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The IT Agenda: IP Protection for the 21st Century

18th-Century Thinking

Any industrial engineer knows that as the cycle time shortens, productivity increases. The problem: When 21st-century IT companies with 21st-century efficiencies use 18th-century IP protection, the effect is like a steroid, creating 800-pound gorillas capable of crushing the competition.

These gorilla companies go out and patent everything under the sun, including plain silly stuff (witness Microsoft's recently awarded patent of the tab key to navigate within a browser page). Then they secure patents that attempt to predict improvements upon the core patent in order to prevent anyone else from making those innovations. Why not? The big guys have the resources, thanks to their monopoly protection (which recently has been extended to 20 years). Smaller companies don't have a prayer.

Without IP protection, most commercial inventors would never invent. Surely we don't want to live in a world where only those who don't have to make a living innovate. This group includes the idle rich, but it also includes criminals, especially of the cyber variety.

Currently, the bad guys have the edge in innovation because they don't have to worry about the bureaucratic IP system. They tend to stay two steps ahead of the law-abiding innovators.

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