Imagine I discovered a cure for cancer. Now imagine instead of sharing it with the world, I locked it in a box and gave no one access.
Imagine I came up with a compression algorithm that could make computers store twice as much data. And imagine I locked that away, too.
This is our world. The box is called a patent office. It is used by companies and individuals to retain solitary rights to ideas for many years. It is used by patent trolls to make money. Above all else, it slows humanity down in the name of personal gain.
It could have been different. For example, what if the patent office would evaluate your idea, put a price tag on it. Whoever wants to use your idea must pay you the premium. You still gain from your idea, but humanity isn’t forced to lose it.
Some countries don’t respect patent laws. One such country is China. This led to an interesting phenomenon. It’s called copycatting.
Many of the products we know are produced, at least in part, in China. That means the factories have the plans for most products. They can manufacture those products as often as they choose.
And so, products sold on Kickstarter with a premium often pop up on AliExpress before they are delivered to Kickstarter contributors. Not only that, but they are sold for much less.
Is it a perfect system? Probably not. But neither is the patent system. In an ideal world, we’d see a solution somewhere in between. Until then? Long live the copycat!