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Saturday, March 25th, 2006, 7:22 pm

Intellectual Property and its Negative Effects

Orange pillsPatents, copyrights and trademarks serve an important role. They prevent theft of one’s methods and reputations, which often require heavy investment (not necessarily financial). But what about intellectual property which is fuzzy and not concrete? I will use a case study to exemplify this.

Think about the case where Xerox patented the one-stroke Graffiti input, which Palm devices later used for stylus-based input. It is the method by which drawing on a screen is translated into discrete, atomic signals such as letters and numbers. Jotting a line from top to bottom to render a “1″ should not warrant anyone property of such an idea, right? Yet, that’s what Xerox achieved. They ‘invented’ the chalkboard interpretation language and took ownership. Ultimately, as to abstain from paying royalties perhaps, Palm invented “Graffiti 2″, which is a cumbersome method of achieving the very same thing. People’s habits were broken and input made slower just because Xerox ‘owned’ a more efficient input method that involved a single, unambiguous stroke. A common language was actually possessed by one master.

Let that teach us why patents in software are evil and are not accepted in Europe. The case would of course be different in fields like medicine and especially drug discovery.

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