] . And patents can slow technological progress, as with the wing warping [curtisswright.com] patent battles [centennialofflight.gov] . But I don't think it logically follows that patents are always bad, and that technological progress would be faster without them. After all, the patent system was created to reduce trade secrecy and and encourage invention, and it certainly does that, however imperfectly.

Re:You can have too much of a good thing (1)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896988)

All to often, people have a tendancy to look at the goals and desires behind a system and not the nature of a system. The nature of the patent system is very simple --- "if you benefit from something that seems like seems like a copy of something we invented, then we reserve the right to beat you down" --- that's all there is to it. Everything else is just fluff added on to make it sound nice.

Maybe they're beating them down to promote invention, maybe they're beating them down to destroy invention, maybe they're even beating them down to create a master race. It doesn't matter. I just hope people understand that for every invention that they create and reserve the right to "beat everyone else down", that there are probably billions of other inventions out there that they rely on in their everyday lives. If push comes to shove, it will all come back at them 1000 fold.

Re:You can have too much of a good thing (1)

product byproduct (628318) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897019)

The patent system is not an on/off switch, it can be improved.

Personally my main problem with patents is that they all last 17 years. The patent reviewer should instead estimate the time until he would expect an independent rediscovery if the invention was hypothetically kept secret. Just a rough estimate is ok: "would this be reinvented in 1 month, 1 year, 10 years, or only in 50 years?". This would be a fair duration for protection.

Another new rule is that inventions that can be kept as trade secrets can't be patented. You make money off of them as trade secrets instead. Your protection is then *exactly* the duration until rediscovery. No need to estimate that duration if you can have it happen.

Patents good? (5, Insightful)

typical (886006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897047)

But I don't think it logically follows that patents are always bad

But it need not, for patents to be a net disadvantage.

After all, the patent system was created to reduce trade secrecy and and encourage invention, and it certainly does that, however imperfectly.

I'm not sure about that.

At the research facility where I worked before the current one that I'm working at, important inventions that really provided an edge over the competition was always kept a trade secret? Why? Because everyone in the industry cross-licensed with each other, because otherwise nobody could actually build anything. Patenting something was just giving it to the competition. Patents were reserved for less useful things.

The net effect was to keep anyone new from entering the market. Patents don't have to all be perfect -- if there are two hundred patents held by incumbents waiting to attack anyone wanting to enter the market, most of the patents can be thrown out and the newcomer is still going to have a hard time entering the market.

In 100 years (4, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896914)

In 100 years time, Bill Gates will be credited with inventing the computer, and Al Gore the first public computer network. Sad, but you know it's true. Who invented the light bulb?

Re:In 100 years (1)

rm69990 (885744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897010)

Who invented the light bulb?

Duh! Everyone knows Steve Jobs invented the light bulb

Re:In 100 years (1)

Urusai (865560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897016)

Silly fool, in the future, Big Brother will have invented the light bulb, just like he invented the toilet, television, and rat face-cages.

Re:In 100 years (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897017)

GE?

j/k

Re:In 100 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897062)

Who invented the light bulb?

Well, as long as something like Wikipedia exists in 100 years time, anyone who cares will be able to find out the truth [wikipedia.org] .

Re:In 100 years (5, Informative)

Captain DaFt (755254) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897347)

Well, if by "light bulb" you mean electric light, the phenomenom was well known in scientific circles back in 1820, as the folowing quote from "Oersted and the Discovery of Electromagnetism" at http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/fgregory/oersted.htm [ufl.edu]
shows:

"Since I expected the greatest effect from a discharge associated with incandescence, I inserted in the circuit a very fine platinum wire above the place where the needle was located."

In other words, a current through a thin wire made electric light.
Not very practical though, only known power source was galvanic batteries (Which quickly ran down), and needed expensive platinum wire to keep the filament from melting or burning up right away.

The obvious solution was to encase a cheaper filament in a vaccum (ie: bulb), but good vaccums were difficult to achieve, and good filaments were also a problem at the time. They needed to be cheap, very thin, mechanically strong, electrically conductive, (but not too much) and with stand high temprature, not an easy combo to come by.

