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Journal betasam's Journal: Intellectual "Property" and the Intangible

Today, undoubtedly is part of the "Information age", which has followed the "Industrial age." Each age brings something new in society and imposes that in strength. The "Information age" has been no different. Intellectual Property which for most part remains intangible has become a recognized asset today. In every age of human civilization, new socio-economic concepts create confusion to those who wish to use or deploy it. During the Industrial age, the confusion was with labor law and creation of lower and upper strata of the "new" middle class redefining society in a huge way. It took time for society to accept this change.

Now companies, organizations and people are trying to grapple the elusive and abstract concept of "Intellectual Property." Today one has to have hoards of lawyers to defend Intellectual Property whenever someone "misuses" it in the socio-legal context. Such intangible assets however have been extended to include, past work (music, books, information, maps and other information) which could not be valued correctly.

Several committees have debated over Humanity's rights over all the information which was created prior to the new "Information age." New forms of Intellectual property were created to segregate them in terms of value, usability and the duration for which they would hold good. The Information Age, kicked off alongside the Industrial age and has not been independent of the industrial age ever since its conception.

Today we see mass confusion over the usage of "Intellectual Property" in the social context. Society is not fully aware (across the world) of their rights over any "Intellectual Property" owned or used. Creators of "Intellectual Property" are not truly aware of economically valuating "Intellectual Property" in terms of a tangible economic standard (like currency.) The confusion happens when someone takes an intangible idea or form of expression and tries to associate "tangible" economic value with the same.

Creation of new ideas and forms of expression are not new. Human civilization has been created and has progressed with the help of new ideas and forms of expression (such as inventions, language, writing, hieroglyphs et cetera.) This has been centric to memetic evolution and therefore the progress of Human civilization in itself. Today the attempt to value what was always held intangible (and not valued) has created a socio-legal gap in society.

In simple terms, people are not aware whether they have the right to play music or videos which were created and performed by someone else. People are not aware whether they could share a book they have with someone else in new digital forms that have allowed them to retain copies whilst sharing. No one knows the "moral precedent" in copying a digital machine (software) and sharing it with someone else. Some people individually create ideas but lose them (not infrequently) to larger corporate outfits who have legal teams.

Society is unable to distinguish between "new ideas" and "old ideas." The US Patent system and such systems in other countries have received considerable backlash from the public and many groups because of this inability to distinguish "new/innovative" from "old." The volume of information, ideas and expressions generated by humanity over 2000 years cannot be combed through to ascertain the novelty of an idea/expression. The ideas are vast, they span several disciplines of thought and expertise which cannot be policed or adjudged without the same expertise and time. Further, companies reveal their "Intellectual Property" and try to equate them with their "tangible assets." If this relies on ideas that have not yet been expressed or implemented by the person or organization it creates an opportunity for economic inflation and/or imbalance.

The whole world is slowly starting to believe that humanity has indeed drastically influenced the Climate system of the planet. Finally they have taken stern decisions to do whatever possible to reduce and if possible undo their changes to the Climate system. This is humanity taking responsibility for 2000 years (and more accurately 200 years) of gross inaction on the same front.

The "Information age" and the woes it has brought about in the socio-economic system are less than two centuries old. Yet the social effect is undoubtedly strong and requires quick decisive action. It is time for economists to rethink true valuation of ideas that have not been realized or expressed in a tangible form. It is easier to value software as there is a tangible form whose only failing is the ease of replication. Ideas unfortunately cannot be valued. It is time society removed "software patents" and any patent that relates to a non-tangible abstract concept. Donald Knuth himself has argued in a letter to the USPTO that software is indistinguishable from mathematics which by its own definitions cannot be patented. Applying economic value to intangible ideas will create another economic bubble that does not feed nations or stop wars. Businesses need to have a clear differentiator on what can be patented. Patents need to be restricted to tangible products. New processes, algorithms and methods can be "copyrighted" which is a better way of handling "Intellectual Property Law." However these, if patented (and therefore accepted as long-term valuable property) will stave innovation and create a situation of unfair competition.

As a simple start, businesses need to focus on "Intellectual Property" that can be copyrighted and therefore protected thus. They also need to improvise and take up social responsibility to educate society on the "freedom" of usage of any such property. Anything that shackles society creates an aberration that later surfaces as a part of anti-social or criminal activity. Businesses need to avoid forcing employees to create intellectual property on a timely basis. Creativity is a less understood gift of Humanity. It is definitely not a periodic gift. It is driven by necessity. meter artium necessitas. Stakeholders in businesses should value a business for integrity, productivity, creativity and social responsibility. A pure monetary valuing system for businesses as we have today does not define the true strength or capability of an individual or a business accurately. Society must learn to adapt and avoid a future catastrophe. Allowing defense of intangible patents and such intellectual property will only aid in the creation of a different kind of future shock. Let creativity and novelty live with society for longer before we create measures to create a Bonsai civilization. Quoting Keats,

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;

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Intellectual "Property" and the Intangible

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