Abundance Based Intellectual Property System

November 3, 2009 · Posted in abundance, economics, innovation, Intellectual Property, sharing, strategy 

The intended purpose of intellectual property laws is to promote discovery and encourage sharing of ideas. A system that rewards great discoveries and also makes the realization of the ideas available to as many people as cheaply as possible is the ideal system. Using the concepts of Abundance that system can be achieved.

The patent and copyright system creates artificial scarcity. Its stated goal is to promote the sharing of ideas but it does not work. Its not just broken, it was wrong from the start. It assumes that good ideas are scarce and the only way to get people to share their ideas is to give them a monopoly, creating a temporary scarcity.

It’s absurd to claim information as property. If someone said they owned the number 3 and no one can use it without their permission, they would be laughed at or even locked up for being insane. The patent and copyright system grants ownership to information. That contradicts the goal of promoting discovery and sharing.

Ideas are not scarce so they can’t be property. Ideas aren’t scarce but identity is scarce. There is only one you. A clone might be the same in every way but it still is not you. Identity can be used as the basis of a discovery promotion system.

Having the idea isn’t where the value is created. Using the idea creates value. Building the invention and distributing it to users makes the idea valuable. And we already see that the inventor usually is not the person that gets rich from an invention. The person the makes and sells it gets most of the reward, and they deserve it. Good ideas are easy. Getting a product to market takes hard work and skill and a lot of resources.
So there are two different tasks, one is discovery, the second is manufacture and marketing.
Being the first person to publish a discovery fits the concept of identity. If a reward were given for being first to publish, that would both encourage discovery and sharing. Also, if the person that discovers or invents something does not have the extra task of manufacturing and marketing, they could focus on what they are good at, discovery and invention.

We already have systems that work like this. The X Prize is a bounty for achieving a desired technological goal. That can provide a one-time payment. But often the value of a new discovery is not realized until some time later. So we might make a slight change to the intellectual property laws.
Instead of the government granting the person that discovers an idea a temporary monopoly, the people as a whole through the government own the right and license it to everyone. Of course the government collects taxes so good ideas would increase tax revenue. The government would pay the inventor a small percentage, maybe 5 – 10% of the taxes collected on income from the idea.

This would eliminate wasteful intellectual property disputes. If you use the idea, you owe the tax and the government has the ability to collect it. And the tax is only collected if the idea is being vigorously promoted. The business and government share the same goal of promoting the idea. Society benefits because new ideas are discovered and brought to market. The inventor benefits because the government is collecting the royalties for them.

This system would drastically reduce the cost of medicine because every medical discovery would be generic from the first day. Companies would compete based on their ability to provide the highest quality products and service at the best price. Researchers could operate independently from manufacturers. This could become a great revenue source for universities.

This type of system also paves the way for everyone to take part in the information economy. So instead of increased automation putting people out of work it would free up people to focus on bringing new and better things to society.

What if you don’t want to share your idea? No, problem, keep it a secret. Processes are often kept as trade secrets. And a business might want to be first to market. They would be trading those early profits for the continuous royalty paid by the government. Either way anyone can use the idea once it is known.
This system is not ideal because it involves taxes but it does align everyone’s goals so it is much better than the current system and even improves on the tax system by putting government in the role of trying to help everyone. Its only a slight change from what we have now and it doesn’t disrupt any existing industry.

Everyone benefits.