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Author Topic: Razors and Intellectual Property (Patents)  (Read 2502 times)

Renegade

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Razors and Intellectual Property (Patents)
« on: October 17, 2013, 02:37:37 AM »
This is a rather interesting essay on IP and patents.

http://makkai.com/20...troyed-mens-shaving/

Quote
How Intellectual Property Destroyed Men’s Shaving
BY CALLUM | PUBLISHED APRIL 23, 2012
Well over a century ago, a salesman named King Gillette patented the design for his safety razor and went on to found the Gillette Safety Razor Company. His invention made him wealthy as American men rushed to buy his razor blades.

Gillette did not invent the safety razor itself, but rather found a way to manufacture disposable blades that were cheap yet held an edge well. In so doing, Gillette challenged at least two professions: the barber with his straight razor and the blade sharpener with his strop.

It’s a classic example of the principle outlined in Andy Kessler’s book, Eat People. Gillette eliminated the cost and hassle of going to the barber or maintaining one’s razor by providing American men with disposable blades. Now they could shave themselves cheaply and effectively at home.

But that success set the stage for a pattern that would repeat itself over and over again through the twentieth century. See, patents expire after two decades or so, and as they did the Gillette company and its competitors sought new patents in order to protect the lucrative disposable razor business.

This drive for new “patentable” razor technology gave us some minor improvements in the classic double-edged safety razor, and after WWII, it gave us the Schick single-bladed injector razor. By the 1970s most patents for the double-edged safety razor and the single-edged injector razor had expired.

More at the link, and it does get more interesting.

Later in the article it gets into implications for technology today.
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TaoPhoenix

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Re: Razors and Intellectual Property (Patents)
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2013, 06:10:00 AM »

I dunno, of all the awful chaos of IntProp, somehow shaving is the least of the fallout that I care about! I treat electric shavers as a total commodity of the type that everyone makes a commodity when a primary patent runs out.

Renegade

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Re: Razors and Intellectual Property (Patents)
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2013, 06:29:48 AM »
I dunno, of all the awful chaos of IntProp, somehow shaving is the least of the fallout that I care about! I treat electric shavers as a total commodity of the type that everyone makes a commodity when a primary patent runs out.

I think you're missing what he's getting at there. And I don't think the author would disagree with you:

Quote
This lesson is a dire warning about the threat of intellectual property to our quality of life. The razor business is an old-fashioned one, not nearly as important to the lifeblood of the economy as high-tech enterprises such as Apple and Google.

The “Gillette effect” is already starting to distort the process of innovation in high-tech sectors. Witness the on-going patent wars over mobile technology.

These developments are harbingers of what lies ahead if we continue our self-destructive obsession with intellectual property. The end result is clear: crappy, expensive technology which is a pain in the follicle.

The article is isn't about razors at all. However, razors are about the best example you can find out there to demonstrate some of the concepts that he's gone over in the article. Gillette developed a new business model, and he's walking through that and how the business model affects us. (The model depends on patents.)

The latter part of the article is where he brings high-tech into the mix. You're kind of left on your own to make those inferences prior to that though.
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Vurbal

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Re: Razors and Intellectual Property (Patents)
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2013, 09:01:24 AM »
It's been firmly established in study after study that patents don't promote progress. They don't even precede it. They follow it because people don't want competition. Gillette's original razor is a perfect example. If you're making the best product and you need a government crutch to succeed that just means you suck at business.
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SeraphimLabs

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Re: Razors and Intellectual Property (Patents)
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2013, 08:55:55 PM »
It's been firmly established in study after study that patents don't promote progress. They don't even precede it. They follow it because people don't want competition. Gillette's original razor is a perfect example. If you're making the best product and you need a government crutch to succeed that just means you suck at business.

Or you haven't yet mastered the economy of scale.

Patents are meant for individual and small businesses to protect their products early on when a larger competitor could easily produce the same product far more efficiently. Once the product has allowed a company to go bigtime, they no longer need that protection as they have the resources to defend themselves from other startups or other companies with similar products.

But right now the entire patent system is so messed up that Apple is busily suing the pants off people for using rounded rectangles in their mobile device products, while an inventor working alone on a project can't even afford the patent fees let alone actually enforcing a patent in court if it was issued.

40hz

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Re: Razors and Intellectual Property (Patents)
« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2013, 08:16:16 AM »
With the desire of American businesses to move their manufacturing overseas (in order to benefit from cheap non-unionized labor, weak environmental regulation, and virtually non-existent worker safety rules) abusive patents and other IP laws have become critical to the USA's new business model. Primarily because IP is all that's left once businesses no longer want to...um...actually make things.

I expect nothing significant when it comes to US patent reform. The entire future of US business depends on the world seeing things the "New American Way" when it comes to patents and IP.

Regardless of what patents were originally created for, the reality is that their present purpose is to keep things exactly the way they are. (i.e. the USA and its key industries and 'favored son' companies on top)

And innovation is so disruptive anyway....
 :-\
« Last Edit: October 20, 2013, 10:24:55 AM by 40hz »

mouser

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Re: Razors and Intellectual Property (Patents)
« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2013, 11:00:35 AM »
I have been on the receiving end of a patent troll who tried to (unsuccessfully) extort/intimidate me away from a software program on an absolutely silly basis.  Despite the fact that the patent troll failed, I came out of the experience firmly convinced that the patent system is completely broken, and is yet another industry which has built a fiefdom out of extracting maximum legal costs, and benefit those corporations with the largest bank reserves.

Having said that -- I have to disagree with those who say that the very idea of intellectual property protection is unimportant.  I think that without some system to ensure that inventors are properly compensated for their discoveries, the result would be large corporate marketing giants what come in like vampires and simply do a better job of mass producing/marketing/monopolizing/bullying/etc than the original inventors.

