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“Patents are bulls–t,” says Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng
At Ars Live 6, we talked to the attorney who fought patent trolls and won.

As I wrote in a Facebook thread:

“It’s all confusion and nonsense. He has no principled position at all. “When Cheng put it that way to his employers, they decided the money was worth it. If Cheng’s strategy worked, they would never have to deal with patent trolls again. “It was obvious there was a scam going on, and someone needed to say no,” he recalled.”

No, this is wrong. Patent trolls are not necessarily “scammers”–sometimes their patents are valid–i.e. will be upheld by a court, and the defendant will LOSE. You can’t just assume you will win if you fight–because there IS PATENT LAW. This guy doesn’t get that the problem with the system is not “scams” and “bullshit patents” but GOOD patents. That’s the real threat to innovation and progress.”


By Steve Lolyouwish:

The Rise of 3D Printing pushes the State closer to the Absurd Logical Conclusions of Intellectual Property and Copyright

The UK has just changed its copyright-and-patent monopoly law to extend copyright to furniture and to extend the term of that copyright on furniture with about a century. This follows a decision in the European Union, where member states are required to adhere to such an order. This change means that people will be prohibited from using 3D printing and other maker technologies to manufacture such objects, and that for a full century.

The people selling these copies are not necessarily “scam merchants”. Everybody knows they’re copies and not Vitra or Herman Miller originals. […] But – is there really £6800+ worth of value in the Vitraproduct? Or are they just charging that because they can? Who’s the scam merchant?
A relevant question indeed. Where’s the real scam when something designed 50 years ago is suddenly off limits to 3D printing and home manufacturing, requiring people to buy it at a 2000% markup instead?
Read the full article by the good folks over at Private Internet Access (a great and important kind of company) covering this issue, here.
Looks like yet another reason to finally abolish copyright and intellectual property, if you ask me. The only ones who will really win out in the grand scheme of things with laws in place for IP and copyright are the state, lawyers, and special interests.
The concept of private property was created and evolved to more easily minimize, manage and settle disputes regarding who had just control over some resource(s) — be it land, real estate, raw materials, capital — or any other kind of actuallyeconomically scarce resource. Desperately needed information systems regarding the supply, demand, their meeting place of ‘price’, profit and loss (which reward or punish you for management or mismanagement of these valuable, scarce resources according to the demand of society) evolved further out of that concept.
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“Let us stand on each other’s shoulders, instead of each other’s feet!”

From: Are “Intellectual Property Rights” Justified? (2000), by Markus Krummenacker


A Thesis, from Brent Franklin, Philosophy Dept., Central European University, “The Case Against a Moral Right to Intellectual Property” (Budapest, 2013).


IP Conversation with a Randian

So some Randian, Gary “McGath,” who had published a weak semi-anti-IP article previously, “Patenting Software Threatens Innovation” (his utterly confused and totally useless article pontificates, “Software patents aren’t a necessity. Without patents, code can still be under copyright, protecting its authors from copying without compensation.” Brilliant, Gary, brilliant)—well, he submitted a pro-copyright article to FEE recently, his article “Is Copyright a Right?” As with all pro-IP arguments, it is confused and incoherent.1  As he wrote in his email begging FEE to  publish him, “This article’s thesis is that copyright is a legitimate form of property, based on the same principles as the right to tangible creations. The libertarian case for copyright hasn’t had enough representation lately, and I’m hoping FEE will help to balance the debate by publishing this article.”

Obviously this guy is just another confused Randian who wants to find some way to justify some type of IP protection for his pet interest, software, sort of how Rand searched for a way to find animal rights because she loved her pet cat, Fluffball, or whatever she “Objectively” called it. (But at least, in the end, she had the grace to admit she couldn’t justify animal rights—yet, like most libertarian novelists, she twisted her theories to defend copyright. Because, you know, that’s how you live, man! You got to have protection from competition from the state, man!”)

