login about faq

I invent a clay pot. This is the first clay pot to exist in the world. I can use this clay pot to hold berries much better than leaves. Should others be prevented from creating their own clay pot by copying my idea? How about if they invented the idea on their own independently of me? If they are to be prevented because the idea of a clay pot is my property, what is the principle behind that idea?

I use a clay pot to hold water. I am the first to use a clay pot in this manner. This is much better than using leaves to hold water. Should the idea behind using it to hold water be mine? Should others be allowed to use the clay pot for berries, rocks, everything else, except for water? Does the principle identified previously apply?

I decide to take a clay pot and paint it red. I notice that people pay more for a red clay pot. Should others be prevented from painting a clay pot red because I came up with it first? Does the principle identified previously apply?

A clay pot exists in reality. Two people cannot have the exact clay pot (same atoms) simultaneously. Two people cannot have the same piece of cake because there can only be one A in the universe.

An idea does not exist in reality. Two people can hold AND invent the same idea simultaneously.

What is the principle behind property ownership of things that exists in reality?

Is that the same principle used to create property rights for things that don't exist in reality?

Is this rational?

asked Jan 07 '12 at 01:03

Humbug's gravatar image

Humbug
5181285

edited Jan 07 '12 at 03:12

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦
1002425618

You seem to be equating materiality with existence in your argument. However, ideas certainly exist in reality even though they are not composed of matter. Take the idea of "Apple" for example -- I just referred to it, you are using it at this very moment, and is a perfectly real "it". Being abstract does not disqualify something from being real -- it merely means that it isn't material.

(Jan 07 '12 at 04:12) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Now, it is true that it is possible for us both to have/use the same idea at the same time -- so what you really seem to be asserting is that abstract existents cannot be property because their possession and use is not inherently exclusive. You may want to offer some sort of argument for this assertion, as someone who recognizes intellectual property as legitimate (necessarily) would not assume this to be the case.

(Jan 07 '12 at 04:14) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

This notion that being inherently exclusive in possession and use is an essential characteristic of property is one of several popular lines of attack on the legitimacy of intellectual property that I discussed in an article you may enjoy: Don't Steal This Article

(Jan 07 '12 at 04:19) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image
showing 2 of 3 show all

I invent a clay pot. This is the first clay pot to exist in the world. I can use this clay pot to hold berries much better than leaves. Should others be prevented from creating their own clay pot by copying my idea?

They should be prevented from copying your idea if you desire and apply for that type of protection. Let's call it a "patent," which specifies not just a "clay pot," but the detailed method of manufacture and some information about how it's used. The duration of such protection should be limited.

How about if they invented the idea on their own independently of me?

Whoever invents and applies for protection for the patent first becomes the owner.

If they are to be prevented because the idea of a clay pot is my property, what is the principle behind that idea?

The principle is that you were the one who put in the time and intellectual effort to create the clay pot. You may have had to try many different materials and techniques before you found something that worked, that was durable, easy to make, held its shape, didn't fall apart after a few uses, etc. That effort is the basis for ownership, and ownership is the basis for protection.

Should the idea behind using it to hold water be mine?

Patents generally include a certain type of use. In this case, holding water may indeed be materially different from holding berries, but the reasons would need to be called out -- things like it doesn't change the taste like leaves do, or it doesn't leak, or protects it from evaporation, etc. In that case, then yes, that use of your invention would be yours.

Should others be allowed to use the clay pot for berries, rocks, everything else, except for water?

It's the device and the use together that are protected, but since you often can't in practice provide a device while limiting how it's used, the use aspect is implied. In your example, the clay pot would be protected. If someone wanted to use it to carry rocks or whatever, that's their choice.

Does the principle identified previously apply?

Yes.

I decide to take a clay pot and paint it red. I notice that people pay more for a red clay pot. Should others be prevented from painting a clay pot red because I came up with it first? Does the principle identified previously apply?

Color alone is usually not a material factor in an invention -- unless there was something special about the paint or glaze or how it was applied or how it affected the use or function of the pot, etc. Otherwise, no, people who have already acquired a clay pot by buying or licensing it from you should not be prevented from changing its color. No, the previous principle does not apply, because this aspect of the invention is not significant; it did not require any unusual effort or inventiveness to change its color.

An idea does not exist in reality. Two people can hold AND invent the same idea simultaneously.

What is the principle behind property ownership of things that exists in reality?

Ideas are not physical; they are mental, but they most certainly exist in reality. Yes, two people can invent something at the same time. But a key part of what's being protected by patent law is not just the invention, but also the market that you develop afterwards. If you invent a clay pot for the first time, and through lots of effort you finally convince people to stop using leaves, then I step in an say, "hey, I've invented a clay pot, too -- use mine instead!", then even if my invention was made independently, I am benefiting from the market that you developed.

Is that the same principle used to create property rights for things that don't exist in reality?

Is this rational?

Ideas exist in reality, so this question doesn't make sense. It takes mental effort to develop an invention and its market, and it's rational to provide a means for you to own the fruits of that work.

answered Jan 07 '12 at 09:42

Rick's gravatar image

Rick ♦
53910

If the principle is "that you were the one who put in the time and intellectual effort to create the clay pot.", why does it matter whether you put in "unusual effort" or not to change the color? Principle is supposed to be black and white, not vary base on degrees.

Also, would it be correct for me to change your principle statement from

"The principle is that you were the one who put in the time and intellectual effort to create the clay pot."

to

"The principle is that you were the one who put in the time and intellectual effort to create the clay pot AND got there FIRST."?

(Jan 08 '12 at 16:24) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

My point about "unusual effort" is that you can't patent something that's obvious.

On your other point, yes, getting there first is also a requirement for a patent (there are a number of other such requirements)--but I don't think it's part of the principle of patent protection.

(Jan 08 '12 at 17:58) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

So should I change the principle to be:

"The principle is that you were the one who put in the time and intellectual effort to create the clay pot AND got there FIRST AND the idea is non-obvious."

If so, doesn't this make the principle subjective (to another person's determining what is obvious and what is not) and therefore not a valid principle?

Why is non-obvious a requirement anyway?

Note: The purpose of this question is to look for the moral principle, not details on how the patent system currently operates today.

(Jan 08 '12 at 20:22) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

It appears to me that the non-obvious requirement is only there to prevent ideas that can be invented by multiple people independently from being protected by the government.

(Jan 09 '12 at 12:18) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image
showing 2 of 4 show all

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here

By RSS:

Answers

Answers and Comments

Share This Page:

Tags:

×161
×88
×39
×9

Asked: Jan 07 '12 at 01:03

Seen: 1,307 times

Last updated: Jan 09 '12 at 12:18