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Tell Us: Is Intellectual Property Even Property at All?

September 19, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228470

Is intellectual property even property at all?

Businesses fret over IP issues all the time. On the one hand, they covetously protect what ideas they believe are theirs alone, making sure to use the courts to protect the exclusivity of whatever products grow from those thoughts. On the other hand, these same companies often find themselves on the receiving end of lawsuits from others who claim their ideas were not as original as they thought. It's worse that there are also patent trolls who have made a business out of threatening lawsuits over intellectual property.

Related: Angry Business Owner Wages War on 'Troll'

But are these patent fights even valid? Attorney David D'Amato argues that they are not -- that, in fact, intellectual property is not true property at all. Ideas are evolutionary. In short, he says, endowing ideas with rights is ridiculous and impossible.

“Any attempt to neatly partition the contributions made by one mind or another, through all the ages of invention and scientific discovery, is vain and fruitless to the point of inanity,” he writes. “Inventions constantly both absorb and propagate one another, plagiarizing, consuming and collaborating to create still newer inventions. To source any idea whatsoever to a particular individual or group is to assume that we know far more than we ever could about the full picture of the idea’s germination and evolution.”

By assigning rights to intellectual property, argues D'Amato, “is a millstone around the neck of innovation and technological progress, a political mechanism for stifling both in favor of bare monopoly.”

Businesses spend a lot on intellectual property. Even filing for a patent for a simple, basic ideas will cost the inventor a minimum of $5,000, and usually more. Then there is the cost of defending and protecting patents and IP.

Is it worth it? Should we treat intellectual property as property at all?

Tell us your opinion.