This amateur, pro-IP, statist submission was rejected by FEE (no surprise, as the founder of FEE, Leonard Read, was naturally against IP) but, I figure, hey, I’ll have a conversation, a discussion, with anyone. So I email him to offer this. I say:

“Tucker told me you wanted to publish an article defending copyright (surprising to me since I believe you opposed software patents in the past). Would you like to have a discussion about it via Skype or phone—not a debate, just a discussion. If it’s not a trainwreck I could post it on my podcast. If you are not aware, I’m a leading libertarian legal theorist and the world’s leading IP policy theorist, and a practicing patent lawyer (also opposed strongly to all forms of IP). Also a semi-/former Randian.

Lemme know.”

His reply:


If you’re talking about offering some money (writing is what I do for a living), sure, I’d be interested in talking about it. My cell number is __. I’ll be around this afternoon from 1 to 6 PM Eastern time.

My views on software patents and on copyrights are two very different things; I believe that copyright is the appropriate level of legal protection for software. My view on copyright is that it stems from the same principles as property rights in tangible objects, coming from a more or less Randian position.

So it’s amazing to me. This is how these Randroid morons think. If you don’t “pay me” I won’t “produce” “values.” They are so… predictable. When I am offering to give him free services valued in the hundreds per hour, plus free publicity. Typical Randroid. You just can’t make this shit up. They really think this way. Unbelievable.

My reply:


If you’re talking about offering some money (writing is what I do for a living), sure, I’d be interested in talking about it.”

Oh, not at all. I was offering to give you maybe an hour of my time, which is valued at $600 by the market, to help tutor you and educate you, and also give you a bit of free PR, since I’m well known and have a popular podcast. I would never pay you–if anything you could pay me, but I would waive the fee, as a pro bono type gesture, as part of my libertarian activism.

“My cell number is __. I’ll be around this afternoon from 1 to 6 PM Eastern time.

“My views on software patents and on copyrights are two very different things; I believe that copyright is the appropriate level of legal protection for software. My view on copyright is that it stems from the same principles as property rights in tangible objects, coming from a more or less Randian position.”

Yes, I gather you are a Randian. Her views on IP are utterly confused and flawed—her worst mistake, worse even than her mistake on anarchy. I thought you might want to have a conversation about it, but apparently you think you need to be paid for this, so again, let’s forget it. It’s just that I’m always willing to take time pro bono to try to expose errors people have in thinking about IP—either for the benefit of the person I am talking to, or for the audience.

You do realize, by the way that FEE doesn’t pay for articles, so you were willing to have them publish your piece for free (if they would have accepted it, which they didn’t—maybe some indication of the value of strained defenses of the fascist idea of copyright in the name of “liberty”).

His reply:

Please do not call me.

Um. As if I had offered (“threatened”?) to “call him”. I offered him my tutoring.

Sorry, Gary, you sad sack. My reply to this … upstanding citizen: “Ditto.” Hey, your loss, Randroid. Your loss.

  1. See“There are No Good Arguments for Intellectual Property.”   []

Sanchez: Intellectual Property Is Theft

Update: see also discussion on Facebook.

Intellectual Property Is Theft

Dan Sanchez

Dan Sanchez
Thursday, June 30, 2016

Property must be distinguished from monopoly. They are often conflated because they both involve exclusive rights. But they are importantly different. Property is an exclusive right to use a particular means. Monopoly is the exclusive right to use any means in a certain way.

Property is the exclusive right to use this boat, this paper, this trap, these speakers, thiscomputer, this plastic, or this aluminum.

Monopoly is the exclusive right to use any boat to trade with India, to use any paper to make playing cards in 17th century England, to use any trap to catch beavers in North America, to use any speakers to play “Happy Birthday,” to use any computer to deliver a podcast or download “Happy Birthday,” to use any plastic and aluminum to build a certain kind of washing machine.

Since it is an exclusive right to use any means in a certain way, intellectual “property” is not property at all, but monopoly. Intellectual “property” is therefore a misnomer, euphemistically used by state-privileged monopolists to drape their monopolies in the mantle of property.

The Innovation Argument

But doesn’t IP stimulate innovation by rewarding it? One hint that something is fundamentally wrong with the “rewarding innovation” argument for IP is that it could be used by any other monopolist. The prospect of a royal monopoly in trade with India may be said to stimulate a merchant company to open up trade with that country. Why do some economists favor IP monopolies, yet oppose mercantilist monopolies? Why stop with artistic, literary, and engineering innovators and their intellectual innovations?