After some twenty years of research, English physicist and electrician, Sir Joseph Wilson Swan successfully demonstrated a true incandescent bulb in 1878 (a year earlier than Edison) http://www.maxmon.com/1878ad.htm [maxmon.com]

Not that they were the only two working on it, just the first two to produce a practical version that got public attention. (As I recall, a German and a Canadian also demonstrated similar lights at about the same time, but I can't remember their names.) }:-P

Re:In 100 years (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897622)

Alexandr Lodygin held a patent for a filament lamp in Russia in 1874 (having applied for it in 1872), and established a company manufacturing those. It was not a commercial success though, but it certainly did draw some attention, enough for him to be awarded for the invention. He is also generally assumed to be the one who first came up with the idea of using tungsten filaments.

Re:In 100 years (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897648)

Who invented the light bulb?

Thw problem isn't simply that of the light bulb.

The problem is to engineer all the component parts of a commercially viable system: Power plants, distribution networks. If power is to be sold, its usage has to be metered. To reduce the risk of fire and electrocution, you need standards for household wiring, switches, fuses, etc.

It takes a certain genius, organization, talent, money and discipline to fit all the pieces together. That is why men like Bell and Edison are remebered, and the also-rans are not.

The Modern Era... (4, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896915)

The one thing you will never see in this lifetime is Bill Gates standing in line at the Patent Office while Steve Ballmer barricades the front door.

Re:The Modern Era... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897046)

Ballmer doesn't barricade, he throws chairs. Kinda like Donkey Kong.

(hmm, Ballmer Kong. I gotta learn how to make them Flash games.)

Patents are violent (-1, Flamebait)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896919)

IMHO, copyrights can't survive the information age, but patents are far more evil. The imposition of patents in most cases is nothing short of plain physical coercion. The fact is that 99% of invention is progressive, just another stage built upon the countless other layers of understanding and invention already out there. The only competition that patents promote is trying to lock out new inventions that might allow new technology to bypass your patent portfolio. But patents have a far more evil side effect....

How would you feel if you were a slave on the plantation, and told that slavery was a property right, that they had no incentive to grow cotton unless they had the right to whip you, that the great wealth and prosperity of America rested upon others being able to beat you down. Well, this is how millions of Africans who are dead from AIDS felt - because when their countries tried to bypass patents and make generics, they were sued my American pharmaceuticals in the world court. And the criminals who caused this - instead of being ashamed, they act proud and proclaim that no decent medications would exist without patents, which is an outright lie. In fact, patents slow down medicine development in every country they touch.

The "it's a property" argument is bullshit, the "it's an incentive" argument is a fraud, the "it creates wealth" argument is a lie. Like the plantation system, it is evil at the core, and the day we get rid of the patent systen can not come too soon.

Finally, one more thing. If you want to understand how patents are going to unfold - all that has to be done is to look at copyrights today. Eventually, technology will come about so that people can "print up objects" in the home, or "replicate" stuff. The patent people will demand royalties for this stuff, and they will try to impose physical coercion to get them. By that time, there will likely be quadrillions of dollars worth of pressure to enslave every man woman and child on the planet to keep the patent revenue streams flowing. Patnets brought to their logical conclusion will likely lead to the murderous death of billions. IMHO, Africa is just the start.

Re:Patents are violent (2, Informative)

Shihar (153932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897073)

IMHO, copyrights can't survive the information age, but patents are far more evil. The imposition of patents in most cases is nothing short of plain physical coercion. The fact is that 99% of invention is progressive, just another stage built upon the countless other layers of understanding and invention already out there. The only competition that patents promote is trying to lock out new inventions that might allow new technology to bypass your patent portfolio.

That simply isn't true. There are issues with the patent system, but if you feel that 99% of the time they cause harm, you really just don't understand the entire issue. I can think of at least one industry that would literally die over night if patents were suddenly done away with.

Pharmaceutical research would pretty much grind to a halt without IP laws. It can take up to a billion dollars to push a single drug from discovery, to lab testing, past regulation, and into production. No one is going to drop a billion dollars just to have their closest competitor copy what they just achieved at not cost to themselves. It simply would not happen.

This is the case in a lot of leading edge fields. In a lot of fields you need to create something that is amazing complex and capital intensive. You need to drop millions or billions of dollars on developing a product before it becomes viable. IP protection is the only thing that gives you any sort of assurance that if you find something, someone just can't steal it.

I am not saying that the current IP system is all roses. In fact, it down right sucks in many ways. That said, claiming that IP in general is a great evil that needs to be done away with is utterly ignoring the role it serves in helping to spur R&D work.

