Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Future-Proofing: Intellectual Property (Part 1 of 3)

As we continue our series on Future-proofing, I thought I would take this opportunity to look into the recent blog post by about WotC being sued by Wildcat Intellectual Property Holdings and do a little research and throw in what little I know about such topics.

First off, the name of company is a little weird. “Intellectual Property Holdings”.  A quick internet search revealed a plethora of lawsuits that this company has filed against other companies, not just WotC.

But first, we need a little background.  When normal people think of copyrights and patents, we think of artists and inventors who make something and want protection from vultures who simply want to copy their work.  For example, MGM/United Artists holds the rights for the James Bond series.  What copyright law is intended to do is to prevent me from making a Single-O 9, who works for Special Branch in Scotland Yard or Interpol.  This makes sense to most people.

The same thing applies for products.  If I make a device that turns sludge into potable water, I should be allowed to profit from it.  This is an important point The reason that patents were permitted was to give incentive for people to create new products that over time will improve all of mankind.  This is one of the main reasons why the United States went from a fledgling nation to a Superpower in a century and a half.  Contrary to what many people and world leaders believe, profits are not evil.

Generally speaking, countries respect patents from other countries.  So that smartphone I create and patent in the United States will be respected in Europe.  However, not all countries respect patents and copyrights.  When Mitt Romney stated that he would get tough on China, he was referring to the well-known fact that China routinely ignores other countries’ patents.  Basically whenever a new product is introduced, you can find a clone of that same product, made by a Chinese company, on the streets of China for pennies on the dollar within weeks of the product’s release.  Even sooner if that product was made in China.

So how does this affect us?  I’ll get into those details next time.

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