Re: poly: Idea Futures, some questions

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Thu Jul 02 1998 - 15:43:33 PDT

Nick B. writes:
>> 3) These costs can be early and sunk. Then a theiving team would
>> have to plan and count on stealing an idea at the last minute.
>Or it could just opportunistically steal them if it happened to get a
>chance to.

The idea is that wouldn't do them any good if they hadn't sunk those
early costs. Only early entrants could play.

>I'm not sure what you mean by "application detail" here. The ideas
>behind a patent are typically complex and it would take many bits to
>express them whatever were the regulations for patent applications.
>Thus the people who wrote the patent laws might not have worried
>about idea theft, because whatever exact regulations they
>laid down, any workable patent system would have to require a
>patent application to contain quite a lot of information --simply in
>order to express the idea being patented --, and that would be more
>than enough to deter patent idea theft.

Let's take an infamous example: the "XOR cursor" patent. Imagine your
team was planning on patenting such a thing, and then found that some
other team had beaten you to it. You might then suspect that someone
had stolen your patent idea. But you couldn't be very sure; someone
could easily have developed the idea independently. And I really don't
see how this suspicion gets you very far toward catching the thief,
if there was one.

>(5) In some cases one could keep researchers isolated from the the
>rest of the world during their workdays. At the end of the workday,
>the management looks at the results of the day's work and buys or
>sells any idea futures they may want before they let the researchers
>leave the building. That way, there won't be any fresh information
>that the researchers could leak.

That's an idea worth thinking about.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-2627
Received on Thu Jul 2 22:49:52 1998

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