As AgainstMonopoly and Techdirt like to say: when the marginal cost of producing a product, service or experience drops to zero, the price the market is willing to pay will drop to zero. For those that can craft ideas in their heads or on a napkin, the cost of this production is zero. However, what makes an idea valuable is the idea crafter’s ability to execute on the idea successfully. This requires scarce resources such as time, skills and maybe materials. Coming up with ideas and executing them successfully should be allowed to be mutually exclusive activities.
However, regimes such as patents put an artificial price on ideas and slow down innovation. One great example is the push-back on copyright by artists who license their works under Creative Commons. They are aware that someone else might be able to execute on their ideas better than themselves, and the license grants these permissions. Open APIs (application programming interfaces) allow 3rd party developers to use applications in ways the original application developers did not yet imagine. Execution is the natural and scarce barrier that differentiates competitors. It should not be an artificial price on ideas, methods, abstract processes, or the discovery of naturally occurring mathematics, physics, or biologies. The patents that are most dangerous to innovation are software patents. When patents first came on the scene in the US, it was intended for mechanical processes or methods, not necessarily for abstract ideas. Patents on software methods and business process are more akin to abstract ideas.
All of the money spent on patents and the barriers they creates for others is useless in “promoting the useful arts and sciences” unless you can successfully execute on them. And failure for one party to successfully execute holds everyone back, thus prohibiting the promotion of the useful arts and sciences. Your R&D resources are also a waste if you fail to execute. But this is the risk business must take. Even if you have a patent or a copyright, you can fail in the execution.
One might argue that there is a cost to making ideas, since you need to pay for R&D. This may be a leftover thinking from the industrial area. Sure, even for the development of abstract systems such as software applications and business methods, the time resource of engineers and the scarcity of their skills are necessary. But in a situation where one party has spent resources to come up with the same ideas that someone else might develop with fewer resources, and without any influence for the first party, it is as if the act of spending any resources whatsoever means that the idea deserves exclusive rights to execute. The context for protection comes from the belief that party A can “steal” ideas or the fruits of research from party B. These protectionist schemes make no room for the fact the two parties can come up with similar solutions independently, nor do that allow for the ability for some to ideate at no cost, and there is an automatic assumption that they are “anti-market”. It is as if the shareholder value for a couple individuals or firms is more important than the health and well-being of the world over. Or, the appearance that if the executioner is following protocol is going to covers some of their liability for failing and the false stigma of failure.
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