Intellectual Property laws

What’s your position on removing all market regulation from Apple, including all of the patent and copyright protection for iphone hardware and software?

I’m generally down on patents as in Biblical law almost all theft laws are against physical property except when it comes to the 3rd commandment. God’s name belongs to him, and by extension our to us, hence slander laws. I get this from Gary North.

But God gives the ideas to people without a piece of paper saying “If this secret gets out, you’re entitled to any profits that come from it”. This is different than a piece of land, or a boat which comes with a receipt.

Of course if you tell someone your idea, he’s not allowed to lie about it and if he tells others he must cite you, just like anti-plagiarism in writing.

But this is different than Apple building a successful company, and then being told that they have to modify their services in X way because another company wants easier integration.

IP protection, especially in current law, is regulation, not free-market. If Apple gave up IP protection, then there would be no need to worry about what services Apple provides because another company would step in the fill the gap. So it’s not the case that things are operating by the free market. Rather Apple wants one sort of regulation but not another sort of regulation. Whether the it is wise for the government to force Apple to modify their services, I do not know, but let’s not kid ourselves that this is a case of the government intruding on the free market.

Yes, agreed. The whole patent/copyright system is arbitrary and didn’t appear until Venice in 1450 in order to secure deals for buddies. The French and English knew it was to help your buddies out too when they added it later.

And so D.C. helps out its buddies with these patents. Not the people. The people are restricted from using their own property in the same way so $$ can accrue to one entity.

Ideally we’d get rid of it all and Google and Apple would just compete on merit.

Bu ton the question of whether D.C. can force Apple to modify its services, I think not (by the law of God), but more research needed.

Gary North was against patents? Never knew that.

It’s so wild to me to be against patents. They incentivize innovation because they ensure that the hard work of R&D gets rewarded financially. Take that away and you can’t justify R&D, so we’d get less innovation. Rational actors would just go to a place where there was patent protection.

In a fallen world, you can’t rely on men to just give you the credit.

If you want to say the terms are too long and intellectual property is held too tightly or too greedily, I can agree to that. I have no concrete recommendations I could make. I have no opinion on whether Apple or the government is in the right.

So was John Frame.

(It’s actually him opposing copyright, but see footnote 2 for his statement that he feels the same about patents.)

This was not their intended use from the beginning, it was to make your buddies rich.

It sounds like a decent argument, but what it does in practice is it restricts your neighbor from using his land in a lawful way. It also slows innovation for 20 years because no one can use/improve upon your tech (as we saw with steam engines).

It also has introduced a law on top of Biblical law, a law no one had for four+ millennia. We need to be very careful when doing such things.

For forever, if you told your buddy your novel idea, he could go use it. There was no restriction on that. In fact, guilds existed to keep these secrets, secret. Inventions still happened. Innovation was still a thing. You could go to a guild or doctor and pay for their knowledge if they allowed such an agreement.

Maybe we could split this thread out? There’s one conversation about patents, and another about the justification of interfering with how a company runs its services.

I take your point about introducing new laws where none had been before. I agree that, in general, we should be skeptical of that sort of new development.

The industrial revolution really was a revolution. Modern life, with the additional people we have thanks to technology plus a complex economy plus technological change and the dramatic shift from an agricultural to urbanized society–all of those things brought to us by modernity–requries new laws. There are challenges that need to be dealt with. Decisions have been made over centuries how to handle them. The U.S. Patent Office and intellectual property rights are what we have to show for it.

Is it all good? I wouldn’t say that. Should we get rid of it? If we did get rid of it, do we understand what unintended consequences we might get?

Can’t speak of reform without reference to form.

There is a real temptation among people of our bent (Reformed-ish, engineering-ish) to view every type of law through a moral lens. While much law has a significant moral component, much of law is less about morality and more about the smooth ordering of society. While one could probably come up with patent laws that were immoral, it seems like vast areas of possible patent laws fall squarely inside “smooth ordering of society.”

I’m putting these two quotes together because they are an important juxtaposition. The basic exchange of patents is temporary exclusivity in exchange for permanent publicity. While this can lead to stagnation in a field, it can also lead to innovation as inventors attempt to circumvent patents. Sometimes you wind up with a situation where inventors spend 20 years trying to find a better mechanism for a semiautomatic pistol than John Browning’s slide/barrel lockup, all of which wind up on the dust heap as soon as the patent expires. But the man invented THE way for semiautomatic pistols to function, and 20ish years of exclusive benefit from that seems like a pretty small price to pay in exchange for all of his engineering diagrams that any of us can now freely look up on Google over 100 years later.

Patent law isn’t the only reason inventions didn’t move very far or very fast before the Industrial Revolution, but it’s a major reason, for exactly the reason that without patent law, everyone is incented to keep everything as secret as possible, but with patent law, there’s at least some incentive for publicity.

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Strong patent laws also level the playing field between large companies and individuals. Without this protection, large companies can easily make better advantage of inventions than individual inventors due to established market recognition and distribution channels. With strong patent protections, individuals can (theoretically) prevent large companies from benefiting from the individual’s idea. I say theoretically because large companies have plenty of resources to fight to invalidate patents.

I’ve not seen the movie, but I’m familiar with the story that was the basis for Flash of Genius. Basically, Ford, GM, & Chrysler stole the idea of intermittent windshield wipers from inventor Robert Kearns. Kearns spends decades fighting them in court, but he eventually wins millions (though separated from his wife in the process).

Inventor Josh Malone writes well on this subject of strong patent laws benefiting individuals over big companies: JOSH MALONE: INVENTOR OF BUNCH O BALLOONS – US Inventor Josh Malone - US Inventor | LinkedIn


Every law is moral. Applying the property protections of God’s law to ideas is novel, and I’m not convinced altogether good. For one, it adds to the law of God, and that is something we should we very wary of. The Pharisees weren’t too careful.

There are lots of laws we could add that could expedite scientific progress, but the question is are they moral, not does it work. I’m not convinced this patent system was a major driver of innovation instead of a response to it happening, but we could make a law that says that everyone in the land is taxes at 30% and the funds will immediately be sent to the NSF, but that would be awful.

Does forbidding glass containers on the beach add to the law of God? Or mandating that people drive automobiles on one side of the road or the other? Or declaring part of God’s ocean a no-wake zone? Or hunting regulations? Or zoning ordinances? Obviously there is a moral component in how we enforce laws, but all of these things fall clearly into “smooth ordering of society,” the details of which reasonable and moral men can differ in different times and different places.

There are countries in the world, some quite technically advanced, that don’t offer patent protections, or only very weak ones. How are China and Iran doing in terms of innovation? Both countries are quite adept at copying innovations, but neither is known for much in the way of innovation of its own.

Nothing is monocausal, and correlation is not causation, but with hundreds of years of Western technical innovation in the books, perhaps we can acknowledge a goose that lays golden eggs, even if we want to kill it anyway for being immoral.

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With apologies to @Joel, who was trying to make a point on the other post, I’ve moved all the IP discussion over here.