Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Critic of Software Patents Wins Nobel Prize in Economics

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the wise-man-in-multiple-ways dept.

The Almighty Buck 235

doom writes "You've probably already heard that the Nobel Prize for Economics was given to three gents who were working on advances in mechanism design theory. What you may not have heard is what one of those recipients was using that theory to study: 'One recent subject of Professor Maskin's wide-ranging research has been on the value of software patents. He determined that software was a market where innovations tended to be sequential, in that they were built closely on the work of predecessors, and innovators could take many different paths to the same goal. In such markets, he said, patents might serve as a wall that inhibited innovation rather than stimulating progress.' Here's one of Maskin's papers on the subject: Sequential Innovation, Patents, limitation (pdf).

cancel ×

235 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Not Nobel Prize in Economics (2, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20993849)

It's the Swedish Bank's Prize in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Nobel's estate doesn't recognize it, and there is much evidence that the old man would have been horrified to see the dismal science being rewarded.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (2, Informative)

MoonFog (586818) | more than 6 years ago | (#20993923)

Easy mistake to make since they are listed on the Nobel Prize's official web page [nobelprize.org] . They are listed as receiving a price in economics though, not a Nobel price in economics, even though they are under the "Nobel Prizes" banner.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (-1, Troll)

Uart (29577) | more than 6 years ago | (#20993973)

Seconded. The Nobel Prize in Economics is NOT a real Nobel, and is awarded by the socialist Swedish central bank. Their awards are biased.

Honestly any economist who doesn't recognize the value of creating and protecting intellectual property rights in an information economy is a POORLY trained economist. Hernando de Soto has pegged a lack of real property rights as the primary issue that prevents wealth from being created in the third world (agricultural economies). It follows that in economies (such as the US/Europe) which derive their wealth, more and more, from intellectual property, that the ability to protect those rights is ultimately to our benefit.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (3, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994015)

Seconded. The Nobel Prize in Economics ... is awarded by the socialist Swedish central bank. Their awards are biased.

While Sweden is a Scandinavian socialist state, the economics prize is generally awarded to neo-liberal economists. The judges are based, but they are actually biased against the popular values of their own country.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (5, Informative)

timster (32400) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994189)

That's partially because, despite what the people posting here would have you believe, the economics prize is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences -- the same organization that awards the prizes in physics and chemistry. It was established and funded by a grant from the Swedish central bank, but the bank does NOT determine the laureates.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1, Flamebait)

jandersen (462034) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994685)

Sweden is a Scandinavian socialist state

I am not sure that Swedes would agree that their country is 'a Socialist state'; but then of course, they are only Swedes, so what do they know. How exactly do you reach the conclusion that Sweden is a socialist state? Or perhaps to you 'Socialist' means anything that isn't as radically in the pockets of rich people as the Good Ole US of A?

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995877)

"Scandinavian socialist" is a recognized term with a long history behind it, describing those Nordic countries with a strong welfare tradition. It has nothing to do with the US of A. Note that I do not live in the USA, but I do live in Finland, where most people would agree with the attribution.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

tomrud (471930) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994939)

As far as I remember a socialist state is a state where the most companies are state owned and private enterprises are discouraged or forbidden. In Sweden most companies are privately owned and the current government is in the process of selling some of the state owned companies.
Can't anybody mod down the parent troll.

Well he's probably from the USA (0, Troll)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995085)

Considering the current politics of that country, anything to the left of Benito Mussolini is a raging commie.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (5, Interesting)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995039)

-1 disinformative for you there.

Sweden has never been socialist. It has, during nearly all of the previous century, followed a policy of the "Middle Path" choosing the elements from the free market where they are best applied and elements from socialism where they are best applied.

Nowadays it is following a Bush/ Bliar/Thatcher-style neoliberalism with heavy emphasis on buracracy, privatization and corporate welfare.

Go look at the statistics. During the years Sweden prospered economically, had low debt or a surplus, had good services such as health care, low unemployment, it was during the periods of closest adherence to the middle path. Look at the times where services are few and of poor quality, the budget is in shambles, lots of debt and high unemployment, it is during times when deviation from the middle path has been strongest -- such as the last 15 years.

The Swedish banks are the worst examples of failure of unrestrained capitalism. They have collapsed and been bailed out twice. However, normally when one buys out the debt from a failed company, the buyer then owns the company. Stupidly in the last case, the buyer (the Swedish government) simply handed the banks back to the same asshats that bankrupted them in the first places. These are the clowns that then pick the recipients for the Swedish Bank's Prize in Memory of Alfred Nobel. To try to lend credibility to their scam they, to their credit, have schmoozed into the Nobel celebration. However, the Swedish Bank's Prize in Memory of Alfred Nobel is to the Nobel Prize what films like Ernest in the Army [imdb.com] is to fine cinema.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994065)

"socialist Swedish central bank"

Haha, thats pretty funny, considering that sweden, with the exception of tax levels, is probably one of the most pro-free market countries in europe (And the world, for that sake. Way more free-market than the us in some ways.). Besides, all the lefties in sweden hate the "neo-liberal" central bank (which is an independent entity that mostly tries to keep inflation down).

