25 October 2013

Weak Patents, FAST Copyright, Lost Whistles

'The Competitive Advantage of Weak Patents' by William Hubbard in (2013) Boston College Law Review argues that
contrary to the beliefs of many U.S. lawmakers, U.S. patent law currently undermines the ability of U.S. firms to compete in global markets because strong U.S. patent rights actually weaken an overlooked but critical determinant of U.S. competitiveness: rivalry among U.S. firms. Intense domestic rivalry drives firms relentlessly to improve, spawns related and supporting domestic industries, and encourages the domestic development of advanced factors of production, like specialized labor forces. U.S. patents restrict rivalry among foreign firms less because U.S. patents have little extraterritorial effect. Moreover, due to legal and economic differences between the United States and other countries, foreign patents do not equilibrate competitive conditions abroad. Consequently, for U.S. firms to benefit from the same competitive environment as foreign firms, U.S. patents should be weakened. Such changes, however, also threaten to reduce U.S. competitiveness because U.S. patents promote the development of new inventions that help U.S. firms compete in global markets. This Article thus exposes a deep tension in U.S. economic policy. Unfortunately, lawmakers have failed to recognize this tradeoff and, as a result, have adopted excessively strong patent protections that undermine U.S. competitiveness. This Article addresses this problem by proposing balanced reforms that will selectively weaken U.S. patent protection to increase U.S. competitive advantage.
Meanwhile in the UK the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has announced
Corporate Britain out of tune on software theft
FAST’s third annual whistleblower’s survey reveals two-thirds wouldn’t report software piracy in the workplace.
The latest research from the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) has revealed that while the majority of UK office workers are concerned about the negative effects of software theft to the economy, only one-third (34 per cent) would report the use of illegal software in the workplace.
The research, conducted in October 2013, surveyed 200 office workers to gauge their attitudes towards software piracy and whistleblowing, revealed that most would be happy to take a lax approach to software theft at the office.
Of those that would not blow the whistle, one-third (36 per cent) stated that they wouldn’t report it in order to protect their jobs, 16 per cent to protect their reputations, and a further 30 per cent simply didn’t care. Interestingly, a sizeable minority (14 per cent) cited concerns about negative media coverage about whistleblowers as a reason why they wouldn’t blow the whistle.
FAST's "other key findings" include:
  • 63% are concerned about the damaging effects of software theft on the economy 
  • 66% (down from (68% in the 2012 survey) would not report their employer if they were using illegal software
  • 57% of workers are unaware of the law that protects whistle blowers 
  • Of those who would report misuse, 57% cited their belief in ‘good practice’ as the reason to make a report, while a further 27% felt it was correct to stay within the law 
  • 52% of businesses have a formal policy in place on the illegal use of software in the workplace
52% of all businesses? Presumably the S end of SMEs doesn't count as "businesses".