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Jefferson vs. the Patent Trolls

Jefferson vs. the Patent Trolls: A Populist Vision of Intellectual Property Rights

JEFFREY H. MATSUURA
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 168
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zwd41
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  • Book Info
    Jefferson vs. the Patent Trolls
    Book Description:

    Of all the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson had the most substantial direct experience with the issues surrounding intellectual property rights and their impact on creativity, invention, and innovation. In our own digital age, in which IP has again become the object of intense debate, his voice remains one of the most vital in American history on this crucial subject.

    Jefferson lived in a time of immense change, when inventions and other creative works impacted the world profoundly. In this atmosphere it became clear that the developers of creative works and the users of those works often have competing interests. Jefferson appreciated as well as anyone that the originators of ideas needed legal protection. He also knew that innovation was crucial for a nation's economic prosperity as well as its political health, and that rights should not become barriers.

    Jefferson was in a unique position to understand the issues of intellectual property rights. His pronouncements on these issues were those not of a scholar but, rather, of a practitioner. As a scientist, author, and inventor, he was a prolific creator. He was also a tireless consumer of others' works. As America's first patent commissioner, he decided which ideas merited protection and effectively created the patent review process. Jeffrey Matsuura profiles Jefferson's diverse and substantial experience with these issues and discusses the lessons Jefferson's efforts offer us today, as we grapple with many of the same challenges of balancing IP rights against an effort to foster creativity and innovation. Without inserting Jefferson anachronistically into the current debate, Matsuura does not shy away from positing where in the spectrum of opinion Jefferson's ideas lie. For lawyers, legal and technology historians, and entrepreneurs, Matsuura offers a fresh, historically informed perspective on a current issue of major importance.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3039-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    In today’s world we place great emphasis on inventions and other creative works. Intellectual property law rights—patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets—receive substantial attention. Individuals and nations alike recognize the significant potential economic value of intellectual property rights, having seen over time numerous examples of how inventions and other original works can transform into large profitable businesses and lifestyle-changing products. Intellectual property is widely seen to be a source of economic potential. It is treated as an important asset. There is tension regarding rights of ownership of, access to, and use of intellectual property.

    The concept of intellectual...

  5. ONE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS TODAY: A CHAOTIC ENVIRONMENT
    (pp. 9-36)

    Intellectual property rights — legal rights associated with patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets — are much in the news today. Since these laws form the foundation for technological innovation and associated economic growth, the United States and many other countries around the world currently struggle to enforce intellectual property laws and to modify those rules as necessary to accommodate rapid and dramatic technological advances. The situation is chaotic and unsettled. In this chapter we will review some of the current challenges confronting intellectual property rights management. This chapter places those challenges in historical context, connecting them with similar issues addressed during...

  6. TWO JEFFERSON AND THE VALUE OF SHARED KNOWLEDGE
    (pp. 37-52)

    A critical factor associated with the development and use of intellectual property is access to knowledge and information. Intellectual property rights both limit and rely upon sharing of knowledge and information. Patents, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property law sustain the sharing of information and knowledge by providing a legal framework that establishes the terms of access to and use of much of that material. Yet intellectual property law can also impede the free exchange of information to the extent that it enables developers of knowledge to restrict rights of access and use. The challenge of balancing restriction and...

  7. THREE KINDRED SPIRIT TO SCIENTISTS AND INVENTORS
    (pp. 53-78)

    Jefferson was at home among scientists and inventors. He shared their inquisitiveness and spirit. Observers noted that only Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt, of all past American presidents, can reasonably be characterized as men of science. Both men shared a seemingly limitless passion to understand the natural world. Much of Jefferson’s self-image centered on his appreciation for scientific inquiry. In his time, science was often viewed as synonymous with the pursuit of knowledge. Experimental science and scientific observations, as we know them today, were commonly characterized as “natural history” and “natural philosophy.” Jefferson’s appreciation for science and the process of formal...

  8. FOUR THE FIRST PATENT EXAMINER
    (pp. 79-100)

    When Jefferson assumed his position on the first Board of Arts for the United States, he moved from the realm of scientist inventor to that of patent examiner. Previously, Jefferson had been a developer and user of intellectual property. Once on the board, he became a patent official. Figuratively speaking, he jumped the fence in the world of intellectual property rights. Clearly, he retained his ideals regarding the importance of knowledge sharing and access to inventive works; however, his role and perspective on intellectual property rights shifted. As a member of the Board of Arts, it was now his duty...

  9. FIVE JEFFERSON BATTLES THE PATENT TROLLS
    (pp. 101-111)

    Patent law professionals often apply a vivid term to those who obtain patents, then simply wait for others to infringe upon them. Called patent “trolls,” instead of actively moving to make use of their inventions by developing them themselves or by licensing others to develop them, they let their patents sit unused. As time passes, they monitor commerce with an eye toward parties who may be using the patented inventions in various products. When they find such use, the trolls contact the users and demand payment of license fees as compensation for permission to make use of the protected inventions....

  10. SIX JEFFERSON AND THE CHALLENGES OF INVENTION AND INNOVATION
    (pp. 112-138)

    Many of the goals and concerns expressed by Jefferson with respect to knowledge, invention, and innovation remain relevant today. Although it would not be fair to assert which positions Jefferson would support on the specific policy issues of today regarding invention and innovation, it is both reasonable and instructive to examine how Jefferson’s approach to those issues is reflected in today’s debates. It is also reasonable to turn to Jefferson’s experiences and actions as a useful model for the opportunities and challenges available to political leaders to influence in constructive ways efforts to facilitate creativity, invention, and innovation.

    Jefferson’s experience...

  11. SOURCE NOTES
    (pp. 139-144)
  12. SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 145-150)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 151-154)