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (4, Insightful)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994073)

Honestly any economist who doesn't recognize the value of creating and protecting intellectual property rights in an information economy is a POORLY trained economist.

As far as I can see, Maskin isn't against IP, only patents. His article says "copyright protection for software programs (which has gone through its own evolution over the last decade) may have achieved a better balance than patent protection." Copyright is IP too.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (2, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994657)

As far as I can see, Maskin isn't against IP, only patents.

He's not against patents either, just against certain application of patents. To the degree that you believe that receiving this prize confers total authority, the anti-patent people certainly aren't coming out ahead on this one.

Re: Copyright for written works... (1)

Ox0065 (1085977) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995017)

and copyright is the form of IP used to control literary & artistic works. I've never heard a decent argument that software is something other than a written work. The attributes of a work protected by copyright & an invention protected by patent law don't gel well at all, if your party/government is free from inappropriate campaign subsidies.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (2, Insightful)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994077)

there's a value in creating and protecting it, yes, but there is also a penalty in hoarding it.

In these third world countries, the leadership can be fairly well off - the problem is that all of the wealth is congealed into a very small space.

A balance is needed, as with anything.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994107)

You may have good points, but they are buryed deep beneath your basic misunderstanding of the difference between patents and ip.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (3, Informative)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994117)

As a country develops it's own intellectual property, it becomes important to protect it. For example, India seems to be moving towards proper copyright protection. However, this article is specifically about software patents, not copyrights. Of course software copyrights need to be protected. The authors need to have the rights to do whatever they want with their software, and it should not be stolen from them. Software patents are different. They don't protect your software, but restrict me from writing equivalent software. I can't recall a single example in history where a software innovator was rewarded by their patent - there are probably a few, but they are vastly outnumbered by the software patents that have restricted innovation. Instead of rewarding innovation, software patents make it possible for M$ to attack Linux, while doing nothing to help innovators break into the software market dominated by M$. Don't get me wrong... I'm a big supporter of M$ in general, but lets face it: software patents exist to protect M$ and other huge calcified players, rather than reward innovators.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

moviepig.com (745183) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995105)


I can't recall a single example in history where a software innovator was rewarded by their patent - there are probably a few, but they are vastly outnumbered by the software patents

...in other words, a ratio similar to non-software patents.

Again, the purpose of patents is to motivate widespread innovation... which should apply in software as much as elsewhere, including the non-copyrightable creation of new software processes and methods.

The difference with software is merely its speed of research and development. A 20-year exclusivity license is ridiculous overkill...

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995353)

The case for copyright itself may not be as strong as you think. You mention stealing, but stealing implies property rights. Property rights are rights we have in regards to objects, not information.

Let's say you buy a software from Microsoft and agree to a licence that prevents you from distributing copies. You do it anyway and distribute copies. They sue and they win - they should. But what about the persons you gave the copies to? They did not agree to anything with Microsoft, why should they be bound not to use and distribute their copy?

I agree with you, software patents and copyrights are widely different beasts and it is absolutely certain the first ought to be shot, but the ground for copyright is slippery.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995793)

Agreed. Copyrights lasting 100 years is just silly. I can see reasonable arguments for copyrights lasting the lifetime of an artist or writer, but who in history has ever copyrighted a valuable work, and lived another 100 years? Why do programmers need many years of copyright protection? Since we update the stuff every year, the copyright's always renewed, and if we stop updating it, it's typically no longer worth money.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (5, Informative)

mmcuh (1088773) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994125)

Seconded. The Nobel Prize in Economics is NOT a real Nobel, and is awarded by the socialist Swedish central bank. Their awards are biased.

Honestly any economist who doesn't recognize the value of creating and protecting intellectual property rights in an information economy is a POORLY trained economist. Hernando de Soto has pegged a lack of real property rights as the primary issue that prevents wealth from being created in the third world (agricultural economies).

You do realise that property rights have absolutely nothing to do with "intellectual property"? One says that you are not allowed to steal other people's things, the other says that you are not allowed to create certain things if someone else created it first. Property rights is a rather obvious concept derived from the simple fact that if you take something from someone else, they lose it. "Intellectual property" is a government-sanctioned privately owned monopoly that prevents other people from creating something identical to what you have, or in some cases even just slightly similar.

As government-awarded private monopolies, "intellectual properties" are artificial barriers for the free market and thus you can certainly be opposed to them without being a "socialist".

That said, I doubt the Bank of Sweden knew about Maskin's patent critique, or if they did, that they cared about it. They gave him a prize for some neat theoretical work.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (2, Interesting)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994309)

You do realise that property rights have absolutely nothing to do with "intellectual property"?

That's a popular thing to say, but it's just not true. IP is not the same as physical property, but the concept of owning an abstract thing (the monopoly granted by the patent) is pretty closely related to the concept of owning a physical thing.

One says that you are not allowed to steal other people's things, the other says that you are not allowed to create certain things if someone else created it first.

