Saturday, May 06, 2006

Finally, an Intellectual Property post!

(And it's about damn time.)

Arnold Kling (EconLog) writes:

My personal view is that intellectual property law has to be pragmatic. If you take an absolute view that is always in favor of intellectual property, then I think you end up defending too much--business process patents, for instance. If you take an absolute view that is always against intellectual property, then I think you have destroyed the incentive to undertake some valuable activities--pharmaceutical research, for instance.

That seems pretty reasonable to me. On the other hand, our laws currently seem to endorse an absolutist position that is always for intellectual property. So arguments that we should greatly reduce our IP protections seem more reasonable to me, as their current effect would only be to make our IP protections more moderate, more pragmatic.

Software patents are rife with examples that point to overprotection (Amazon's "click to buy" feature, for instance). Pharma usually provides examples that most intuitively support strong protections (though Becker and Posner have even weighed skeptically on the social utility of Pharma patents.)

As a result, most techies I know are skeptical of the utility of IP, and most medical/drug development people I know are skeptical of any assault on IP. Intractable disagreeement inevitably results.

Could we simply restrict software patents without affecting the drug patent system? Should both be reformed?

Comments please!