Corporate Pressure in Technology

Posted on April 2, 2014

Could it be that the sale and transfer of “intellectual property” is the root of the brokenness of the current system?

Trademarks

Trademarks started out as a way to legally substantiate a guarantee. If a product had a trademarked name/logo/slogan on it, the consumer could be confident that it was produced by the same company that used that trademark yesterday.

Now that trademarks are bought and sold, that guarantee doesn’t hold much weight.

Patents

Patents were designed to protect a small inventor from having his own blood and sweat become the profit of some other more powerful corporation. It bought a window of time for this little guy to begin manufacturing, selling, and making a decent profit from his own hard work.

Now that patents are bought and sold, they have become the “portfolio pieces” that larger corporations use to keep their fresh competition out of the market.

Copyrights

Copyrights protected individual authors or performers from having the fruits of their imagination usurped and credited to someone else. As long as the author or artist was alive, he or she was guaranteed credit (and often some token royalty) every time their work was used.

Now that copyrights are bought and sold, they have become the pillars of large publishing companies’ merchandising pushes.

What If?

Just a thought experiment. What would happen if we stopped allowing these bits of “intellectual property” to be sold or licensed as entities seperate from their origin?

Trademarks

Trademarks would belong to a corporation and could not be passed along during sale. We, the consumer would be guaranteed that our favorite toilet paper was always coming from Earthenware Thrones instead of having it silently purchased by Proctor & Gamble who promptly starts selling sandpaper with the Earthenware Thrones label.

Patents

Companies wanting to “license” a patent would have to hire the patent holder. No doubt there would still be some patent trolls, but their business would not be as sustainable without actually producing products based on those patents. Also, the patent holder would end up receiving much closer to the real value of their invention since they would have to be paid for as long as the patent was useful.

Copyrights

It would behoove the publishing companies of the world to pay their author’s often and well for a good idea. We the consumer would have more access to original works, since the motivation to franchise every character or idea would be limited.

Having the copyright holder on staff is the only way I can think of to make the copyright “transferrable” if it cannot be sold alone. The author/artist would need to be available to approve all usages of his or her work. They wouldn’t have their rights bought for a penny and sold for millions, they would be a party to every usage. The huge trail of merchandise would actually be helping the original creator.

Step 3… profit?

I’m not trying to sell this as a panacea. It’s just an idea that was too big to fit on twitter but that I thought I would propose as a way to keep the conversation rolling.