IP corresponds to a "thing", not to a right. The IP "thing" is the monopoly. The property right is the ability to own that thing.

I'd argue that software patents should never have been created, but in countries where they were created, they are certainly things that act a lot like other kinds of abstract property. There are lots of other abstract properties, e.g. your bank balance. Would you argue that changing the number on your bank statement to zero doesn't take something from you?

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994423)

Would you argue that changing the number on your bank statement to zero doesn't take something from you?

I completely agree with you. As long as I can still go to the bank and withdraw the money I have deposit, the number means nothing to me, and they can write it the way they want. That's the nice thing with information.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (2, Funny)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994581)

You must bank with Gringott's. With the banks I use, they don't actually keep my gold coins in a vault somewhere. The number on the statement is all there is.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994569)

Would you argue that changing your copy of the number to zero rather than the bank's copy takes something from me? Of course not. Copyrights and patents are very different to a number in a bank computer. In ALL cases, you can get societally reasonable results by considering the physical - to change the bank's copy of the number, you'd have to invasively violate the PHYSICAL property rights of the bank to interfere with their data substrate.

Copyright and patent monopolies are plain evil, and their supporters are evil.

Analogy is not identity (2, Insightful)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995249)

IP is not the same as physical property, but the concept of owning an abstract thing (the monopoly granted by the patent) is pretty closely related to the concept of owning a physical thing.

Analogy is not identity. Although I guess it depends on what the meaning of "is" is. Or something.

And the analogy breaks even more when you try to stretch it.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994773)

One says that you are not allowed to steal other people's things, the other says that you are not allowed to create certain things if someone else created it first.
Incomplete. IP rights also says you cannot simply COPY something that someone else has created.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (4, Informative)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994153)

The Nobel Prize in Economics is NOT a real Nobel, and is awarded by the socialist Swedish central bank.
I'll let the IP-hugging mumbo-jumbo in your post slide, but The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences was given the task to select the Economics Prize Laureates starting in 1969. The central bank just comes up with the cash, they do not select the winners.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (4, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994183)

Honestly any economist who doesn't recognize the value of creating and protecting intellectual property rights in an information economy is a POORLY trained economist.

      Yes and I am going to take YOUR word for it over a published, Nobel Prize winning economist...

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (4, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994215)

Seconded. The Nobel Prize in Economics is NOT a real Nobel, and is awarded by the socialist Swedish central bank. Their awards are biased.

Honestly any economist who doesn't recognize the value of creating and protecting intellectual property rights in an information economy is a POORLY trained economist. Hernando de Soto has pegged a lack of real property rights as the primary issue that prevents wealth from being created in the third world (agricultural economies). It follows that in economies (such as the US/Europe) which derive their wealth, more and more, from intellectual property, that the ability to protect those rights is ultimately to our benefit.
Not to rain on your parade but you seem pretty biased or to be more accurate parroting certain right-wing dogmas. Intellectual property doesn't exist. It is an umbrella term at best, but mostly it is a word designed to mislead and cause confusion. The value created by creating and protecting patents and to a lesser extent copyrights is seriously outweighed by the bad effects of giving a monopoly on specific information or methods to private companies or persons.

Copyright and patents do not create wealth, they make all of us poorer, because they tend to inhibit progress as the professor who got the Nobel has shown in the specific case of patents and the IT industry.

Also, quoting wikipedia:

The Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel (Sveriges Riksbanks pris i ekonomisk vetenskap till Alfred Nobels minne), usually called the "Nobel Prize in Economics", is a prize awarded each year for outstanding intellectual contributions in the field of economics. The prize is generally considered the most prestigious honor in economics.

Intellectual Property Doesn't Exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994831)

Since IP does not exist then you should not have a problem selling me your mutual fund at physical asset valuation instead of physical + IP asset valuation for each individual stock in the portfolio.

I figure that would come to a pretty hefty discount to overall market cap.

That means if your wallet followed your logic you would be 100% short on everything?

Re:Intellectual Property Doesn't Exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994985)

And now you're mixing up the concept further between copyrights/patents/trademarks with money. Way to go!

Re:Intellectual Property Doesn't Exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20995633)

I am not the one doing the mixing.

It is the markets that are doing this mixing by assessing valuations upon nebulous IP instead of cold, hard physical assets.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994305)

That is besides the point, ofcourse there would be/could be/is value in creating and protecting intellectual property, even regarding software. The discussion is about what would people consider intellectual property. The argument is that a lot of these IT patents are not valid patents because they either build on other software or don't really innovate. Also, another valid critcism, a lot of the time the result is patented (ie. one-click ordering), while it should be the mechanism behind it. Or the mechanism is explained so convoluted that it seems a very complex invention. If your company considers this kind of intellectual property a beneficial asset, go ahead, but I think in the long run *you* will be the POOR economist.

So, in summary, please stop defending this stupid, unbalanced patent system with the same old hyperbole ("damn commies want to ban all parents"), thanks.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (2, Funny)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994595)

damn commies want to ban all parents

Actually I think you're referring to China and their One Laptop Per Child... err.. no.. One Child Per Family policy. You cannot apply that to all communist regimes.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (4, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994333)

Of course you realise that every single one of those economies started out by vigorously ignoring IP, especially that of other nations, until such time as it had some of its own to protect and only then implemented its own IP-related laws, don't you?

