January 28, 2004

IP Protection and Competition [10:36 am]

From Wired: The Eagle Is Grounded: While America works to protect intellectual property, everyone else is innovating. A very clear articulation of the threat that the current trends in US IP thinking represents to many of our industries.

n the face of new technologies and competition, the US is toughening patent and copyright protections. It’s leaning on other countries - and its own citizens - to play by ever tighter rules. But if it’s not careful, the US will drive its intellectual property offshore into a shadow world that, like shipping, is replete with piracy and rogue states.

[...] This conflict sets the stage for a trade war on an unprecedented scale. Last fall’s World Trade Organization talks at CancĂșn failed in part because poor countries walked out in protest over US and EU intransigence on agriculture and drug patent issues. That’s just a sign of the strife ahead; those poorer nations could become the next flags of convenience for a more liberal conception of intellectual property.

There’s still time to avoid the shipping industry’s fate: American IP owners can stop demanding maximum and extreme protections. The US Patent and Trademark Office can stop taking a head-in-the-sand approach - last summer it strong-armed the World Intellectual Property Organization into canceling a discussion on open source projects - and instead use the WIPO to forge a global policy that works for all nations.

By taking a flexible approach to IP, companies could capitalize on the next wave of innovation rather than shirk from it. But wait too long and this ship will have sailed.

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