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NovaScotian
06-29-2005, 05:15 PM
I was just reading about the recent Supreme Court ruling in the US, Kelo vs. City of New London, CT, in which the court in a 5 - 4 decision ruled that the city can take the homes of 14 unwilling sellers to enable private development of condos, a marina, luxury hotel, a health club and offices. The city argued that they could apply "eminent domain", i.e. force the sale on their terms for "community benefit", in this case to boost the city's depressed economy with higher-value more heavily taxed properties.

As I understand it, even in a country where property rights are enshrined in the constitution (not so here in Canada), there have been an estimated 10,000 cases in the US since 1998 in which local authorities have threatened or actually applied eminent domain in order to encourage high-yielding development by third parties. In the past, eminent domain only applied to the building of public infrastructure by the city.

Now why does this matter to us in this forum? Because this notion of public purpose trumping individual or corporate rights can be extrapolated to other venues like intellectual property. Why shouldn't some foreign country adapt the court's view of eminent domain and, at least in their own country, legally expropriate brand names, patents, copyrights, and product designs for "community benefit" instead of merely pirating them. Why shouldn't New York City refuse to honor a software patent for "community benefit" and worse yet, turn those expropriated patent ideas over to a third-party developer?

cwtnospam
06-29-2005, 06:21 PM
Why shouldn't some foreign country adapt the court's view of eminent domain and, at least in their own country, legally expropriate brand names, patents, copyrights, and product designs for "community benefit" instead of merely pirating them. Why shouldn't New York City refuse to honor a software patent for "community benefit" and worse yet, turn those expropriated patent ideas over to a third-party developer?

I hope you haven't given the Republicans in charge new ideas for messing with the little guy. Things are bad enough! :eek:

hayne
06-29-2005, 06:22 PM
Why shouldn't some foreign country adapt the court's view of eminent domain and, at least in their own country, legally expropriate brand names, patents, copyrights, and product designs for "community benefit" instead of merely pirating them.
Because that foreign country has likely already promised not to do so when it signed an international agreement to respect patents, etc.
Because that foreign country would fear the economic repercussions if the intellectual property owners belonged to a stronger economic power. (The foreign country might even fear military repercussions if the owners belonged to a stronger military power and the intellectual property were considered sufficiently valuable.)
Why shouldn't New York City refuse to honor a software patent for "community benefit" and worse yet, turn those expropriated patent ideas over to a third-party developer?
Because a municipality doesn't have jurisdiction in that domain.
If it tried to usurp the jurisdiction of a higher level of government, the same "money & guns" penalties mentioned above would likely apply.

Caius
06-29-2005, 06:22 PM
Um, not meaning to sound disrespectful, but wha?!

I'm not sure I really follow whatever the point is you're trying to make with this. And the thing that stops NYC handing software patents over to 3rd party developers is probably something to do with the whole patent system existing to allow someone to register a design* and have it registered for however long the patent lasts for.

* can't remember if you patent a design or something else.

Phil St. Romain
06-29-2005, 06:49 PM
Why shouldn't New York City refuse to honor a software patent for "community benefit" and worse yet, turn those expropriated patent ideas over to a third-party developer?

Because it's unethical?

That CT ruling is pretty controversial. Look for states to take action to stop that hole, as it's a totally new "take" on eminent domain. Where, before, this could be justified to create "public goods" like schools, highways and parks, it is now being used to justify a "public good" of increased tax revenues to fund municipal budgets. Accordingly, any corporation can say that they want to bump someone off their property and justify it in the name of the "public good" of increased taxation and the U.S. Supreme Court, at least, won't deny them that right. Seems a far cry from what eminent domain was meant to allow for, but that's just me. ;)

It's quite a stretch going from this case to the issue of intellectual property, imo.

---

Edit: this thread runs the risk of becoming a highly charged political discussion. There's already one too many snide remarks about Republicans. Watching closely . . .

slacker
06-29-2005, 06:53 PM
Interesting idea, but agree with the comments that local governments probably don't have jurisdiction on intellectual property. That's a Federal Government function in the U.S.

Here is a little background info on patent-related treaties: http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/doc/general/treaties.htm

There has been some history of foreign countries violating these treaties in the cases of AIDS-related drugs. Google around some.

I've been hearing references to the Second Amendment at lot lately in this context. It was no accident that freedom of speech and right to bear arms were first and second amendments. Our founding fathers didn't trust kings or parliments much and wanted to ensure that an unjust government could be overthrown.

Second Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

cwtnospam
06-29-2005, 07:22 PM
Because that foreign country has likely already promised not to do so when it signed an international agreement to respect patents, etc.
Because that foreign country would fear the economic repercussions if the intellectual property owners belonged to a stronger economic power. (The foreign country might even fear military repercussions if the owners belonged to a stronger military power and the intellectual property were considered sufficiently valuable.)

Because a municipality doesn't have jurisdiction in that domain.
If it tried to usurp the jurisdiction of a higher level of government, the same "money & guns" penalties mentioned above would likely apply.
The US Government has already promised certain rights to property owners, but that hasn't stopped a 'Conservative' Supreme Court from stripping them away to the benefit of rich developers.

It's true that a municpality doesn't have domain when it comes to patents, but the Federal Government does. If the ruling is going to stand, it isn't much of a stretch to see small software developers fighting ever steeper up-hill battles in disputes over intellectual property with larger ones, because presumably, the large developer can do more 'good' with the patent.

As for fearing military intervention, as N. Korea has shown, if you have nukes, you need not worry about that. At least not from the US.

voldenuit
06-29-2005, 09:13 PM
Hopefully I won't need to bash democrats for balance (as Phil pointed out, republicans already got "snide remarks" here) in order to continue the thread.

First of all, whoever wants to read the actual ruling, it is here:

http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/23jun20051201/www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/04pdf/04-108.pdf

For related documents, go to

http://supremecourtus.gov/

and search for kelo.

There's a pretty well-written summary in wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelo_v._New_London

The funny part being that there might be a practical demonstration how overly broad this decision is, that might actually hurt one of the judges.
That's a pretty interesting twist because the "test" how they would feel if personally exposed to the consequences of their own rulings is not often practical:

"Justice Souter's home
On June 27, 2005, Logan Darrow Clements requested that the town of Weare, New Hampshire start the process for building a hotel on what is currently Souter's home, noting that after Kelo, the tax revenues from the hotel would make such action legal. Clements indicated that it was necessary to build on that location because "it is a unique site being the home of someone largely responsible for destroying property rights for all Americans." He plans to fund the hotel using investment capital from wealthy libertarians and hopes that prominent libertarian groups like the Institute For Justice and the Free State Project will be regular customers. Ideas for the hotel include a "Just Desserts Cafe" and provision of copies of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged to visitors. If three of the five members of the town's board vote for the hotel, Souter could lose his home."

Now, as Phil correctly postulates, it is quite a stretch to connect that case to IP. It's more about strictly framed exceptions getting abusively extended over time.

To see how such slips can happen, it can be interesting to look at the history of copyright and how it evolved historically. Jessica Litmans book on "Digital Copyright" has a chapter about that:

http://www.msen.com/~litman/digital-copyright/ch2.html

It is rather amazing to see how lobbying, massive PR and ruthless law-hunting of those who don't have deep enough pockets to defend themselves go a long way, even in a context, where everybody can inform himself freely, but not necessarily does.

Phil St. Romain
06-29-2005, 09:24 PM
As for fearing military intervention, as N. Korea has shown, if you have nukes, you need not worry about that. At least not from the US.


OK, that's enough.

(Sorry guys, but no real potential in this one going anywhere.)