So I believe there has to be some middle ground.  I don't have the answers but we could start by removing the middlemen between the inventors and the producers.

40hz

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Re: Razors and Intellectual Property (Patents)
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2013, 12:48:19 PM »
^The main problem with patents (as a legal safeguard) is that it's a system that favors the biggest and most powerful at the expense of the smaller innovator.

In a perfect world, some version of a patent enforcement service would level the playing field since individual patent holders soon learn that enforcement isn't a viable option unless you have very deep pockets. And that was how many of these patent trolls got started. They approached smaller patent holders with a story about how they could provide 'the muscle' an individual lacked for making sure their patent was enforceable.

But real problem began when the PTO began issuing patents for what amounts to nothing more than ideas or concepts instead of specific solutions - which is something patents were never supposed to cover. Once that happened, things rapidly got out of control and landed us in the mess we're currently strugging with.

Patents and IP law has it's downside. Humanity has traditionally advanced by adopting and expanding on discoveries that went before. In many respects, the whole concept of "free open source" software was an attempt to codify that historic practice. Patents work against that.

But while the traditional practice of simply appropriating successful innovations may have worked out well for the human race as a whole - it's definitely lacking when it comes to providing incentives for the individual innovator - which, in turn, slows progress.

Talk about a paradox. :huh:

There really is no easy solution to this issue. :(


SeraphimLabs

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Re: Razors and Intellectual Property (Patents)
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2013, 01:29:11 PM »
^The main problem with patents (as a legal safeguard) is that it's a system that favors the biggest and most powerful at the expense of the smaller innovator.

This exactly.

I'm sitting on an invention over here that actually has the potential to do something, but because patents cost so much to get and keep I have like no chance of actually obtaining one for it.

Not having one means that I can't go looking for investors to finish the R&D on this thing and actually see about finding buyers, leading to a paradox of money that is only solved by either winning the lottery or giving away my invention to someone with the financial resources to follow through- and never seeing a good payout from it. Shame too, because it really wouldn't take much to finish. I have it to a point now where it demonstrates proper operating cycle, it just doesn't sustain because my budget prototype is too shoddy. For a proof of concept though, its gone further than I expected.

If you ask me, fortune 500 companies should not be allowed to benefit from patents. At that point they are sufficiently large to not need that protection. But if you try to implement that, they'll all sell their patents off to 'holding companies' below the limit and then license the designs back to themselves.

Kickstarter might actually be a saving grace though for the small inventor like me. I just have to figure out how to represent my concept on it without revealing its internal details- which would enable other people to beat me to the patent office. I've been searching the internet for 5 years now, and not seen anything quite like this.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2013, 01:38:55 PM by SeraphimLabs »

Vurbal

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Re: Razors and Intellectual Property (Patents)
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2013, 09:07:59 AM »
I have been on the receiving end of a patent troll who tried to (unsuccessfully) extort/intimidate me away from a software program on an absolutely silly basis.  Despite the fact that the patent troll failed, I came out of the experience firmly convinced that the patent system is completely broken, and is yet another industry which has built a fiefdom out of extracting maximum legal costs, and benefit those corporations with the largest bank reserves.

Having said that -- I have to disagree with those who say that the very idea of intellectual property protection is unimportant.  I think that without some system to ensure that inventors are properly compensated for their discoveries, the result would be large corporate marketing giants what come in like vampires and simply do a better job of mass producing/marketing/monopolizing/bullying/etc than the original inventors.

There's a legitimate debate to be made WRT that issue but there's an equally compelling argument on the other side that the mass production and marketing bits are not particularly effective at fending off competition based on actual innovation. That leaves bullying and market manipulation, neither of which is specific to patents.

Quote
So I believe there has to be some middle ground.  I don't have the answers but we could start by removing the middlemen between the inventors and the producers.

I look at it this way. The first hurdle to overcome is simply taking back the language. For decades there has been a lot of talk, and by talk I mean propaganda, about so-called "free markets." No such animal exists in nature. The question isn't whether there are restraints on the market but rather who controls them.

What we need to be striving for is not freedom but liberty, which in this case means competition. That is the government's proper minimal role in all markets - to provide an environment where competition has space to flourish. I'm not talking about a particular formula per se, but rather a general philosophy. In some cases - perhaps most - it may be best accomplished with a light regulatory touch. In others - particularly those with significant public policy implications - wide open performance biased competition for lucrative government contracts may be more appropriate.
I learned to say the pledge of allegiance
Before they beat me bloody down at the station
They haven't got a word out of me since
I got a billion years probation
- The MC5

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ''crackpot'' than the stigma of conformity.
- Thomas J. Watson, Sr

It's not rocket surgery.
- Me


I recommend reading through my Bio before responding to any of my posts. It could save both of us a lot of time and frustration.

Renegade

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Re: Razors and Intellectual Property (Patents)
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2013, 05:37:27 AM »
Of interest:

http://dailycaller.c...emarking-the-slants/

Quote
‘RACIAL SLUR’: Government blocks Asian-American band from trademarking ‘The Slants’

A six-member, Portland, Ore. band composed entirely of Asian-Americans has been fighting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) for over four years in an effort to trademark the band’s name — “The Slants.”

When the band first applied for the trademark in 2009, the PTO refused on the grounds that the name was offensive to Asians, citing two crowd-sourced reference sites — Wikipedia and the ever-colorful Urban Dictionary — in the denial.

Given the PTOs track record, I have difficulty in understanding how they are qualified to make moral or aesthetic decisions.

It would be funny to see some "round-eyes" try to patent "The Rounds" and see what they did.
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