The proprietor must ever be at war with the monopolist.

Indeed, why, in the modern era, do we not offer monopolies in business models and strategies to innovators? Why shouldn’t monopolies have been granted for just-in-time manufacturing or big box retailing? Sure, it would have impeded emulation, obstructed widespread adoption of these efficacious innovations, and kept them from benefiting consumers as much as possible. But, as monopolists might argue using the same line of reasoning as IP defenders, they might have been developed a little sooner if people thought that by developing such innovations, they could get a legal lock on them, and enjoy a long stream of monopoly profits.

Also, keep in mind that the “rewarding innovation” argument has been used by the biggest monopolist of them all, which itself begets all other monopolies: the State. It is often along this line of reasoning: “I was the first to clear this land of bandits and this sea of pirates. I am the first to fully provide defense with force to this land, and therefore I should henceforth have a monopoly of force.” Read, for example, Plutarch. Didn’t Theseus, by clearing the roads of highwaymen and monsters, demonstrate why he and his heirs deserve to rule Athens?

It is true that any prospective monopoly, including IP, might stimulate or accelerate the development of a certain innovation. But for every innovation a monopoly artificially boosts, it precludes, deters, and delays several more innovations: including (1) further innovations that the monopolist would have developed if he hadn’t been able to rest on his laurels, passively collecting his royalties or patent fees; (2) innovations that other creative people would have developed if they had been free to adopt and build off of the monopolized innovation; (3) any innovations that might have built off of innovations in categories (1) and (2); (4) any innovations that might have built off of innovations in categories (1), (2), and (3); and so on. Any institution that eliminates several good things for every one good thing it induces is a bad institution. [click to continue…]


IP in a World Without Scarcity

See this interesting thesis by Mark Lemley, “IP in a World Without Scarcity” (abstract below).



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In a recent Cato Podcast, Trademarks and Derby-Pie®, host Caleb Brown interviews Walter Olson about trademark law, with reference to a recent controversy where the Kentucky Derby was threatening restaurants from selling a “Derby Pie” (see NPR, What’s Inside A ‘Derby Pie’? Maybe A Lawsuit Waiting To Happen), and similar absurd situations such as the NFL using trademark law to coerce companies not to use the term “Super Bowl.”

Unlike many other libertarian groups, which are willing to condemn intellectual property as unlibertarian or at least feature thinkers who argue against IP, Cato routinely hosts panels, speeches, and publications that promote IP and rarely, if ever, features the anti-IP position,1 which is ironic given that former Cato scholar Tom Palmer was one of the early libertarian IP abolitionists.2

I was hoping this short podcast would condemn trademark law in general, as I have done,3 or at least condemn these uses of trademark as clear examples of abuse and injustice and as obviously incompatible with libertarian principles, as I have also done.4 But Olson nowhere clearly does either. Instead, he insinuates trademark law is an ostensible sensible policy (it’s not), and tries to explain some basic aspects of trademark law. Which is odd, for a libertarian institute; you would think it would make some comments about the policy aspects of IP. And not give a legal commentary on how the law works. Especially when the commentary is not especially illuminating or correct. Indeed, the comments about trademark and IP law are confused, perhaps not surprising as Olson doesn’t appear to be a trademark or IP law specialist.

First, Olson indicates that trademark holders can’t really be blamed for aggressively enforcing their trademarks (e.g. by sending out cease and desist letters to potential infringers, filing suit, etc.), since the way trademark law works, it “presses” them to be aggressive—since, if they do not enforce their trademarks, they might lose their trademark protection, for example by allowing it to become generic (as aspirin has become). However, if you hold a trademark and it becomes generic, you are still able to use it. It just means that others can too; you can’t stop them from doing so. So it makes no sense to say that you are forced by trademark law to threaten to sue people, merely to retain your right to sue them.

