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Is Intellectual Property Overvalued?

August 16, 2007

by John Finlay

There is no doubt that we live in a knowledge economy where information dealers like Google rule and where patents and copyrights go for billions. Much of our economy is based on companies spending billions to protect their intellectual property.

But, could dumping all of these resources into such intangible assets really be good for the economy? A patent isn’t going to feed my children, and (especially in the software industry) it isn’t going to last more than a few years before it no longer has value.

But don’t I have to protect myself from copycats? Of course, intellectual property is not going to go away and it needs to be addressed and evaluated. What we need to remember however is that IP itself is just an idea and that on its own an idea has no value. An idea gains value only as it can be realized or implemented. How does an idea get implemented? It takes motivated and creative people to actually make it happen.

Also, where do these ideas come from? IP doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. It came from intelligent people thinking creatively.

Unfortunately companies and our culture tend to value the idea more than the creator or the implementor. If we switched that around and valued the implementor more than the idea, we would have an economy that really breads new ideas. We would have corporations where “intrapreneurship” is encouraged and we would have better patent laws.

Perhaps we should be moving towards the “knowledge worker economy” and moving away from just the “knowledge economy.”

–John

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