Nearly eight years ago I gave a presentation at a KM Cluster event held at PricewaterhouseCoopers in downtown Los Angeles. The title was “From Wright to Wrong: The Dark Side of Intellectual Property Rights” and in it I took the position that IP protection had hypertrophied to the point it was choking off innovation and providing far more protection than was either necessary or useful. I was able to find a link to the website for the event, but it was so long ago it’s been abandoned and the URL resolves to a GoDaddy Parking site (here’s the link – http://www.kmcluster.com/lax/Past%20Events/LAX_Spring_2004.htm).
The title comes from the story of the Wright Brothers’ defense of their patent for “wing warping” which, like ailerons, allows an airplane to fly straight and level. Their assertion was that they had actually invented the concept of straight and level and they were able to prevail in the Supreme Court, thereby “stunting” further development until after the outbreak of WWI, when the U.S. was desperate to produce airplanes and worked out a deal to overcome the hurdle. I’m busy recrafting the presentation I gave, ironically in part because I posted it to SlideShare and quickly received a call from my former company’s IP attorney asking me to take it down as it contained their logo, which I’m removing as well as updating the info.
I’m pretty sure Mark is being a taste satirical here, and I think he’s kind of making the same point I was. I tied my preso to the concept of knowledge management, especially with respect to freely sharing knowledge and the damaging effect I believe overzealous IP protection has on it. See what you think.
Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I hate patent laws. I think 99pct of the time they are anti-competitive, corruptive, impede creativity and innovation and can kill small businesses. I think the ratio of patent law doing a good job protecting company IP vs it being used purely to negatively impact competitors or to troll for un-earned revenue is probably 1000 to 1, or worse.
When I read that Yahoo was suing Facebook my immediate reaction was disdain. As I thought more about it, I came to realize that this case could be the water shed moment that causes enough people to recognize just how horrific our patent law is.
I am not saying that there is zero value to patents. There are plenty of examples out of the however many patents that have been issued where the patent was put to legitimate use to protect…
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