Re:Patents are violent (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897154)

It can take up to a billion dollars to push a single drug from discovery, to lab testing, past regulation, and into production


The parts that are done secretly, while reinventing processes others in turn also have been inventing, fighting with tooth and nail to be a few months ahead, yes.

... but if I ask you to prove that's the most effective way, especially at /. where people immideately understands the benefit of open-source-do-not-reinvent-the-wheel-AGAIN, I think your pre-written sentences above will start to crumble.


Maybe I'm biased, working in software engineering. I regulary see patents being applied (and granted) for extremely trivial things. There might have been a time where patents lead to a net benefit, but I have had my doubts for several years that it's the case now (and yes - that's including the pharmaceutical industry, even if it means a slight change in how they work)

Re:Patents are violent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897566)

Funny. Your claims about the pharmaceutical industry sound exactly like the TV commericials I see from them. You have been brainwashed.

The fact is that overwhelmimg majority of basic research discoveries done in medicine are done by university affiliated researchers who may benefit a little from big dicoveries, but usually not as much as you think. They don't have the leverage and so get bought by big pharma at a low price.

Most of the money that pharmaceutical companies spend is on clinical trials and marketing. Actually, of the several hundred million dollars per drug that is spent on "developing" a new drug, the majority is actually marketing.

Watch your language (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897106)

Using "violence" to describe a bunch of whining oily pencils calling their lawyers to write a letter is just as dumb as using "property" to describe something without any tangible manifestation or value. (or "terrorism" to denote looking at a cop cockeyed or being brown skinned for that matter)

What is it with peoples misuse of basic language these days?

Everything else you say is pretty much on the money. A better term is possibly "abuse". The system is abused because it's hopelessly quaint and irrelevant in the 21st century, but it isn't _violence_.

Alexander Bell did not invent the telephone either (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14896941)

Even back in 1876, the USPTO ignored prior art.
Philipp Reis' version of the telephone is from 1860.
Antonio Meucci's version of the telephone is from 1854.
Meucci's version is not really the invention of
the phone either, the principle probably was discovered
by Page in 1837, but Meucci *did* file for a US
patent, which he did not get simply because he
ran out of funds.

So in 1876 there was a rush to get a patent
on the phone, where four guys competed, none
of whom was anywhere close to being the
original inventor of the phone.

Thomas

Re:Alexander Bell did not invent the telephone eit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897085)

Excellent. Now go and do some research on who actually had a working device and get back to me.

Re:Alexander Bell did not invent the telephone eit (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897172)

Philipp Reis had. He showed it to the Frankfurter Physikalischer Verein in 1860. The first sentence ever spoken via wire was "Das Pferd frisst keinen Gurkensalat." (The horse doesn't feed on cucumber salad.) One of the members of the Physikalischer Verein invented the nonsense sentence to make sure the demonstration wasn't rigged.
Philipp Reis invented the name 'telephon' (1863). He died in 1874, so he had no chance to battle A.G.Bell in court.

Obligatory Firesign Theatre quote (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896943)

"Did you know the Indians invented the wire recorder?"

--
BMO

P.S. - it's disturbing how "Everything You Know Is Wrong" is so similar to late-night talk radio these days.

Bridges, Software, Copyright, Patents and Open So (3, Insightful)

thorpie (656838) | more than 8 years ago | (#14896970)

Bridges come in all shapes and sizes, from the 4,200 ft span of the Golden Gate to the pipes under the road at the top end of Sandy Creek. If anything software is even more diverse, from programs with tens of millions of lines of code down to simple routines of a line or two to automate some mundane task.

Constructing a bridge costs, as does developing software. The vast majority of bridges are public property. They have been funded and built by such a large pool of people - government's of one form or another - for the common good, for use by anyone at anytime. However there is a substantial pool of private bridges. Most of these are bridges built for specific non standard vehicles such as trains. Others are built for the conveyance of standard vehicles but tolls are charged for a variety of reasons.

Starting from the precept "We are human, we can do anything and get to anywhere we want", a toll bridge must provide a cheaper and/or quicker alternative to other ways of getting from A to B. To invest in the toll bridge its constructor determines that he can charge a particular toll, at that toll he will get a particular amount of traffic and that this income will repay the cost of building the bridge. The constructor needs to satisfy themselves about the surety of the factors that affect the bridge usage. They minimize their risk by identifying as many factors that will adversely affect bridge traffic as possible and blocking these adverse factors where possible.

