Monday, December 12, 2005

Europeans and Innovation

Unfortunately the really don't get it:
legislation [has been] proposed by the European Commission that would criminalize all intellectual property infringements, including patents.
I agree with Atrios:
Innovators generally don't work in isolation, they build upon previous work. In fact, part of the patent bargain is that in exchange for getting temporary monopoly rights to the use of your innovation you have to make public just what that innovation is. Patent issues are almost never 100% clear and any inventor is potentially going to be inadvertently violating patents. If they do it make sense that they should have to compensate the original patent holder, but criminalizing such activity would put half the tech community, including the makers of Blackberry, in jail.
Americans have a much more fluid notion of what "the law" is. The upside of the European tendency to respect the law is that people don't try to cheat the system as much as Americans do. The downside is that innovation and entrepreneurship can be stifled by Europeans who have too much respect for bogus laws, companies and bureaucrats.

Another great example involving patent laws is the "first-to-file" versus "first-to-innovate" rule. In patents class in college I learned that in Europe the patent protection system is built around the "first-to-file" system. A files a patent for invention X, then B comes around and says he invented X before A did. In Europe B is out of luck. In America the patent agency will consider the evidence and award the patent to B if the evidence holds up. The American system favors inventors, even if they don't have access to a lot of resources. The European system favors powerful organizations.

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