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Re: The patent process [Was Re: Sharing the Family PC is Patent-Pending]

From: Barry Margolin
Subject: Re: The patent process [Was Re: Sharing the Family PC is Patent-Pending]
Date: Tue, 11 May 2004 12:00:57 -0400
User-agent: MT-NewsWatcher/3.4 (PPC Mac OS X)

In article <>,
 pltrgyst <> wrote:

> On Tue, 11 May 2004 14:26:26 GMT, Just Another Alias <>
> wrote:
> >.... Because the opportunity
> >exists for a temporary monopoly, the patent process CAUSES things to
> >be invented that would not have been invented. 
> Care to explain that magical process?

The "magic" mostly occurs in industries where there's a significant 
investment required during the invention process.  If the inventor 
doesn't have a reasonable hope of being able to recoup that investment, 
he may give up on the development, and the same decision is likely to be 
made by all the competing inventors.  The end result would be that no 
one invents it, and society is poorer as a result.

> Many of the great inventions and discoveries of mankind ocurred nearly
> simultaneously in different parts of the world. Many of today's technological
> advances are made independently by multiple inventors.

But there's often a "race" to be the first one to succeed and patent the 
result, because of the advantage that provides.  If the patent system 
didn't exist, they might not bother entering the race in the first 
place, since success wouldn't provide the hoped-for reward.

Many people jog for fun, but they don't usually run as fast as they can 
unless there's some kind of reward, like a gold medal (or they're being 
chased).  The carrot on the stick is a useful encouragement in many 
areas of life.

> It seesm pretty arbitrary that patent protection is available 
> according to different criteria depending on where the patent is 
> sought: either first to file, or first to invent.

The fine details of many laws are often somewhat arbitrary.  "First to 
invent" may be fairer, but it raises the problem of proving priority 
(the inventor can write any date on his lab notebook), while "first to 
file" is very easy to judge -- the patent office knows when they 
received the forms.

Barry Margolin,
Arlington, MA

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