[clug] Re: A most interesting read, most interesting

David Tulloh david at tulloh.id.au
Fri Dec 29 14:38:33 GMT 2006

Peter Anderson wrote:
> This is (generally) a most interesting debate. However, I find Sam 
> Couter's views about the ownership of individual (and corporate) 
> creativity to be quite unusual. Over my working life I have been a 
> design engineer, a Patent Examiner (not for very long) and a software 
> programmer (and a senior public servant, but we won't dwell on that). 
> As a former engineer and programmer and as a current web site designer 
> (admittedly for non-profit organisations) I would be very offended if 
> somebody claimed that my hard work and innovation was for nothing and 
> that the rest of the world has unfettered rights to that work and 
> innovation. In the case of a corporation (public or private), it 
> spends a great deal of its shareholders funds on developing 
> ideas/products/etc.; surely the corporation has the ownership of these 
> ideas and products.
> Now from my recollections as a Patent Examiner, its Sam's views that 
> ARE NOT CORRECT. The 'contract' or 'right' entered into between the 
> inventor of an idea and the State is for the State to provide a period 
> of protection for that idea (invention) so that the developer/inventor 
> can reap some reward for his efforts. In return the developer/inventor 
> must make all details of his idea/invention public. The trade-off is 
> that the developer/inventor gets a period of protection for the 
> specific idea and society benefits from its publication by allowing 
> development of 'like' ideas and inventions. This 'contract' between 
> idea developer/inventor and the State is based on an initial premise 
> that the developer/inventor actually owns the idea/invention, 
> otherwise why is it necessary to form the 'contract' (or grant the 
> protection right).

I look at intellectual property slightly differently, at least with 
respect to patents.
A patentable thing which is not patented is a trade secret.  It's still 
an asset as it provides financial gain however there isn't any 
protection of a trade secret.  You can't break the law to obtain a trade 
secret (for example, breaking into the offices) however if you discover 
the trade secret by any legal means, then you own it as much as the 
person who first thought of it.  In this way there is no real ownership, 
simply control.
A patent of course, grants greater protection but at the expense of 
making it public and granting free use after a period of time.
My personal opinion is that a suitable period of time in the era of 
windmills (14 years) isn't the same as a suitable period of time in the 
era of computers and rapid mass production.

Where this leaves copyright, I have no idea.  My thoughts on the issue 
are somewhat more muddled compared to patents.


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