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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Crazy with Patenting 

From his desk in a downtown workshop, Greg Hankerson is at war with a Chinese company half a world away. Mr. Hankerson and his wife, Sim, own Vintage Industrial, which designs and makes antique-style tables, cabinets and other furniture.

This is hilarious. The fellow makes fake antiques and is upset that Alibaba sells fakes of his fakes.

The situation is an outgrowth of the insane patent laws invented in the US. People want to patent and copyright everything including air. 

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6 thoughts on “Crazy with Patenting 

  1. Shakti on said:

    People want to patent and copyright everything including air.
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  2. Dreidel on said:

    Have you ever noticed the strangely disparate gap in U.S. law in the duration of patents verus copywright protection?

    If an inventor creates something physically useful, like a machine or process, the patent given the inventor generally lasts a mere 20 years.

    If an author writes something intellectually useful or entertaining, the author’s copyright lasts for 70 years after the author’s death!

    Are there any legal scholar-readers on this website who can explain this bizarre difference in protection for the author versus inventor?

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    • “If an author writes something intellectually useful or entertaining, the author’s copyright lasts for 70 years after the author’s death!”

      • That’s an important observation. The answer is that author’s copyright benefits large publishing houses. And they fight for copyright like tigers. There are no equivalent large bodies in the world of invention. There isn’t, for instance, a single body that holds tens of thousands of patents and does nothing else but ensure their permanence.

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    • DWeird on said:

      Disney and record labels mostly, I think. Copying music or writing is very easy to accomplish technically, so a business that relies on selling those pretty much need copies of it to be illegal to make a profit.

      If you have access to a better process or machine, you’ll typically get a competitive edge in the form of whatever the direct benefit is.

      Copyright and patents don’t exist for the sake of creators, they’re policy tools to help propagate inventions and commercial applications of creative work by giving the creators an incentive to make them in the first place. I remember reading about a case where an author of a childrens’ comic specifically did not want and did not provide commercial products of his intellectual property, i.e. T-shirts and “merchandise”, so the people who were actually making the stuff without asking were considered not to be breaking the law – whereas they would we be of there any official T-shirts to compete with.

      Patents will likely always be shorter because you want most of the relevant businesses in a country to be able to use them, but a copyrighted good doesn’t exist as a sellable, taxable object except when it’s protected in this way, and its owner is always incentivized to make more of the stuff.

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      • Dreidel on said:

        Yeah, the longer ownership period for written material (text and music) makes more sense when you view it from a business viewpoint.

        After the patent on a machine expires, the original inventor can still sell his product on the open market, even though he now has to deal with competitors from copy-cat manufacturers. Once purely written material goes public domain, as a practical matter it’s impossible for the writer (or his heirs/publishing company) to make any money with further sales.

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    • Reed on said:

      It’s Mickey Mouse (and his other corporate copyright ilk). Here’s an interesting explanation, including a chart that tracks changing copyright terms over the decades via the “Mickey Mouse Curve.”

      http://artlawjournal.com/mickey-mouse-keeps-changing-copyright-law/

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