Blackberry, settlement, and the insane costs of IPR

Blackberry settled with NTP for 600 Million USD. Blackberry has a subscriber base of about 600,000 people, so that makes one thousand USD per subscriber.

Think about it. If you have a great idea, you must be able to make over a thousand $ per user of profit in order to recoup potential IPR costs. This is not promoting innovation, it's squashing innovation.

The problem is that many companies that stand up and say that patents encourage innovation are companies which concentrate on gathering a massive patent portfolio, then licensing it to others. Not all of these companies even sell any products - for them, innovation, licensing and patents are one and the same thing. However, to them selling things and services to consumers is not innovation. It's a bother, though sometimes a necessity.

"Intellectual Property" (IPR) ignores consumers. IPR is an abstract thing, stuff that is written on papers and fought over in courts. Even bits are like concrete compared to the aetherness of IPR. No consumer ever bought intellectual property for the sake of it being intellectual property: they (we?) buy stuff because it gives us some concrete benefit, be it emotional, physical, spiritual, social or monetary.

But that's why consumers are called consumers. They consume, they don't create. And IPR is intertwined strongly with "creation". Is it then no wonder that normal, everyday people, who're stepping out of the obedient consumer role and creating and sharing things on their own, are hitting the rules of IPR designed for corporations. You only need to take a long look at a discussion board to see e.g. middle-aged housewives wondering about whether they have a permission to sell a piece of jewelry based on a design bought from a website in the US. This is a hairy subject even for experts, and certainly something that the average person should not need to wrestle with.

As they are, the rules of Intellectual Property are more of a burden than they are a benefit. They benefit only smart people who've managed to twist them into their benefit: creation is encouraged, but not sharing and dissemination. For example, copyright runs from the date of creation, not from date of publishing. (Though, I have to agree that it would be too difficult to start it from the date of publishing, as the concept of "publishing" is far more vague than the concept of "creation". Minority-language newspapers have many articles publishing things for the sake of publishing things for IPR purposes.)

The RIM case is nasty. If you switch viewpoints, you could well argue that "well, NTP had their IPR broken for years, and therefore they can ask as much money as they want from RIM." This would be the greedy way of thinking. Unfortunately, IPR is not a clearcut thing. If someone steals bread from you, and he is caught on CCTV, he's busted. End of story. However, by making bread in a certain way you might be infringing on someone else's IPR. And they will wait until you're making loads of money on it, and then they will move in, and demand as much money as you can possibly pay, and ruin you financially for a long time. Even if you pay loads of lawyers loads of money, you could still be infringing without knowing about it for years.

The crappy thing is that even if you invented this new way yourself, it's enough that someone else, somewhere in the world, figured out the same way a few days earlier, you might still be infringing. Again, there's no way to know about this.

I know I'm slamming patents and copyright together in a large mishmash here. Normal people usually never have to deal with patent infringements, except through secondary effects such as the RIM case, or drug prices, or Linux media players, but copyright is increasingly more present in our lives. They're overlapping at an alarming rate, too, with DMCA being used to stop competition.

I think the IPR legislation should be redesigned into something that really fosters innovation, creation, sharing and dissemination for the greater good. Not abolished, but redesigned. As it currently stands, it's as if to protect a dragon's lair: hoarding is good, sharing is bad. And you need to be really big to take advantage of it.

(Gng. Coherence is overrated.)




Comments

Actually, recipes are not IPR, at least not in Finland, according to Jukka Kemppinen, prof. of Information Law. Analogically, in Finland, housewives should be able to sell anything product they've made from a pattern of anyone's invention, undepending on whether they've paid for the pattern or not. And in Finland, we act according to the Finnish law, meaning, a person doing the deed in Finland cannot be sued according to American law, even when it comes to IPR in the internet. That's where the rush to unify laws EU- and worldwide comes from.

--Taika, 07-Mar-2006


Except that the US does believe that it can sue for IPR infringement, even if it was legal in the source country. Check out http://www.freesklyarov.org/ for an example.

--JanneJalkanen, 07-Mar-2006


(Fixed your link, BTW)

--JanneJalkanen, 07-Mar-2006


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