You do also realise that there are many other factors in why the US and Europe, Japan, etc are more prosperous than third world countries, don't you, and that blaming it all on a lack of IP laws is simplistic almost beyond belief?

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

jejones (115979) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995073)

>Of course you realise that every single one of those economies started out by vigorously ignoring IP, especially that of other nations, until such time as it had some of its own to protect and only then implemented its own IP-related laws, don't you?

Yup. In the case of the US, recall Samuel Slater, a guy with a really good memory who indulged in a bit of industrial espionage, going through an English textile factory and seeing how it worked, then coming to the US and building one.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994381)

The Nobel Prize in Economics is NOT a real Nobel, and is awarded by the socialist Swedish central bank. Their awards are biased.

What are you smoking? Their awards are biased towards laissez-faire, libertarian, capitalism good anything else bad, free market zealotry.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994851)

What are you smoking? Their awards are biased towards laissez-faire, libertarian, capitalism good anything else bad, free market zealotry.


That's like complaining that the Nobel Prize in medicine is biased towards genetics and biology and away from beads and rattles...

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

MECC (8478) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994401)

Honestly any economist who doesn't recognize the value of creating and protecting intellectual property rights in an information economy is a POORLY trained economist.

Promote science and useful arts, indeed. Any system that lets - no make that encourages - someone buy someone else's idea then do exactly nothing at all with it except to sue others in order to leech off legitimate efforts at actually doing something useful is functionally broken, and doesn't make sense in terms of economics either. What kind of software industry will we get with patent trolling allowed to run amok? Just a bunch of companies holding patents waiting for someone else to invest the resources in development and promotion.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994413)

Anyone who calls priviledges "property" is a poorly trained economist. They might be assets, though.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994485)

Key assumption for the existence of efficient economy is absence of information asymmetries. Intellectual property is an artificially created asymmetry -- information cannot be used to allocate resources efficiently, even if it is available.

Allegedly this 'compensates' the inventor and increases 'knowledge production', but I have yet to see a convincing theory as to why it would happen, and especially why "intellectual property" is the most efficient way to go about it. Conventional economic theory suggests otherwise -- information asymmetries tend to result in inefficient resource allocation, or raise transaction costs in the economy (which is the same thing anyway).

And, btw, as far as I know Hernando de Soto doesn't talk about "intellectual property". He is talking about informal property, as opposed to property based on strict laws, his argument being that the underdeveloped economies have no widespread formal framework to protect material property, which works against the poorest members of society.

I am not aware of his works focusing explicitly on "intellectual property" at all, so if you have some, please throw a link.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995091)

A key fallacy of your argument is that it would be hard to prove that most kinds of intellectual property creates an information asymmetry in the economical sense. A very real asymmetry is created by the fact that you might avoid certain transactions (or creating certain products) just due to the fear of what patents migth already exist, but the presence of a patent in itself is not creating an asymmetry of that kind.

The fact that intellectual property is based on ownership of "information", in some form, doesn't mean that it's an important ground for information asymmetry. In many cases, it can be quite the opposite. If you know a reliable and acceptable mean to eliminate the asymmetry, even if it means paying, you reduce the consequences vs. the case where the information would be hoarded and hidden more secretively.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

reddburn (1109121) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994591)

Their awards are biased.

ALL awards are biased. Any award based on a value judgment of "good, better, best" in the top tier of any field is going to sway strongly toward the prevailing biases of the awarding committee, no matter how "objective" they try to be. Although I agree with your main sentiment, that "any economist who doesn't recognize the value . . . is a POORLY trained economist," I can't help but point out that this statement also reveals a bias, in this case, against economics grounded in material resources (which are, no matter where you live, dwindling daily). I'm also inclined to think that "information economy" is a misnomer. Information doesn't drive the economy: in no way can you say that information is scarce. It is, in fact, ubiquitous. What drives the economy is style and utility, and ultimately, speed: the packaging and delivery of information, that which makes your intellectual property valuable to end users.

By the way - hell of a reference to de Soto. His work on bureaucratic hindrance (through corruption and economic cronyism) of economic progress is particularly of note in our current environment: occasionally, a little economic protectionism is necessary, if only to keep certain types from taking power and then driving a nation into unimaginable debt by allowing their buddies to rob the nation blind and charge it to the future.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (2, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994599)

Honestly any economist who doesn't recognize the value of creating and protecting intellectual property rights in an information economy is a POORLY trained economist.

Honestly, anyone who doesn't recognize that using the term "intellectual property" to refer to several very different types of purely artificial monopolies created by government action is highly problematic, is ignorant on the subject. Copyrights are not patents and neither are trademarks; refering to them all as "intellectual property" is obfuscatory. And the obfuscataion is usually deliberate, as someone stands to benefit from fooling people into thinking that ideas should be treated the same way as objects, that learning or copying is theft. But it ain't so.

