Week 5. Intellectual property – who has the rights?

The concept of intellectual property and the protection of “it”, is quite confusing to me. In Boldrin & Levine’s paper (2007), they make note of the static state in which the steam engine was in for the latter part of the 1700’s. The idea was protected by a patent which Watt, the innovated, had placed upon it. The idea was a brilliant one but unfortunately has some drawbacks. Other innovators came up with ideas to make it even better. For Watt, this was a challenge as he could not use these ideas in his engine and they were patented. Basically two really great ideas could not come together as a modified grand machine.

Interestingly (or not), as soon as Watts patents expired, there was ‘…an explosion in the production and efficiency of engines’ (Boldrin & Levine 2007). Over the next 30 years steam engines were modified and improved dramatically. This could have happened years before, why was it so important to Watt that innovation and creativity was held back just to enable him to make a little bit more money.

At the moment Apple and Samsung have been battling it out in court over copyright and patents. Which is perfect timing to me writing this. The case is over copyrighted elements of Apple products, which Samsung have allegedly copied. The major one being that Samsung ‘…copied the look and feel of the iPhone and the iPad’ (SMH 2012). Putting it simply, the devices were the same shape. WHAT? Hold up, so phones can’t be rectangular now? According to Apple, they have patented the shape of the iPhone, which essentially is just a rectangle.

Why is there this need for a monopoly of certain markets? It is all about the power.

I can’t seem to get my head around this need, it seems greedy and selfish, but I guess we can see that this mentality has been around since at least since the industrial revolution.

As Boldrin & Levine (2007) said,

“Intellectual property laws need to strike a balance between providing sufficient incentive for creation and the freedom to make use of existing ideas.”

OTHERWISE, would there be any further creativity??


‘Apple vs. Samsung legal battles summarised’, 2012, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 August, accessed 1/09/2012, http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-technology/apple-vs-samsung-legal-battles-summarized-20120831-255xb.html

Boldrin, M., and Levine, D.K. (2007). Introduction. In Against Intellectual Monopoly (pp. 1-15). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press [URL: http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/papers/anew01.pdf%5D


3 responses to “Week 5. Intellectual property – who has the rights?

  1. Boldrin and Levine’s quote puts it perfectly. We’re living in a time where media uploading and sharing is an everyday norm, which is quite hard on the content creation industries should they choose to stick to their old ways when almost nothing about engaging media in the present day is the same as before.

    I think that the early steam engine example is quite the wrong way to go about protecting intellectual property. I’d wager that something like that wouldn’t, or at least shouldn’t stick anymore. Watt essentially ended up patenting more than his own steam engine, as shown, he essentially curbed all improvement or innovation of the machine, despite the fact that his machine, once modified, essentially wouldn’t be his own machine anymore.

    I can understand not wanting the competition to sell a machine that you largely designed yourself, but losing sales to competitors offering better or more innovative variations of the original is the way business and technology is meant to expand.

    That said, it’s an incredibly touchy issue, and there seems to be very few answers to the balance dilemma we have between providing motivation and protection and allowing modifications. Though as we’ve discussed in class, there are several ways to gain the upper hand in the new market.

    Think Charles Darwin and selling the first of his content to the highest bidder. Today’s market is all about the size of the audience and marketing it cleverly enough. Not too much of a change from traditional business ideas when you think about it like that, but certainly with larger stakes.

    On the topic of Apple, it seems like nothing more than ruthless business practice and exploiting legal loopholes. I’d like to see our legislations catching up to our technology for starters.

  2. Pingback: Week 12: Apple vs Android. Who cares? | formidable_lou·

  3. I’m between a rock and a hard place with this one . . . if I were the one with a patent for a grand idea, I would want it protected for the shear fact that I want to eventually make money off of it. However, sitting on this side of the fence and seeing companies “battle it out”, I say just give in!

    Put yourselves in the shoe of the creator, however – especially if the idea is so left field and amazing. It’s like wearing an awesome outfit you concocted yourself and then somebody blatantly copying it, you’d feel cheated and let down. It was MY outfit, alright? Ha.

    Most companies do it so that their technology is unique to the industry, much like Sony’s “Trinatron” for their older TVs, which was so brilliant and patented for so long that by the time it was lifted, the technology was considered old and out of date – great for Sony!
    But for Apple to be suing Samsung over the shape and tactility of an object (one’s glass and one’s plastic, go figure?), not the technology, is utterly ridiculous. That’s like the sun suing the moon for being round – the same shape with different functions . . . stupid Apple . . .

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