Where huge bridges are required, the Golden Gate, Sydney Harbour and the like, tolls can be seen to be fair without imposing monopoly conditions on the general populace. No conditions need imposing on ferry services, no conditions need imposing blocking alternate routes, the bridge operates in a standard competitive environment because it is so obviously a beneficial object.

On less obviously beneficial bridges the actions of people are substantial factors that affect the financial viability of the bridge. Controlling these actions is a form of monopoly rights granted by the relevant government(s). These rights include: restricting other river crossings; guarantees of road construction to ensure their bridge is the prime route over the river; concessions that the investors have the sole rights to offer peripheral services, service centres offering fuel and food etc. These rights are generally granted for a limited time and the bridge often reverts to public ownership at the expiration of this time.

This model is open to abuse. The rights granted may be disproportionate to the benefits. A bridge may be built over a small creek for little cost and the constructor granted a perpetual ban on any other bridges being built 20 miles in either direction. Or the government may agree that other routes will be closed or allowed to degrade, or they may put restrictions on other services, or they may allow the operator to insist that users of the bridge utilize other services before they can use the bridge etc. etc.

Transferring this view of bridges to intellectual property one would have to conclude that there are no Golden Gates or Sydney Harbour's. Every method developed has alternatives that can be simply developed and deployed. Intellectual property monopoly rights can only be related to the pipes under the headwaters of Sandy Creek with a guaranteed monopolies 20 miles in either direction. They are completely out of proportion with the benefits these pipes offer.

In fact the situation is worse than this. A better metaphor is monopoly rights to a pipe under a train line. The pipe owners charge not only a toll for using the bridge but force you to load your car onto their railway carriage and force you to utilize their passenger service for the 200 yard journey over the Sandy Creek floodplain. The alternative is to drive an extra 50 miles through the mountains because they have monopoly veto rights over any road bridges over Sandy Creek.

Another alternative, that can be likened to open source, is a group of people deciding to found a new town where they build a free public bridge. They need the bridge for themselves in any case, but supplement their living by providing services to travellers and by opening up industry in the general vicinity. They build a causeway over the floodplain slowly, by simply carrying a rock and dropping it every time they use the bridge. Rather than using a stick to force people to use the bridge they use a carrot of good amenities and fair service in peripheral goods and services. From their initial investment and foresight they and their subsequent generations become the town founders and respected citizens. On you Linus.

Well, patents ARE a government approved monopoly (3, Insightful)

mozumder (178398) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897000)

Patents are the exact opposite of a true free-market capitalistic system. In this case, the "goods" are ideas, and there is only one seller that controls the market for it. That seller determines the price and who can/cannot buy this idea. This is clearly a monopoly. Capitalism can only work when there's millions of sellers and millions of buyers. When such conditions do not exist, socialism needs to be instituted.

Patents prevent a true free market for ideas, and yet, in our current system, the value of the ideas are controlled by the patent holder. The system of patents need to change, to include things like price controls of the ideas, or to allow multiple patent holders if developed independently.

The parable of the broken window (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897008)

Do economists agree with this in all cases?

The idea that the shopkeeper may have spent the money on something else may not be true. He might have done. Or he might have been hoarding the money. The glazier on the other hand, is more likely to see that money as a perk, and spend it immediately.

Did Hoover Dam mean that the US was out by the cost of one dam? Did Nazi Germany's economy suffer because they were spending a lot of money on weapons? Why does the modern capitalist society encourage us to spend more and more on luxuries we really don't need?

Surely if the broken window fallacy was totally a fallacy, we could all work less. We don't all need new cars. My 10 year old TV still works as well as it did the day I bought it. Modern technology means we could all easily have a very comfortable lifestyle, with the essentials of life - with shelter, and all the food and clothing we need - if we all worked a 20 hour week. Most of society spends its time producing non-essential luxuries that people certainly don't need and wouldn't want if we weren't constantly told how good they are. According to the broken window fallacy, society is out of pocket be a very large number of luxury goods.

