TED Conversations

Andy Harrod

Senior Director - Enterprise Architecture, Perceptive Informatics

This conversation is closed.

Scrap the patent laws and move to internationally controlled royalty system

My father spent hi working life as a design engineer working in industry, since he retired he has had one patent and also had a new idea that he has worked on. The new idea will never see the light of day because he doesn't want it stolen to benefit large companies and not everyone and his family. Yes he wants his ideas to bring some financial benefits to him, and why shouldn't he. His idea would be too expensive to manufacture himself as it is a vehicle engine with 50% more efficiency than a standard combustion engine. The patent laws don’t really protect the real inventor, companies wait for them to expire or work outside the country where it was patented etc etc. So what about a scheme where an invention is registered and then open to anyone to manufacture it as long as the registered inventor gets a royalty on all the sales made by the manufacturer.

Topics: patent law
  • Aug 14 2012: But isn't that more a psychological problem then a problem of patent laws? Means, the problem you describe is, that your father fears losing money he never made. That is why he hides some misterious idea, which has not been proven to be really working under real conditions and in real markets.

    Your idea with the royalities is nice, but would be the end of all markets in the final. Because everything will be in this catalogue and finally we would have to pay for every breath we take (at least those of us who are dependent on intensiv care in hospital...).

    And, what do we do about the effect that one idea exists multiple times? When you look at great inventions, you always find more than one person thinking about a solution for a problem, some suceed and become a page in the history books, others fail or give up and are just mentioned as a side note.

    What will your father feel like when his hidden idea is thought by someone else, but this one publishes and earns at least the fame? And he is probably not a youngster anymore...at his age, is being the king of money still something he has to life after? Yes, becoming rich is wonderful, but if thats what he wants, he should play the lottery. If it is about being known for something, to be unexchangeable and a role model, he should think twice if he wants that money he just dreams about (because nobody knows if it gets into markets, there are lots of vehicle engines-but just providing efficiency is not what makes it usefull, there are so many factors...).
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      Aug 16 2012: I don't think a person wanting rewards for their work to be a psychological problem. also your comments on the idea are pointless because the discussion point is around how do we ensure individual inventors get both recognition and reward. I am using my father puerely as an example nothing more, so rather than criticise him for his desires and beliefs perhaps you could focus on the exam question
      • Aug 16 2012: I did not "critisise" your father, just the "example"...and based on that example i explained some aspects why your idea/sheme will not work, and why the existing patent law or any other could not protect your example/father.

        If you do not want your example, pardon father be part or the replies you get, then simply do not use this example or take one that does not interfere with your personal emotions about him.

        Easy explanation: You cannot get full protection for inventions, because you can't invent the wheel a second time. There is no "new" idea in the engine market, because most parts of the engine your father invented are already patented by somebody else or the old patents ran out and became public.

        Think about it, if your idea would become real, your father would have even less chances to protect it. And why should one get revenues for an idea? An idea is an idea, no product. You want payment for work that has never been done, but could be done someday by someone.

        You complain about large companies making the deal through sit and wait, because they got the money. The earned this money through selling real existing products. Thats why they got an advantage compared to those who did not build a product, nor sold it.

        And if you get problems with words like "father" and "you", then simply remember these are just examples for "person" and "someone", before you again consider something pointless while it in fact points at your topic.
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    Aug 17 2012: Do not allow corporations to hold patents. Reserve them for human beings.
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    Aug 15 2012: Check out the TED Book "Launching the Innovation Renaissance" by Alex Tabarrok. He makes a pretty strong argument citing the flaws in the current patent system and encouraging a move to a royalties-based system, with a couple of exceptions (e.g. pharmaceuticals)
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      Aug 16 2012: Eric thank you I will get that
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    Aug 14 2012: In America, corporations get to own their patents and copyrights for a VERY long time - much longer than the individual.

    I happen to believe that patents and copyrights should be of shorter duration, and a corporation should not be able to own a copyright for longer than the average individual copyright holder does (when the copyright should expire at death).

    Better yet, I believe that the entire corrupt economic model that has done so much damage to our society (and which will collapse sooner rather than later) should be replaced by one where people do what they are good at, give their talents to others, and partake of the talents of others for free. I believe it's a workable model, where as ALL mathematical investigations into our economy show that it will collapse NO LATER THAN 18 years from now - and probably sooner. What good is a royalty when the money has no value?
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      Aug 16 2012: Gail you maybe right however at the moment we do live in this society and if for now you accept that constraint applies how do you think we should recognise and reward individual inventors and protect them from large corporate greed
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    Aug 13 2012: Anne, that is a good question, how does the music industry do it?
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      Aug 14 2012: Charging for live performance is the only fairly reliable way that has been found and that's not 100% successful. Music scores can be copied, CDs ripped, MP files copied, performances videoed. There is huge investment in attempts to prevent all of this, offset by constant effort to find ways round it.
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        Aug 15 2012: this is a very typical reaction to new ideas. you want the new model to succeed in situation in which the old model fails. when you see the problems with the old model you say "at least it is something". but when you see the problems with a proposed model, you say "it is not perfect". this is double standard. you compare the existing solution to zero, and the proposal to perfectness. guess which one loses.

        what andy proposed would change the enforcement part of the system intact. any imperfections in it are simply not an issue. we already have these problems. we need to judge the proposed system based on the *differences*.
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          Aug 16 2012: It's very easy to come up with the 'what' of a new idea, the 'how' is much more difficult, hence my original question. Andy used the music business the the basis for his questions, with the implication that it may have the solution, so I have highlighted the problems they have not solved.

          That's my general approach to developing a concept. If you know what you want to achieve, the next step is to determine what you need to produce, and how you know you have done it. In this case I've highlighted some of the problems a solution would need to address.
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        Aug 16 2012: it still does not have anything to do with the proposal. the proposal was to remove the monopoly, and replace it with a fee. who and how enforces it, is not changed in any way.
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    Aug 13 2012: How would you ensure that everyone who uses the idea pays royalties?
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    Aug 13 2012: Sounds good !!......Let's think howit can be to executed ?
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    Aug 13 2012: You should check out Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/about