Monthly Archives: July 2015

Mark Lemley on what patent lawsuits are telling us about IP laws

Mark A. Lemley:

The fact that the most innovative companies in the world today are overwhelmingly defendants, not plaintiffs, in patent cases is a worrisome sign that the patent system is not serving its purpose in many industries… (emphasis added)

Regulation (whether IP or not) tends to restrict market entry in various ways. Doing so interferes with competition. It might be worthwhile to block that competition if the market-entry regulation serves a useful social purpose, and encouraging innovation can be such a useful social purpose. But traditional forms of regulation, including IP, should be viewed with skepticism, because they reflect the government’s judgment that it knows better than the market. That is a judgment that has often proven false…

European funding of higher ed

Inside Higher Ed has an informative graphic detailing how European countries fund higher education.


Denmark’s system is particularly in interesting. Universities are only paid for students that finish. So rather than paying for enrollment, like the US typically does, Denmark pays for results.



Some great quotes on data visualization from Plotly

Plotly dug up some great quotes on data visualization:

“There is no such thing as information overload, only bad design” – Edward Tufte

“We are overwhelmed by information, not because there is too much, but because we don’t know how to tame it.” – Stephen Few

“Overload, clutter, and confusion are not attributes of information, they are failures of design.” – Edward Tufte

“…few people will appreciate the music if I just show them the notes. Most of us need to listen to the music to understand how beautiful it is. But often that’s how we present statistics; we just show the notes we don’t play the music.” Hans Rosling

Copia Institute aims to find workarounds for broken IP policy

It is often easy to default into the assumption that our broken Intellectual Property/Privilege policy needs to be fixed in Washington. While it would be nice if Washington helped fix IP policy (since to a large extent, it was Washington that broke it), a new institute isn’t going to sit around waiting for that to happen. As Techdirt reports:

the Copia Institute… focused on doing something very different: letting innovation lead the way, rather than policymakers…

coming up with innovative policy ideas that don’t necessarily involve waiting for policymakers to create some sort of regulation

examples of this innovative “policy without policymakers”… fifteen years ago, a group of entrepreneurs, academics, lawyers and activists realized that copyright law and the internet did not mix. And, at the same time, they knew that there was no way Congress would get around to real copyright reform that fixed that. So they built a very innovative solution: Creative Commons. It didn’t fix all the problems, but it did create a really useful tool that is widespread today: a very simple licensing mechanism that encouraged content creators to freely and easily license their works, and that allowed the better sharing of information. It has had a profound effect on how content is shared online today — and it did not require Congress to do anything.

Similar examples are found with things like Twitter’s Innovator’s Patent Agreement that prevents any of Twitter’s patents from being used for trolling. Or the recent “license on transfer” (LOT) program that a bunch of tech companies came up with a year ago.

Sure, in the long run, having good copyright or patent reform would help even more, but that clearly wasn’t happening in the short run, so innovators did what they do best: they innovated solutions to help out in the meantime.

Copia’s main focus is on bringing together innovators, entrepreneurs, and technologists and looking at the big opportunities and challenges they face — and looking for ways to innovate solutions that don’t require lobbying and waiting around for policymakers to negotiate and bicker and trade…

New Topic: Intellectual Property/Privilege

I’ve been diving into the literature on patents and copyrights lately for work, and it is so fascinating that I can’t resist the urge to start blogging about it. It also helps that the important changes are infrequent enough that a part time blogger like myself won’t necessarily be at a tremendous disadvantage.

If you aren’t familiar with the terminology, most people refer to patents and copyrights as Intellectual Property. But there are a number of scholars that argue that the analogy to property is highly imperfect and is in fact the source of many of the problems with IP law. They argue that IP is better thought of as a government granted Intellectual Privilege. Fortunately, since both can be shortened to IP, one can just say IP without taking sides in this particular debate.

I’ll categorize posts addressing IP under “Intellectual Property/Privilege.”