Re:The parable of the broken window (2, Interesting)

raoul666 (870362) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897050)

But with people breaking windows, society has less *stuff* total, which is the measure economists use. When you buy a new car, you'll sell yours to someone else, not just junk it (unless it's quite old.) So you'll have a new car, and someone else will get your car. That's twice as many cars as there was before, and one's nicer. Cleary an improvement. With windows, there's just a replacement of the window, not anything new.

Also, people who "hoard" money also help the economy (well, today they do, since basically no one keeps it in a box buried in the backyard). They'll invest it in stocks, or bonds, or just put it in the bank, who'll then invest it. And investement is good for the economy.

In short, yes, all economists agree about the broken window fallacy.

Re:The parable of the broken window (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897075)

So you'll have a new car, and someone else will get your car.

And someone else will get theirs and someone else will get theirs and at the end of the chain, someone will dispose of an old car. So society has lost a car for the one that was replaced. Wouldn't it be better for the economy to encourage manufacturers to make cars that last longer?

Re:The parable of the broken window (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897331)

And someone else will get theirs and someone else will get theirs and at the end of the chain, someone will dispose of an old car. So society has lost a car for the one that was replaced.

But everyone's car will be better. If the first link in the chain had junked his car instead of selling it, the second link might not have been able to afford a car upgrade, thus resulting in the rest of society not benefitting.

Wouldn't it be better for the economy to encourage manufacturers to make cars that last longer?

Yes it would, and it does. The marketplace will pay more for cars that last longer, thus giving manufacturers incentive to make longer lasting cars.

Re:The parable of the broken window (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897311)

Also, people who "hoard" money also help the economy (well, today they do, since basically no one keeps it in a box buried in the backyard).

And even if someone buries their money in a box it benefits society, because when the money supply decreases everyone else's purchasing power increases.

Patent = monopoly (3, Interesting)

pesc (147035) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897028)

The problem with patents is that most people think that patent owners are heroes and if your country awards more patents it is an indicator on how inventive your country is. People also believe that patents encourage a competitive industry.

Newsflash: Patents = monopolies

A patent is a monopoly on a technology. The patent office is a government institution that hands out several thousand monopolies each year. Most of these monopolies are awarded to foreign corporations.

Why would someone who believes in market economy and free competition support the government handing out monopolies?

How can handing out monopolies to corporations increase competition in the market place?

Why is Microsoft, a convicted monopolist, applying for, and getting a large number of legal monopolies? Why does the government sue MS for abusing their monopoly, and then give them thousands of legally enforcable monopolies?

Re:Patent = monopoly (1)

technos (73414) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897244)

Patents, unlike their Mickey Mouse extended brethren, are still limited in term.

Why would someone who believes in market economy and free competition support the government handing out monopolies?

No matter how big or skillful a company is, someone else will one up you.

Say I design the holy grail of automotive technology. I spend years researching optimal mix ratios, air flow diagrams, doing computer modelling to increase burn efficiency. End result, it doubles the mileage of your average gas guzzler.

Now, with a patent, I stand to recover my money invested at very least, if only by selling it to Conoco-Phillips for them to bury.

Without a patent? I'll get mabye two months making it on my own to recover costs before everyone knocks it off and I'm irrelevant. I probably won't make back anything near research cost before you can buy a Hong Kong knockoff version made by Chinese slave labor for less than my cost to have it machined.

Patents allow innovation in the marketplace by giving inventors incentive to innovate. (My god, that just sounded wrong.)

Now, patents on some stuff. Just silly.

Business models? Shouldn't get one. Every business model under the sun has been tried at one point or another; Just because it now involves a computer doesn't make it new. Reverse auctions? Nothing new there, lots of secondary market resellers do just that, with phones and faxes. One click checkout? You used to see it on Little House on the Prarie reruns, when Pa would tell the clerk to put the groceries on his tab and deliver em.

Gene patents? Meh. If you discover a gene that controls, say, heart disease, and then you develop a specific way of changing that gene, sure, you can have a patent. But "Our computer search of the sequence shows this bit may or may not have an effect on vascular plaque, so we're going to patent this sequence" is bull.

Re:Patent = monopoly (1)

professionalfurryele (877225) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897313)

"Say I design the holy grail of automotive technology. I spend years researching optimal mix ratios, air flow diagrams, doing computer modelling to increase burn efficiency. End result, it doubles the mileage of your average gas guzzler.

Now, with a patent, I stand to recover my money invested at very least, if only by selling it to Conoco-Phillips for them to bury."