And anyone who believes that patents should apply to mathematical algorithms is a POORLY trained computer scientist.

Hernando de Soto has pegged a lack of real property rights as the primary issue that prevents wealth from being created in the third world (agricultural economies). It follows that in economies... which derive their wealth...from intellectual property, that the ability to protect those rights is ultimately to our benefit.

It does not follow at all, since ideas are a very different thing than land. You distort the issue by using the term "property" to refer to ideas.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994677)

Your conclusion...

Seconded. The Nobel Prize in Economics is NOT a real Nobel, and is awarded by the socialist Swedish central bank. Their awards are biased. ... Honestly any economist who doesn't recognize the value of creating and protecting intellectual property rights in an information economy is a POORLY trained economist.
From the paper's conclusion...

This suggests a cautionary note regarding intellectual property protection. The reflexive view that
"stronger is always better" is incorrect; rather a balanced approach is required. The ideal patent
policy limits "knock-off" imitation, but allows developers who make similar, but potentially
valuable complementary contributions. In this sense, copyright protection for software programs
(which has gone through its own evolution over the last decade) may have achieved a better
balance than patent protection
. In particular, industry participants complain that software patents
have been too broad and too obvious, leading to holdup problems [USTPO]. Also in this regard,
patent systems that limit patent breadth, such as the Japanese system, may offer a better balance.
Thus our model suggests another, different rationale for narrow patent breadth than the recent
economic literature on this subject.
My conclusion...

RTFPaper

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

petrus4 (213815) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994757)

Careful. You're treading dangerously close to saying that in some scenarios, money might actually be a positive thing. Making those sorts of statements is likely to result in torches and pitchforks being brought out, around here. ;-)

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (4, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994759)

Hernando de Soto has pegged a lack of real property rights as the primary issue that prevents wealth from being created in the third world (agricultural economies). It follows that in economies (such as the US/Europe) which derive their wealth, more and more, from intellectual property, that the ability to protect those rights is ultimately to our benefit.


No, it does not follow. The differences between real property and IP have been hashed out over and over again; what holds for one does not necessarily hold for another.

Major relevant differences --
1) Lack of exclusivity. One user of intellectual property does not interfere with another.

2) Less limited resource -- with few exceptions, no one is making more land. New IP is created all the time

And a difference in the systems protecting them
3) With real property, a whole system of rights-of-way has been developed to prevent my use of my real property from interfering with your use of your real property, even if my real property stands between yours and some shared resource you need. With IP, it's the opposite -- your patent on your invention can easily prevent me from implementing mine.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (2, Insightful)

DanielJosphXhan (779185) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995269)

It would follow if the two were remotely the same thing.

But of course they're not. Intellectual property is only useful and valuable when it assists in the creation of real-world value, the very thing that third-world countries neglect.

Other than that, intellectual property has no value. No scarcity, none of the properties that make real-world property valuable.

The only value it can have, then, is the value that we (or they, or whomever) force upon it. IP can have value only by collective agreement. And, unlike real property and real things, that agreement very easily be broken and cannot be easily enforced, making even the agreement worthless.

Unless, of course, everyone is completely honest and law-abiding.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

famebait (450028) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995753)

[the prize] is awarded by the ... Swedish central bank... ...the socialist Swedish central bank... ...Their awards are biased...

Anyone who can say any these things with a straight
face is a very POORLY informed commentator indeed, and could profitably shut the fuck up.

Cognitive dissonance ahoy! (1)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995811)

You do realise that so-called "intellectual property" is a concept based on the SOCIALIST value system, and that rugged individualists and laissez-faire capitalists believe people should be able to build and sell whatever they can dream up regardless of whether somebody else already invented it?

It's quite amusing to see someone using "socialist" as a dirty word and then equating intellectual property "rights" with real property rights in the same post. Intellectual property laws are created to restrict the rights of individuals for the benefit of society as a whole. Consider the difference between such legislation and what used to be called natural laws, such as the laws that recognize the rights of individuals to self-defense, private property, and free speech.

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

jkrise (535370) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994149)

It's the Swedish Bank's Prize in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Nobel's estate doesn't recognize it..

Okay, I can see where you com from. We'll call it the SBP-Nobel Prize... just like GNU-Linux, does it make you happy now?

Re:Not Nobel Prize in Economics (1)

famebait (450028) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995897)

That would have be the INN-Economics prize.
INN's Not the Nobel foundation.

Great, but not an actual Nobel Prize (-1, Redundant)

mmcuh (1088773) | more than 6 years ago | (#20993879)

There is no such thing as a "Nobel Prize for Economics". There is the "Bank of Sweden Prize in the memory of Alfred Nobel". Nobel himself would never have testamented funds to something as uncool as an economics prize.

Re:Great, but not an actual Nobel Prize (3, Interesting)

gerf (532474) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995469)

http://nobelprize.org/

Um, looks like Medicine, Chemistry, Peace, Physics, Literature, Economics. Further digging in their site shows that the Economics Prize was started in 1968. Well, perhaps Nobel didn't originate it, but it is selected by the same method as the others. Not that I'd consider that spectacular; They gave Al Gore and Jimmy Carter Peace Prizes after all.

