Bonum Certa Men Certa

Man Behind US Declaration of Independence Opposed Patenting

Thomas Jefferson



Summary: Sharp contrast between Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Edison; China falls into the trap of greed for monopoly

What do great thinkers like Don Knuth, Tim Berners-Lee and Thomas Jefferson have in common? Well, they all realised that intellectual monopolies hinder rather than advance science. TechDirt tells a story about Thomas Jefferson deciding that "The Hemp Brake Was Too Important To Patent":



We've had plenty of discussions about Thomas Jefferson's views on the patent system. He is, clearly, the father of the patent system in the US. While he was incredibly skeptical of the idea of granting any monopolies originally, he did come around to accept patents in very limited circumstances, and when he oversaw the patent system, he was careful to make sure that the downsides of such monopolies were limited. Separately, for many years, I've heard the story of how Ben Franklin purposely decided not to patent his stove invention, stating:
"As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously."


Regarding patents, a lot more has been said about Jefferson, who is known for his stubborn approach against this abuse of ownership. In The Letters of Thomas Jefferson we find:

THE EARTH BELONGS TO THE LIVING

"I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self evident, "that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living;" that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by an individual ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society. If the society has formed no rules for the appropriation of its lands in severalty, it will be taken by the first occupants. These will generally be the wife and children of the decedent."


Now, compare that to Thomas Edison, who in a time when the patent office was said to have already gotten everything concievable filed, decided to carry on and earn about one thousand patents. He was a real patent maximalist, to whom patenting other people's work was also seen as acceptable, based on this new item from TechDirt:

How Thomas Edison, Patron Saint Of Patent Holders, Copied Others' Works To 'Invent' The Light Bulb



We've written in the past how Thomas Edison -- who is often held up by patent hoarders as the perfect example of why patents are necessary -- didn't actually invent any of the stuff he's famous for "inventing." Instead, he's most famous for taking the work of others and innovating around it just slightly, to find a good market -- but then also patenting the work of others and blocking anyone else from entering the market. I admire his innovative side and his marketing prowess, but find his abuse of patents to be unfortunate. Reader Michael points to a recent story in Wired which highlights how this worked with the incandescent lightbulb.


Microsoft and Apple have taken a similar approach whereby they patent other people's already-implemented ideas (or slight variations around them). It offers vanity over a mere number, which is to be blindly perceived as might.

Glyn Moody points to this alarming reminder (among many more) that China wants to use patents -- including software patents -- to carve out a monopoly for itself. He says, "watch for the US to get the sharing bug soon," particularly in relation to this article from a patent maximalist publication in China:

He [President Hu visited a privately owned software company, and was pleased to learn that business was better than last year. The President stressed the importance of technological innovation.

President Hu Jintao said, "Nowadays, the competition in information technology is extremely fierce. I hope you, as a software company, will treasure technological innovation as your life. You need to own intellectual property rights for your products. I hope you will be pioneers in the development of our country's software industry."


He gets it all wrong. China would be far more competitive by sharing its wealth of knowledge, thus cheapening the process of research and development. Maybe some lobbyists have had him misled. He ought to be a Jefferson, not an Edison.

"It was Edison who said "1% inspiration, 99% perspiration". That may have been true a hundred years ago. These days it's "0.01% inspiration, 99.99% perspiration", and the inspiration is the easy part. As a project manager, I have never had trouble finding people with crazy ideas. I have trouble finding people who can execute. IOW, "innovation" is way oversold. And it sure as hell shouldn't be applied to products like MS Word or Open office."

--Linus Torvald

Comments

Recent Techrights' Posts

Debian Developer at Sirius Was Under the Wrong Impression That Staff Must Check or Should See E-mail All the Time (24/7 Work Attention is an Occupational Health Hazard)
My personal and professional experience with a Debian Developer (DD) at work
Techrights More Productive Than Ever Before
Today we finally crossed the 1,900-page milestone
Europe's Adoption of GNU/Linux, by Country (Now About 6%)
in Switzerland, for instance, adoption of GNU/Linux has been profoundly low
Not Only Has Adoption of Windows Vista 11 Flatlined/Plateaued, Now It is Going Down!
Did many people delete Vista 11 and install GNU/Linux instead?
 
[Meme] Microsoft Fan: "Microsoft is in a panic from the continued loss of its user base"
Published a couple of weeks ago
Android Has Reached New Highs in Mexico, According to Web-Derived Data (Android Now Almost a Majority of the "Market")
Not far from 50%, i.e. half of the "market"
In defence of Albanian women: Outreachy & Debian favoritism scandal
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
Links 04/03/2024: Old Crisis Looming, UPC Already in Infringement of Article 6 ECHR
Links for the day
The Right to Disconnect (Meme and Very Recent References)
relatively new press
Links 04/03/2024: Techno-Babble in Tech Job Ads and Vision Pro Already Breaking Apart
Links for the day
[Meme] 'Debating' People by Subscribing Them to Lots of SPAM
Rebuttal? No, spam.
From Sexual Harassment of Women to Yet More Cybercrimes
They can be prosecuted
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Sunday, March 03, 2024
IRC logs for Sunday, March 03, 2024
Venezuela: Windows Below 70% (Laptops and Desktops), GNU/Linux Up to 7%
It's a lot higher in Cuba
ICYMI: ZDNet Financially Controlled by Microsoft
a history of censoring SJVN's Microsoft-critical articles
Argentina Joining the 4% 'Club' (GNU/Linux on Desktops and Laptops)
Data as ODF
Transparency Sets Society Free
"Convenient delusions" aren't bliss but temporary relief
[Meme] The EPO, Europe's Second-Largest Institution, Which is Contracting With Belarus
Socialist EPO
The European Patent Office's (EPO) Illegal Ban on Mass Communication Gets in the Way of Democracy
The scientific process (patents apply to science) must allow scrutiny, both from within and from the outside
Links 03/03/2024: Depression in Hong Kong, Sex 'Apps' and STIs
Links for the day
Links Gemini 03/03/2024: NixOS and NextCloud, Back Into Ricing
Links for the day
The Debian family fallacy
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
GNU/Linux Peaking in Europe, Android Measured as Higher or More Prevalent Than Windows
Android topping Windows
For Every Action There's a Reaction
Gates lobbying Modi
Like in Africa, Android Takes Control, Raking in Almost All the 'Chips' in Asia
So Microsoft has no OS majority except in Japan and Russia (and tiny Armenia).
Links 03/03/2024: Goodbye, Navalny (Funeral Reports)
Links for the day
Gemini Links 03/03/2024: A Wild Devlog Appeared and GrapheneOS Ramble
Links for the day
Gemini at 3,800+
total number of known capsules at above 3.8k
Be a Navalny
We salute Mr. Navalny
Mozilla Firefox is Back in ~2% Territories, Jeopardising Its Status as Web Browser to Test/Target/Validate With
Some new stats
[Meme] Russian Standards of Law: The Executive Branch Decides Everything
the president's kangaroo court
Up Next: The Tricky Relationship Between the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO and the European Patent Organisation (EPO)
We've moved from presidents who run a republic by consent to corrupt, unqualified, dictatorial officials who bribe for the seat (buying the votes)
IRC Proceedings: Saturday, March 02, 2024
IRC logs for Saturday, March 02, 2024
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
Beware Imposter Sites of Techrights (Not Techrights.com or Techrights.org)
Only trust pages accessed through the domains controlled by us
Italy visa & residence permit: Albanian Outreachy, Wikimedia & Debian tighten control over woman
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock