PATENTS: rewards and risks

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Thu Jan 11 13:08:41 EST 1996

On Thu, 11 Jan 1996, Sami Kohan wrote:

> > When the founding fathers included a mandate to award patents
> > in the Constitution, they did so in the recognition that rewarding
> > inventors with a 'goverment sanctioned' monopoly would spur
> > invention AND promote economic well being in our nascent nation
> > 
> > But the original concept of the patent, as a REWARD to the inventor
> > became somehow deeply lost in the process.
> The patent is meant to reward those who took risks. Clearly, the investor
> who put up the capital for a venture is deserving of much of the reward.
[ snip ]

Here you sort of touch upon an interesting philosophical
question : reward for a risk. I see a logical contradiction
beteen these two. By definition, you can't design a system 
whose AIM is to reward the risk, even if OCCASIONALLY it
can do so. 

Risk (by definition) means that you take chances and can
win OR loose. If you have a system which (even as a matter
of good majority of cases) rewards the risks, then they are 
not 'risks' any longer but rather a guaranteed investments.

We all know of Columbuses and Magellans, but how many other
unknown risk takers went out for a search of undiscovered 
lands never to be heard from again.

If you aspire to make a (patentable) discovery you have to be
prepared to face a REAL risk that your idea will be stolen 
(somehow) and ALL your credits (and monetary rewards) will go
elsewhere. Examples of this are many.

In some cases it is perhaps more wise to consider publishing
the idea rather than patenting it [ here the risk of theft is
somewhat lesser ]. This way, even if you don't collect 
dollars, your name may still be associated to a discovery.  

Alex Berezin

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