"Nobel price" (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20993881)

There is no nobel price in economics. There is, however, a price called "The Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_Prize_in_Economics#Controversies_and_criticisms [wikipedia.org]

Re:"Nobel price" (0)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994155)

what is it with all the people calling it the "Nobel Price" today?

Re:"Nobel price" (0)

argiedot (1035754) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994661)

It's all the talk about economics...

Has anyone else noticed... (4, Informative)

neokushan (932374) | more than 6 years ago | (#20993891)

The similarities between software development and Evolution are striking. As this article states, software tends to progress slowly, building upon the previous generation, improving on it and occationally adding new features to give it the advantage over it's competition.
But when a software product progresses with little or no competition to speak of, it's innovation stops, it gets bigger, slower and more bloated.

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (3, Interesting)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994009)

I'd argue that software in general tends to get bigger, slower and more bloated.

Typically, new releases of software tend to have more features - these added features are what cause the bigger-slower-bloatier effect, as the take space to store, time to execute, and not everyone wants them. I don't know of one piece of software that has managed to avoid this fate.

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994987)

Typically, new releases of software tend to have more features - these added features are what cause the bigger-slower-bloatier effect, as the take space to store, time to execute, and not everyone wants them. I don't know of one piece of software that has managed to avoid this fate.

How about Netscape -> Mozilla -> Phoenix?

I'll give you that Mozilla Firefox currently is comparable in bloat (and features, in many cases) to Netscape, however Phoenix and the earlier Firefox releases were a dream compared to the earlier Gecko-based browsers. Who needs a feed-reader, I just want to browse the web ma'am!

In general software does tend to get bigger and slower over new releases, but when said software goes open source anyone can evolve it further in the direction they want. Openoffice.org is a good counter-example though, but I'm hoping IBM will pick up the slack.

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995035)

But, in most cases, weren't these either

(A) re-writes of the code base
or
(B) takeing a minimal functionality codebase/toolkit (i.e. Gecko), and adding fewer features than the competition?

In the case of (A), you can argue it's not really the same software any more, just a conceptual child. For B, it is at least larger than the base app, just better implemented in terms of size/speed/bloat than the competition.

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (4, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995131)

Have you looked at DNA lately? In the ancient bacteria, fossil fishes and fungi of the world the DNA is svelte and cleanly coded.... all streamlined to do a few tasks very efficiently, then move forward a few billion years and you get rats and primates.... all bloated with junk and things like consciousness that are completely unnecessary to survival, just bells and whistles really.

I'm not sure what it is you're arguing against.. sounds like you're agreeing with parent post 100% ;-p

p.s. so when is the bloat in our software going to self-actualize and become our computer's soul? I hope it's not based on Windows... what a freakin mess that would be, all freaked out about security, indecisive and completely self-conscious about being genuine... ugh it probably WILL be windows, that sounds like 99% of the people I know.

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995569)

Reread my post, your comment, while partially ignorant of biology and genetics, is also completely irrelevant to my point.

You are talking beginning point and end point - which is irrelevant to evolution by the way. I was discussing the process.

Oh, and the stuff you see in in many multicelluar organisms (like conciousness), is not bells and whistles. There is junk DNA, but even it often serves a purpose (especially if you consider evolution).

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (2, Informative)

allcar (1111567) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994047)

At risk of starting a religious flame war, software engineers like to think that they design software. Evolution, as we know, requires no designer, but simply proceeds by trial and error.

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994123)

actually - software development is trial and error also.

The difference is not the trial and error part, but the fact that in evolutionary theory, the trials are random, in computer software design, the trials are not (and are usually kept unless the error is considered really bad)

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (1)

asliarun (636603) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994067)

The similarities between software development and Evolution are striking. As this article states, software tends to progress slowly, building upon the previous generation, improving on it and occationally adding new features to give it the advantage over it's competition.
Hey, that sounds like my relationship! Since it is not intelligent design, it is probably evolution.

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994099)

Kill the competition. Bigger, slower and more bloated. Reminds me of America. *ducks and runs*

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994167)

Kill the competition. Bigger, slower and more bloated. Reminds me of America. *ducks and runs*

      Valid point. Only the competition is not "dead". In fact, it's only beginning.

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (3, Informative)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994271)

Yochai Benkler[sp?] called it the "Shoulder of Giants" effect in his book the "Wealth of Networks". He noted that innovations is one of those processes where the output serves as an input for the next cycle, meaning when you innovate your discovery can be used for more innovations. Needless to say, he argues against patents and this is coming from a law professor who gained an incredible insight into open source software development. Highly recommend his book.

In the "Myth of Innovations", the author, who I forgot, also talks about innovations are not inevitabilities but as a tree with different ideas branching off. A lot of them will be pruned and turn out to be failures in their environment but a few will survive. His insight was that innovations are more like trees, not lines, and their success depend on the environment they were developed in. The right solution for the wrong problem is still a failure. The two makes it sound awful lot like evolution like you mentioned.

