Talent Wants to be Free

talent wants to be free

Orly Lobel, who is the Don Weckstein Professor of Employment and Labor Law at the University of San Diego, is giving a seminar and book launch at Bar Ilan University on 29th December 2013, for her book “Talent Wants to be Free”. The program  is here.

She kindly sent me an e-copy of her book, but unfortunately it had a heavy ‘for review purposes only’ watermark going diagonally across each page, and I found this made it very difficult to read on-screen. From what I could gather, Professor Lobel believes that none of the great inventions of recent years were created to get patents and she seems to think that IP doesn’t cause people to create.

Now as an IP Professional, I don’t make and circulate copies of ebooks or videos. I don’t pass on review copies of IP books that I am sent by inventors and publishing houses for review purposes. I certainly wouldn’t sell or otherwise distribute this e-book if it was sent without the watermark. I did find this a little off-putting. I also found it ironic that someone wanting to do away with Intellectual Property was so protective of her magnum opus.

As to her thesis, whilst it is probably true that great inventions and creative works are not created because of the possibility to obtain patents or copyright, nevertheless, IP provides a mechanism for creators to profit from their inventions. Industry invests money in directed R&D and without patents offering the potential of selling at a premium, the only advantage is first mover, which is generally insufficient. Certainly, no commercial entity would invest the large sums required to develop drugs unless patents or some similar system provides a possibility for market exclusivity. I suggest that no-one would invest in creating new films if anyone could legally make copies and sell tickets. Great poets might continue to write without financial reward, but there is a lot of lowbrow literature out there that needs the copyright system. Professor Lobel certainly thinks that her ideas should not be disseminated freely.

Personally, I think that the period of copyright protection is far too long. Here the solution is to require copyright registration and to limit protection to say 10 years + a further 10 years if renewed. Re patents, there are certainly problems with one size fits all, but I haven’t found anything better.

I don’t buy into all Professor Lobel’s ideas, but her voice provides food for thought and is a contribution to the topic under discussion.  The event may be fun, although the panel seems biased towards academia. It would benefit from one or more practicing IP professionals,


Categories: Academia, book review, patentable subject matter, Patents

1 reply

  1. It would be interesting to learn how much technology which COULD have been patented is actually in the public domain. I know that many engineers freely share their ideas with their peers (in trade publications and forums) so long as it is not part of their core business. The patent system has its’ place, but it’s a long way from “patent everything new, give nothing free to society”

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