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April 5, 2006

The Big IP Skeptic Lovefest Is Coming

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Later this month there's going to be a big group hug for all the folks who think that intellectual property protection is a club wielded by evil corporations and evil capitalist countries to destroy innovation and to keep people poor.

It's called the A2K conference, and it's being held at prestigious Yale University. It's funded by the usual suspects, and it will also be programmed and attended by the usual suspects.

There will almost certainly be commemorative tee shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers.

Expect to hear lots of bashing of people who actually create and innovate things. See, it turns out that they are the bad guys. Those of you who go to work every day trying to create new and useful things, like medicines, and entertainment, and technological devices and equipment--you're the bad guys.

Expect to see lots of laptops running Linux, Free Software nametag lanyards, "A2K Now" tee shirts and other shallow symbolism of the Free Culture movement.

But beyond the symbolism, during the conference, speakers will undoubtedly be using microphones, amplifiers, projectors, computers, network cards and wireless access points that were all developed by innovator companies and are all protected by intellectual property. Some will be wearing designer clothing protected by trademark. In fact, if past is prologue, even their A2K tee shirts will be covered by at least one form of intellectual property.

Some of their clothing may actually be made with patented textiles, and if they're wearing shoes by Reebok, Nike, Adidas, Puma or New Balance, the soles of their shoes will contain patented technologies, as well as the trademarks covering the brands.

They will fly in airplanes covered by thousands of patents. They will watch a DVD that was created through the copyright system, or they'll listen to copyright-developed music through their patent-developed iPods. They'll use patent-developed cell phones to arrange little side discussions about how much they hate intellectual property.

They will arrive in automobiles, probably a lot of Toyota Priuses (sp?), covered by scores and scores of patents. Their cab fare will be computed by a meter developed through intellectual property.They'll be wearing contact lenses covered by patents, though some of them may well have had Lasik surgery, which is performed by laser equipment that was developed and protected by patent. Equipment certified by the very same FDA that they will accuse of being in league with pharmaceutical companies to invent the counterfeit pharmaceuticals crisis.

Their conference agendas and notes will be printed on printers developed and protected by patents, whether printed in-house on laser printers, or printed on a 4-color or web press.

During breaks, they will relieve themselves in plumbing fixtures covered by trademarks and patents. They will use soaps to wash their hands and faces (hopefully) that are covered by trademarks, and in some cases that contain patented technologies.They will refresh themselves with beverages covered by trademarks, trade secrets, and patents.

Some lucky attendees may be kept alive during the conference by pacemakers, which were developed and protected by patent.  Some even luckier attendees cursed with epilepsy may be able to get through the entire conference without incident through the aid of technological implants or pharmaceutical products, of course developed through the property-rights model of innovation.

No doubt some during the conference will be having their cholesterol reduced, their aches relieved, their diseases cured (or at least kept at bay), and even their erections enhanced, all by patented pharmaceuticals.

In fact, I know some of the panelists, and I strongly suspect that the only things keeping them clothed and in their right minds are pharmaceuticals.

If it gets really boring at any point, some will pull out books to read which are protected by copyright and printed by patented printers. Or they'll point their Firefox browsers at some interesting news site or journalistic outlet, where the content produced is covered by copyright.

After the conference, they will go out and drink adult beverages covered by trademarks. They'll sit on barstools protected by trademark and sometimes patents, and the ice in their drinks will come from an icemaker that was developed through the property-rights system of innovation, and is protected by one or more patents. The fountain machine that dispenses their drinks is patented. The little napkins they'll use to absorb condensation will have little trademarks on them somewhere. The little plastic swords that pierces their olives will probably have microscopic TMs on them somewhere.

What would REALLY be interesting would be an A2K conference which banned any and all aid from products developed through property rights. I'd love to see that. But I couldn't, because I couldn't see without my contact lenses, and I couldn't listen via telephone or watch a webconference. Both would be impossible if all products of intellectual property were banned.

Hypocrites. Bloody hypocrites. Using intellectual property thousands of times a day, using IP to bash IP.

And Yale should be ashamed. If that's possible.

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