That's just it, you don't. Because you infringe on 27 trivial patents Ford has which are necessary for your engine to work. And if you try to produce your engine or sell it to someone else you can be your arse Ford are going to sue. Making your invention worthless. Unless you are a big company with a massive portfolio of otherwise worthless patents that Ford is infringing on so that you can cancel out thier worthless patents.

Patents don't help the little guy as you claim. If you invent something clever you will not get rich. You will get skrewed. Unless you have a multibillion dollar corporation behind you, kiss your invention good bye. We need a system which punishes anyone who files for a trivial patent with harsh economic sanctions. A system which says "no physical invention is attached to this, pleasse pay one quarter of a million dollars for every day you wasted of the patent office". And we need to impose it retroactively.

Patenter VS Inventor, it is a question of fame (3, Insightful)

doudou42 (691076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897035)

The real inventor of telephone is Antonio Meucci, Bell stole the idea from him.
What is amazing is the fact the two names quoted in the original post are Bell and Gray : The person who tried to patent the idea.

Re:Patenter VS Inventor, it is a question of fame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897636)

I'd call it a shared invention by him an Johann Philipp Reis.
For a detailed timeline see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_telep hone [wikipedia.org]

Other lesser known Edison inventions. (0, Offtopic)

stimpleton (732392) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897037)



Other lesser know inventions by Thomas Edison [somethingawful.com] :

- The Tuxedo T-Shirt
- The Tampon
- and an early version of the inflatable love doll.

I wouldn't say that (2, Interesting)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897080)

Several people invented the telephone, independently, partly because they all wanted patent-enforced monopolies that could make them rich.

Maybe I'm chasing an impossible dream, but I have to wonder if there's a better way to provide a strong incentive to create ideas and other information other than by placing artificial restrictions on the availability and use of that information. I've got no ideas here.

fundamental problem with no perfect solution (1)

fortinbras47 (457756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897394)

You've hit upon the fundamental tension between (1) incentives for developing new ideas (2) efficiently using all currently known information

Information, especially in today's Internet age, has a distribution cost of close to 0. The cost of giving information to 1 additional person (marginal cost) is close to 0 and therefore the economically efficient price is close to 0. To efficiently distribute CURRENTLY KNOWN information, the price should be close to 0.

BUT, if the price for all information were 0, then there would be no incentives to create new ideas. There would be no incentive to develop AIDS drugs etc... To create incentives to create new ideas, the price of information has to go above 0, but any price above 0 leads to less dissemination of information that we would like.

As I understand it, this is a fundamental problem with no solution. I think the goal of a patent/copyright system isn't to create a perfect system (which is impossible) but to create a workable system that strikes a reasonable balance between disseminating information and creating new information.

**Warning: the following is an impossible solution** This is totally theoretical, but if you were some kind of all seeing god of pricing, you could charge different people different prices for the same information. If Alex valued a new mp3 from SuperAwesomeBand at $0.50 I would charge him $0.45 or something like that. If Bob valued the same mp3 at $0.02, I would charge him $0.01 If it were possible to know how much each person valued a piece of information, then you could practice price discrimination and you would have efficient creation of new information and efficient dissemination of information. But practicing price discrimination like that is impossible.

No way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14897094)

I cannot believe that no one has mentioned Chuck Norris yet.

Who Did invent the TV? (5, Insightful)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897113)

I know there are many claims to who is the inventor of the Telephone. There are similar claims about the TV.
The link to the "inventor" of the tv fails to completely mention John Logie Baird.
This very eccentric scotsman was a pioneer in TV development. There is still to this day a great debate amongst historians about who was first.

http://www.infed.org/walking/wa-baird.htm [infed.org]

The first TV pictures he sent were down a phone line!
At least the place where the worlds first TV station broadcast from is still standing and is a great monument to those involved.

Multiple standards (1)

NekoXP (67564) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897163)

Would we have a better system if we let all 4 inventors share ideas and work on a mutually compatible telephone system? I doubt they would have agreed to it to be honest. Inventors are stubborn, "I'm right you're not" kind of people :)

We all complain about the battle for HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, all those memory card standards, all number of things. Patents ARE like breaking windows; in such a free market it encourages thousands of "patent-avoiding" inventions. Companies (and inventors) would rather have their own patent portfolio than license someone else's.