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (3, Insightful)

knight24k (1115643) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994273)

But when a software product progresses with little or no competition to speak of, it's innovation stops, it gets bigger, slower and more bloated.
I guess that explains Vista.

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (1)

TheUni (1007895) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994367)

Software evolution? Heresy!

Linux was created in six days by the almighty Linus. On the seventh day he rested as it compiled.

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (1)

theantipop (803016) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994427)

I would say software more closely resembles "intelligent" design. Unless you are talking about my software, in which case it could best be described as "I hope no one sees this" design.

Yes (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994647)

My main contribution to "discussions" with creationist is that in my experience as a programmer, complex (software) systems are a result of evolution rather than intelligent design.

Re:Has anyone else noticed... (1)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994823)

Most technology progresses slowly. As people understand the technology they figure out ways to make it better. Examples include cars, airplanes, electronics and nuclear weapons. Software is hardly unique in this regard.

FFS (-1, Redundant)

FullMetalAlchemist (811118) | more than 6 years ago | (#20993961)

For fucks sake, when will people learn that _THERE IS NO SUCH THING_ as Nobel Price in Economics. It's a price _IN MEMORY OF_ Alfred Nobel. Personally, as a swede, I think the the so called price is a _TOTAL_ fraud. It is rewarded by the swedish central bank; Riksbanken (the oldest in the world by the way); and central banks are by definition fraudulent institutions.

Nobel Validity (-1, Flamebait)

ej0c (320280) | more than 6 years ago | (#20993971)

OK, I won't pretend I understand anything about Economics. But I do know a good bit about what creates and maintains the conditions for peace. Even if you are the most die-hard Al Gore fan, and a true believer in Global Warming (or Climate Change or whatever its called this month), surely you wouldn't think that work on GL-CC trumps the brave work of the monks in Burma, or the brave blue-thumbed Iraqis, or any of a dozen other individuals and groups working to end war, famine, and oppression [opinionjournal.com] around the world?

So, if the Nobel committees can so blow this prize, going back to giving it to the dictator Yasser Arafat, do the other prizes have meaning? Are they better vetted than the Peace Prize? How and Why?

Re:Nobel Validity (3, Informative)

richie2000 (159732) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994129)

So, if the Nobel committees can so blow this prize, going back to giving it to the dictator Yasser Arafat, do the other prizes have meaning? Are they better vetted than the Peace Prize? How and Why?
Because the peace prize is awarded by Norwegians, the others are all awarded by Swedes. http://nobelprize.org/prize_awarders/ [nobelprize.org]

Re:Nobel Validity (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994163)

Here is a quote from the official statement put out by the committee on why Gore was selected:
"Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states."

One point a lot of people are missing is that often the prize has gone into people's efforts towards peace and not their accomplishment at providing peace. It is almost a sort of encouragement to continue their work. Sometimes it doesn't always go that way.

Another point is that Arafat was not a dictator, he couldn't have been as their is no Palestinian State. He was handpicked to lead the Palestinian Authority by the west and Israel (big mistake). He was given the prize for his combined efforts with Israeli leaders back then towards trying to form a peace deal - it was an acknowledgement and encouragement for his efforts. In the end he failed woefully. That in no way diminishes or invalidates the prize.

Exactly (-1, Troll)

z80kid (711852) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994879)

The point is that they didn't award it to somebody who was actively working toward peace. They awarded it to somebody whose action "may" prevent an imaginary future war the conditions for which haven't even been set yet.

Even if you admire Gore's efforts, it's a pretty big stretch to link what he's doing to peace, let alone to say that his work attempts enough of a peace contribution to qualify for an award. The politicization of this award is pretty transparent.

This wouldn't be much different that /. fanboys promoting Torvalds or Stallman for a peace prize under the auspices of Linux contributing to third world education, and education helping to prevent wars. I love Linux, but it wouldn't qualify anyone for a prestigious peace prize.

Re:Nobel Validity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994817)

But I do know a good bit about what creates and maintains the conditions for peace.

And of course, worldwide famine, massive loss of oceanfront property and land mass, widespread disease and economic collapse would have no effect whatsoever on peace.

So, if the Nobel committees can so blow this prize, going back to giving it to the dictator Yasser Arafat, do the other prizes have meaning?

As someone else earlier mentioned, this particular prize isn't actually offered by the Nobel committee, Nobel hated economics with a passion, and did not establish a prize for it.

Re:Nobel Validity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20995661)

Sir, I am a Norwegian citizen, and must say your comment deeply offends me. This means war!

Thats all nice, but (3, Insightful)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 6 years ago | (#20993989)

since when geniuos minds play any significant role in politics? I imagine politician thinking "This guy would would give me half a million if I support software patents BUT there is this famous research study... Oh god, if I only could support both!".

Re:Thats all nice, but (1)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994013)

Holy shit, it's Borat! I didn't know they had the internet in Kazakhstan...

Well Duh! (1)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994001)

In such markets, he said, patents might serve as a wall that inhibited innovation rather than stimulating progress.

Do I get a Nobel Prize for saying "No shit, Sherlock!"?