Second, Olson implies that it was clear to the Founders that unlike copyright, trademarks originally were limited geographically; it’s not clear why the Founders are invoked here, since they had nothing to do with trademark law. The Founders authorized Congress to enact patent and copyright law in the Constitution—but not trademark law. At the time of the ratification of the Constitution, trademark was protected in the common law by the states. Congress did not even attempt to enact the first federal trademark law until 1870. (I’d argue federal trademark law is unconstitutional precisely because there is no authorization for it; but courts rely on a broad reading of the Interstate Commerce clause to validate the law, since it purports to regulate trademarks for goods sold in interstate commerce—which is why state trademark law still exists, alongside federal trademark law.)

Third, Olson implies that copyright prevents an infringer from selling the work of someone else, “as your own.” I.e., that it merely is meant to stop some form of “plagiarism”—for example, if I were to try to sell John Grisham’s novel The Firm under my own name, as Stephan Kinsella’s The Firm, say. But copyright has nothing to do with plagiarism.5 For one, even if you accurately represent the name of the author—give credit, or attribution—copying another’s work is still copyright infringement. If I try to re-sell copies of Grisham’s The Firm under his name, you can be sure I’ll get sued. Plagiarism is irrelevant to copyright, and stopping plagiarism is not the purpose of copyright law. Stopping copying is, regardless of whether the real author’s name is used or not.

Olson characterizes trademark law as being aimed at stopping someone from confusing consumers by selling goods under the original manufacturer’s name. He indicates this is a type of “quasi-fraud.” Well either’s it’s fraudulent, or it’s not. If it is, then the guy selling fake goods to consumers is already covered by fraud law; there is no need for trademark law. It’s only redundant with fraud law. Further, in such as case, the consumer would be the one with the right to sue the knockoff provider, not the original manufacturer. But trademark law gives that right to the trademark holder, not to the allegedly defrauded consumers. Further, trademark law does not even require that a consumer be defrauded for the trademark holder to have a case against the infringer: “likelihood of confusion” is all that needs to be shown, not actual confusion (and not actual fraud or even likely fraud). So, even when the consumer is aware of the “fake” nature of the goods he is purchasing, and wants the fake goods (for example if you buy a fake Chanel purse for $20 to save money), and thus is clearly not defrauded or even confused, the trademark holder can still sue and have the knockoff items seized and destroyed, even though there are no victims of confusion or fraud, or even “quasi-fraud,” whatever that is. And finally, trademark law now doesn’t even require likelihood of confusion—in the US, the Federal Trademark Antidilution Act of 1995 “protects famous trademarks from uses that dilute their distinctiveness, even in the absence of any likelihood of confusion or competition.”

Thus, trademark law is totally unlibertarian, just as patent and copyright are—and for the same reasons that all reputation rights (defamation law, libel and slander) are illegitimate, as Rothbard long ago definitively showed.6 It would have been nice of Olson had realized and mentioned this.7

  1. See Independent Institute on The “Benefits” of Intellectual Property Protection; Richard Epstein, Challenges of Intellectual Property. The only exception I’m aware of is this talk given by Dan D’Amico. []
  2.  See The Four Historical Phases of IP Abolitionism. Although it appears Palmer’s anti-IP views softened a bit years later, at least with respect to pharmaceutical patents. See Cato vs. Public Citizen on IP and the TPPPilon on Patents (archived comments). []
  3.  Trademark versus Copyright and Patent, or: Is All IP Evil?Trademark and Fraud, also this comment . []
  4.  The Velvet Elvis and Other Trademark AbsurditiesHow to Improve Patent, Copyright, and Trademark LawThe Patent, Copyright, Trademark, and Trade Secret Horror Files.  []
  5. See Balancing Intellectual Property Rights and Civil Liberties: A Libertarian Perspective [Transcript]“Oh yeah? How would like it if I copy and publish your book under my name?!”: On IP Hypocrisy and Calling the Smartasses’ BluffsCommon Misconceptions about Plagiarism and Patents: A Call for an Independent Inventor Defense. []
  6. See Rothbard, Knowledge, True and False, in The Ethics of Liberty. []
  7. Trademark versus Copyright and Patent, or: Is All IP Evil?Trademark and Fraud, also this comment.   []

To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.