But therein lies the rub: patents are useful. The window-breaking is what companies do when they refuse to license a patent from someone, and putting windows within a stone's throw and daring people to break it is what companies do when they refuse to put a patent out as licensable.

The free market should be free, and patents a revenue source, not a contrived lock-in for greedy corporations. And let's be clear again: it's the greedy corporations at fault here, and not the patent system.

Re:Multiple standards (1)

CentraSpike (947642) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897439)

I like the idea of a free market in patents. If it could work then it should be easily enforceable by the patent office. ie. you can't have a patent unless your willing to accept market rates for licensing - thus allowing the market to value the patent and avoiding monopolies.

This, of course, isn't the first time i've thought about this and here's the problem I always hit. There is no scarcity in a market for licenses (unless it is invented through anticompetitive measures) - as a result allowing market forces to determine the correct price will result in a price of zero.

However, the difficulty alluded to with regard to assigning patents to individuals is not really a question of the wider economic problems associated with monopolies (fairness for the consumer). It is a question of fairness with regard to who benefits from providing invention (fairness for the supplier). In this respect I find myself torn between the desire to have the opportunity to create something and profit from it personally and the wider socialist view that invention should be for the benefit of society at large. From a socialist standpoint, invention (and the progress it affords) could be seen as the duty of each member of society, much like politeness, it is necessary and people will continue to do it for their own benefit and the benefit of their friends whether they profit financially from it or not. From this I tend to conclude that the market should not be in the ideas themselves (so called intellectual property - but i prefer to call it information property) but in understanding the ideas (ie. support and market driven future development) - in such a market it would seem likely that the originator (or originators) of a technology or idea will have the competive edge of reknown in the market place.

The same principles could be applied to copyright. An author could make revenue from after dinner speaking or a lecture tour. Or a distributor profiting from advertising revenue in its distribution channel could commission new work to keep itself known as the best place for finding new an interesting fiction.

The example may be over simplified but eventually, i believe, it will be necessary to accept that information has no intrinsic value in of itself (in that once it is available it cannot be effectively made scarce) and that the real value is in understanding and continued creativity (both might be termed intellectual potential).

So there you have it, IP - Information Property or Intellectual Potential, you decide :)

Article displays bad logic (1, Troll)

fortinbras47 (457756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897329)

And unfortunately it appears to be the prevailing Slashdot logic.... The fallacious argument reduces to this:
(1) SOME patents are bad patents (they patent obvious and/or previously innovated ideas)
(2) Therefore ALL patents are bad and our society shouldn't have patents

(1) is true. (2) is false. (2) does not follow from (1). The hostility to IP on slashdot really amazes me, especially considering all the stuff we would not have if it were not for patents:

AIDs drugs would never have been developed if after billions of dollars spent on research, the drug would instantly be copied by generics and sold for zilch. For example Gilead Sciences was founded in 1987 and burned investor money for a decade before getting its AIDS drug approved. If they couldn't sell it for a high price, investors would stop making expensive long term investments in biotech.

If some invention costs $X to develop, it is ILLOGICAL to invent it if the inventing person/company cannot earn more than $X from the invention. If some knockoff company can come in and steal the idea, then the inventing company will NOT earn $X. This is especially true if the development cost is high and the distribution cost is low. Knockoff companies will compete and drive the product's price close to the cost of manufacturing the product, and there will be no way to recoup development costs.

I agree there needs to be more separating the wheat from the chaffe in patents, but the blanket hostility to patents I so often see here is logically unsound and in the real world, will literally lead to disease, death, and worse lives for everyone.

But the very requirement that it be high-priced (1)

expro (597113) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897424)

But the very requirement that it be high-priced and obscenely profitable warps the development to an extreme degree at various levels, both in the value of the drug to the masses who cannot afford it, after such huge moneys were spent on it that might have been spent on a more-rational approach if one of the requirements had not been developing something so different from traditional approaches that no one else would be allowed to copy it when it was completed.

People might make the same argument about an operating system, that no one would produce one given the high costs if it were not possible to earn high profits from every copy sold. If (and this is a big if) it were impossible to do the research in any other way, charitable organizations could easily help, if it weren't for all the patent minefields and money of the drug cartel that obstructs them today. Research would not be done in the same way as today, and that would be a good thing. If drug research is the best argument you have, your argument is lost.

