Subject: Re: The term "intellectual property" considered useful
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Sat, 27 May 2006 22:24:44 +0900

>>>>> "Norbert" == Norbert Bollow <> writes:

    Norbert> I would argue that "intellectual property" means some
    Norbert> degree of legal ownership of what is in other people's
    Norbert> heads.

That's false on the face of it.  Patents do not control thought, only
the embodiment of a thought in a device.  You can write textbooks
about how to use a patented device, you can describe its principles in
detail, etc.  You can think up new inventions based on it.  There's no
way that a patent can be applied to the contents of your head (unless
you are actually an AI program running on a System/360, but the
relevant patents have long since expired I'm sure).  This is even more
true of copyrights, which apply to copying or performance of
expression fixed in some medium.  Similarly you can use a trademarked
term all you like as long as you acknowledge that it applies to the
owner's product, not yours.  And you can certainly claim that the
concept it denotes applies to your product, too, as long as you
express it in different words.

Intellectual property grants no control, let alone "ownership", of
any thought in anybody's head.

Intellectual property may come very close to it (e.g., public
performance rights on poetry).  Nevertheless, the performance is
outside of your head.

    Norbert> How else would one explain what all the various legal
    Norbert> rights that are grouped under the label "intellectual
    Norbert> property" have in common?

Here's a quick hack: "intellectual property" means a grant of certain
legal rights of control over specified fixed physical manifestations
of intellectual activity.

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