Copying trade secrets and catching up

From Ed Crooks in The Financial Times (register to get past paywall)

US charges Sinovel with trade secret theft

The US government has charged Sinovel, one of the largest Chinese wind turbine manufacturers, with stealing trade secrets from one of its US suppliers, alleging the offence amounted to “attempted corporate homicide”.

If we skip over the fact that this brings the personification of the corporation to a new and, well, corporeal level (I’ll leave that matter to Yves Smith), here’s your Rorschach: is Sinovel the hero and AMSC the villain, or vice versa? Continue reading

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Piracy as opportunity

Many westerners have scolded me when I’ve told stories of the obscene amounts of music, movies and software I have pirated. What they fail to understand is that I used this mode of distribution for the lack of any realistic access to an alternative.

– Bozhan Chipev, “Piracy was my shot at equality

GMO giant hires retired cops to hunt down farmers

The glories of the intellectual property imperium! (from Occupy Monsanto)

GMO giants DuPont have contracted dozens of retired law enforcement officers to begin patrolling farms in the US next year to spot any potential intellectual property theft.

DuPont Co, the second-largest seed country in the world, is hoping to find farmers that have purchased contracts to use their genetically modified soybean seeds but have breached the terms of agreement by illegally using the product for repeat harvests. Should farmers replant GMO seeds licensed by DuPont, they could be sued for invalidating their contracts.

http://www.occupymonsanto360.org (http://s.tt/1vNQa)

This reminded me of my teacher Sam Bowles talking about guard labor (I Google and am glad to find that he still talks about it). Excessive supervision that pays for itself by keeping down wages, prison guards, etc: a great deal of labor is devoted to just watching people who, in a better structure of motivation, would not need to be watched at all.

(To say nothing of the fact the the part of guard labor that consists of prison guards is devoted to keeping prisoners out of the labor market, so that’s everybody’s effort wasted: on this see Bruce Western and Katherine Beckett, and John Quiggin. But I digress.)

Further Googling tells me that Bill Totten, who has a company that distributes open source software in Japan, has made just the same association between IP protection and guard labor.

Weak intellectual property and economic catch up – the German case

In Der Spiegel, Frank Thadeusz reviews Eckhard Höffner’s work. The story: 19th century Germany had far better dissemination of new scientific & technical ideas, in part because weak copyright enforcement forced publishers into aggressive pricing & paperback editions. In England publishers thrived but most people couldn’t afford their products. This difference helped Germany catch up.

What Höffner describes in 19th century Germany is a sort of open innovation system – not one without intellectual property protection, but one with weak protection. Continue reading