Re: intellectual property

From: Dani Eder (
Date: Mon Mar 07 2005 - 07:48:26 MST

> --- David Picon Alvarez <>
> wrote:
>So, patents are like a landgrab of the natural world.

The 'claims' in a patent are analogous to the claims
a prospector in the old west might make over a mineral
discovery. In both cases the language of the claim
describes a boundary. In patents it is a boundary
in 'idea space', in prospecting it is a boundary in
physical space. In both cases, you get exclusive
rights granted by the government in exchange for

In a mining claim, you have to actually perform
mining operations. If you do enough, you eventually
get title to the land. In the case of a patent,
you have to reveal your idea to the world, in
exchange for exclusive rights for a limited time.
The alternative is to keep your idea as a 'trade
secret'. A famous example is the formula for
Coca Cola. As long as the secret can be kept,
it lasts forever.

The purpose of patents in the US system, then, is
to encourage inventors to reveal their ideas, to the
benefit of society in general. Other inventors can
then build on the knowledge thus revealed. To be
a valid patent, therefore, it is required to
describe your idea 'in sufficient detail that
someone skilled in the art can reproduce the


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