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osViews: Intellectual Property in the Real World

Jan 28, 2004, 03:00 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Russell Peterson)

[ Thanks to Kelly McNeill for this link. ]

"Many years ago, there was an Emperor, who was so excessively fond of new clothes, that he spent all his money in dress. He did not trouble himself in the least about his soldiers; nor did he care to go either to the theatre or the chase, except for the opportunities then afforded him for displaying his new clothes. He had a different suit for each hour of the day; and as of any other king or emperor, one is accustomed to say, 'he is sitting in council,' it was always said of him, 'The Emperor is sitting in his wardrobe.'

"Hans Christian Andersen probably would have been baffled by the term 'intellectual property' even though he inadvertently wrote about it. His story told of two con artists who fooled an emperor into buying clothes made of material which would remain 'invisible to everyone who was unfit for the office he held, or who was extraordinarily simple in character.' In other words, they were selling an idea. The thieves made a handsome profit before their scheme was eventually exposed.

"Ironically, had they been alive today, the thieves could have applied for a 'business process' patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, though another government agency would have been responsible for prosecuting them for fraud. We live in a society in which people claim the right to own ideas. In this Information Age, the public has become familiar with intellectual property; information ownership has become big business..."

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