Re:Well Duh! (2, Interesting)

AusIV (950840) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994613)

He didn't get a nobel prize for researching software patents. He got a prize for research into a new Economic theory, it just happens he's applying that theory to his research of software patents.

Re:Well Duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994901)

No but keep thinking and you might get yourself a Darwin award!!

Such Markets (1)

ChetOS.net (936869) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994175)

"...software was a market where innovations tended to be sequential, in that they were built closely on the work of predecessors, and innovators could take many different paths to the same goal. In such markets..."
Out of curiousity, what are the other "such markets" that he is referring to?

Re:Such Markets (1)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994325)

One I can think of would be CPU development...

everybody have fun tonight (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994233)

everybody wang chung tonight

I guess I'll be devils advocate... (2, Insightful)

distantbody (852269) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994241)

(emphasis mine)

He determined that software was a market where innovations tended to be sequential, in that they were built closely on the work of predecessors, and innovators could take many different paths to the same goal. In such markets, he said, patents might serve as a wall that inhibited innovation rather than stimulating progress.

...That still leaves the opposition with plenty of wiggle room; they don't exactly sound like the words for an open-and-shut case...

This may not lead to patent reform very soon (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994259)

The USofA makes a lot of money selling its IP to the rest of the world. Getting countries like China to play nice with our copyrights and patents is a 'big deal'. It is therefore unlikely that Uncle Sam will soften his position on either. Mickey Mouse will be copyrighted forever. Ridiculous patents will still be granted and enforced. Patent trolls will continue to get rich.

The trouble with the above is that innovation will move to other countries and America will be left behind. I can easily envisage a scenario where Linux is driven out of America by a patent troll for instance. The rest of the world will abandon Microsoft and that revenue stream will dry up.

The only way we can keep ahead of the rest of the world is by fostering innovation. That requires a lot of legal reform. I just don't think the entrenched interests are willing to let it happen in a timely manner.

Re:This may not lead to patent reform very soon (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20994883)

I just don't think the entrenched interests are willing to let it happen in a timely manner.
Perhaps, but they are mortal. I've yet to meet anyone under 30 who thinks copyrights and patents are particularly reasonable (though I am in europe). The older generation is mystified as to our "lack of rebellion". Well, there is a major rebellion, they just don't see it yet - we will overturn their intellectual monopoly law. http://pp-international.net/ [pp-international.net]

What is obvious to the dev community... (5, Insightful)

zullnero (833754) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994461)

Is mindblowing to the average person. This is the sort of paper that really needs to be distributed as much as possible (but rewritten to be understandable to the layman), because there really needs to be a great deal of political support for such an exemption from the patent process here. The biggest problem is that the software industry has already defined a piece of software as a patentable product, similar to a car or a monitor, and the general populace believes that to be true. However, you don't make a new car by tearing out the carburetor of a 1995 Ford, clean it up, add a couple parts from a 2002 Chevy to it, and stick it into your new car. However, that is precisely how software is generally made. There's your layman's explanation right there.

Re:What is obvious to the dev community... (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994727)

This is the sort of paper that really needs to be distributed as much as possible (but rewritten to be understandable to the layman)

There's your layman's explanation right there.

So write it up into a nice form and publish on your blog! (you do have a blog, don't you? It is the year 2007 after all).

Re:What is obvious to the dev community... (0)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 6 years ago | (#20994861)

Yeah, you make a new car by replacing the engine and leaving the chassis, transmission, steering, etc. all intact.

Real big difference...</sarcasm>

Re:What is obvious to the dev community... (3, Interesting)

Darren Bane (21195) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995429)

You say that "the software industry has already defined a piece of software as a patentable product". This is only the _American_ softare industry--if you want to destroy your own international competitiveness, nobody will stop you. Software patents are illegal in Europe (although we're fighting hard to keep it that way).

Hmmm.... let's see... (3, Interesting)

idontgno (624372) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995665)

On the side opposed to software patentability, an eminent Nobel-prize-winning economist.

On the side supporting software patentability, we have Steve Ballmer.

Which side seems more credible to you? I'm going with the Nobel-winner myself. Even if Dancing Monkeyboy meanaces me with chairs while screaming "DEVELOPERS!" at me.

Counterexamples? (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 6 years ago | (#20995701)

So are there any documented cases where patents (or copyrights) did actually enhance "progress of science and the useful arts", as the US Constitution phrases it?

All the histories I've read say that when patents have had any measurable effect at all (and most don't), the effect has been to block both progress by everyone and profit by the patent holders.

But this could be a result of biased reporting, similar to the general case that bad news tends to get reported but smooth operations aren't considered news because they're normal.

So does anyone know of a case where a patent can be shown to either enhance further technical progress or benefit the patent holder financially? Or are all the histories of patents blocking progress and profit until the patents run out (and bankrupting small companies via legal fees) actually describing the normal case? If there are such cases, it would be interesting to compare them with the more-documented cases where patents are disastrous for everyone. Maybe we could learn how to revise the patent laws so we actually get the results that people say that patents should have.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?