There has been an argument against laws supporting property rights as they lead to monopolies and especially on the use of specific ideas. We are going to look at Villasenor’s argument against abolishing intellectual property rights. Some of the inventors like James Watt have had successes with their exploits of the patents long after the latter expired. Nevertheless, a basis of the argument against laws that support the intellectual property rights that lead to monopolies for use of specific ideas exists. Some of the arguments are covered below.
James Watt and his business partner Matthew Boulton stifled the development of the steam engine for the time that their patent lasted Against Intellectual Monopoly (Boldrin & Levine 21). Their competitors who had better ideas for improving the steam engine could only wait until the expiry of the patent before they could introduce locomotives that are more efficient. The patents lasted for a long time, the period in which no new locomotive, adoption, or modifications would be made until the patent expired.
It is evident that the patent stifled innovation by fending off competition. A case on point was Matthew Wasborough’s Hornblower. Though superior to what watt was producing, the legal cudgel was used to prevent the more efficient engine from production. There was a lull in the industrial revolution, thanks to the legal manipulation of the patent rights by Watt. The authors thus argue that the patent does not serve to protect t intellectual property rights but rather to advance the profiteering motives of the inventors at the behest of development.
Contrary to the thinking that the patent allowed the inventors to produce the engines, the patent was actually a means to an end. They would wait for the expiry of the patent in order to enjoy the monopolistic royalties who were licensed to produce the steam engines.
The so-called intellectual property rights are an obstacle to healthy competition. The competitors could not produce superior and more efficient steam engines ostensibly because a patent protected the inventors. The inventors such as James Watt cleverly exploited the law to stay ahead of the pack without bettering their inventions. It is correct, therefore, to argue that a patent encourages monopolistic behaviors without subsequent improvement on what is protected by the patent.
Lastly, the authors, though agreeing that patents and copyrights are unavoidable, aver that intellectual protection rights can be protected without necessarily stifling innovation and creativity. The innovators can indeed be rewarded without the use of the intellectual property rights such as contractual agreements.
James watt was able to succeed long after the expiry of the patent because his competitors focused on cheapness at the expense of excellence. By increasing the price, Watt was able to make more sales.
Secondly, he only started to manufacture the steam engines after the expiry, having previously thrived on monopolistic royalties.
Thirdly, he exploited the legal system by ensuring that he stayed ahead of the others so that they would not catch up in the improvements of the steam engines. The law assured him of protection against competitors.
In his defense of the IP, John Villasenor argues that ‘patents and copyright protections are more important than ever. In an article in the scientific American under the aforementioned title, he argues that the IP should be updated, not abolished (Villanesor 37).
In one of his classical examples, he calls it outright theft when someone pirates a song from a musician ostensibly to drive the sales up. He reasons that musicians ought to be compensated for their creativity.
The rise in technology makes it easier to invent things in an easier way. This should however not be done at the behest of protecting the inventions. As far as Villasenor is concerned, no invention is so insignificant as not to be protected.
The theft of innovation is real and especially if your competitor has more financial muscle than you. The stiff competition could prevent such creative minds from forming companies.
The economic growth would be hampered if the IP is not protected. There will be a loss of incentive to create new inventions. He however avers that only worthwhile inventions and innovations should be protected, not flawed ones as the latter would invite unnecessary litigation.
In conclusion, there are arguments and counter-arguments on whether Intellectual property rights should be supported or not. On one end, they lead to monopolistic tendencies, exploited to the user’s advantage; on the other hand, they are a necessary evil in order to protect creativity. However, patenting is not the only option as there are others such as the use of agreements.
Boldrin, Michele, and David K Levine. Against Intellectual Monopoly. 1st ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.
Villasenor, John. “Why Patents and Copyright Protections are More Important Than Ever”. Scientific American. N.p., 2017. Web. 7 Apr. 2017.