Like their illegal drug counterparts, if it were not for the laws restricting their development and production, the free market would reduce the prices and they would be developed anyway. I'd like to see how much of the actual money for all the supporting research aids drugs came from public coffers anyway, only to have the resulting drugs patented and exploited by the few.

Parent Post is Victim of Biased Moderation (0, Offtopic)

fortinbras47 (457756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897426)

The parent post:

Directly comments on the theme of the article
Is 100% factualy accurate
Is logically sound

I guess anyone who doesn't buy the anti-IP hype gets modded as a troll. I think that's a shame.

Re:Article displays bad logic (1)

CentraSpike (947642) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897488)

I agree with the comment about poor moderation - this is a valid comment in most respects.

Unfortunately I don't agree with the conclusions of said comment. In essence fallacious logic has been used to support the patent system. It cannot be concluded that without patents money would not be spent on drug development as there exist other forms of finance - not least public funding. If the logic were to be correct then we would not have street lighting, which is expensive to provide, where anyone is free to stand under a street light without paying a toll. Instead it is deemed beneficial to society as a whole and paid for out of taxation applied to society as a whole.

Back to the question of whether patents are bad (and to mix metaphors :), I agree, there is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water due to a few bad apples. However, it might be noted that just because patenting has appeared to provide a useful function in the past it does not mean that it will continue to do so or that abuses will not eventually become the norm rather than the exception (I think this is what many slashdotters believe and fear - myself included i'm afraid).

Basically... (2, Informative)

Majin Bubu (455010) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897346)

...The article says: Bell was not the first to invent the telephone (that's why in Italy we honor Meucci for that, even though the idea was probably even earlier) but he was the first to patent it, because he was richer and had better lawyer. It seems that nothing has changed in the past 150 years after all.

Broken window qft (2, Informative)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897354)

A young hoodlum, say, heaves a brick through the window of a baker's shop. The shopkeeper runs out furious, but the boy is gone. A crowd gathers, and begins to stare with quiet satisfaction at the gaping hole in the window and the shattered glass over the bread and pies. After a while the crowd feels the need for philosophic reflection. And several of its members are almost certain to remind each other or the baker that, after all, the misfortune has its bright side. It will make business for some glazier. As they begin to think of this they elaborate upon it. How much does a new plate glass window cost? Two hundred and fifty dollars? That will be quite a sum. After all, if windows were never broken, what would happen to the glass business? Then, of course, the thing is endless. The glazier will have $250 more to spend with other merchants, and these in turn will have $250 more to spend with still other merchants, and so ad infinitum. The smashed window will go on providing money and employment in ever-widening circles. The logical conclusion from all this would be, if the crowd drew it, that the little hoodlum who threw the brick, far from being a public menace, was a public benefactor.

Now let us take another look. The crowd is at least right in its first conclusion. This little act of vandalism will in the first instance mean more business for some glazier. The glazier will be no more unhappy to learn of the incident than an undertaker to learn of a death. But the shopkeeper will be out $250 that he was planning to spend for a new suit. Because he has had to replace a window, he will have to go without the suit (or some equivalent need or luxury). Instead of having a window and $250 he now has merely a window. Or, as he was planning to buy the suit that very afternoon, instead of having both a window and a suit he must be content with the window and no suit. If we think of him as a part of the community, the community has lost a new suit that might otherwise have come into being, and is just that much poorer.

The glazier's gain of business, in short, is merely the tailor's loss of business. No new "employment" has been added. The people in the crowd were thinking only of two parties to the transaction, the baker and the glazier. They had forgotten the potential third party involved, the tailor. They forgot him precisely because he will not now enter the scene. They will see the new window in the next day or two. They will never see the extra suit, precisely because it will never be made. They see only what is immediately visible to the eye.


source [jim.com]

No TV dispute (2, Informative)

Veteran (203989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14897642)

There was no TV patent dispute: Farnsworth invented it, RCA attempted to steal it and failed. The history of RCA under Sarnof is truly disgusting. The company fortune was built on patents stolen from Major Armstrong who invented the super regenerative, super heterodyne, and FM radios as well as the phase lock loop. Armstrong committed suicide after he lost - in one of the worst court decisions in recorded history.- the FM case to RCA

Most of the abuses of the patent system would simply disappear if only individuals could own patents - instead of companies.
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