Microsoft v. AT&T
This case involves an ethical scenario where American Patent Law principles are violated in the global market. The Supreme Court of the United States in 2007 held that software compares could not be held liable for infringing certain patents as described under 35 U.S.C § 271(f). This statute created liabilities for exporting components of patented products. In this case, disincentives to trade were created by the Federal Circuit thereby creating liabilities for software manufacturers to benefit from the Loopholes enjoyed by other industries. For instance, non-infringing forms can be exported to other markets outside the country where the patent was created. In this case, Microsoft exported master copies enclosed in machine-readable form which can be installed into computers manufactured in foreign markets. Normally, a patent cannot be infringed when the manufacture and trading of a patented product is conducted in a foreign country. However, the Patent Act on section 271(f) states that patent infringement occurs when a company supplies components (in physical form) of a patented invention to a foreign country for purposes of recombining them.
AT&T argued that the act of installing Windows in a foreign country infringed its patent on digital encoding and compression of recorded speech because the installation of Windows enables windows to perform similar functions. This act concerns shows lack of ethics because in their defense, Microsoft argued that the components held intangible information and that they were not exported from the US. While the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Microsoft, the District Court and Federal Circuit agreed that the Master version of windows was sent from the US and hence, they were still considered as supplied from the US. This is a liability according to the provisions of section 271(f) of the Patent Act. Because of these differing opinions, the Supreme Court was forced to offer a writ of certiorari to Microsoft that led to terming the Master copy of windows as a blueprint and not a component. This decision grants a loophole to software companies to evade liability as described under section 271(f) of the US Patent Act. This is unethical because many software companies can cite the ruling in this case to infringe other patent laws by exporting “blue prints’ of patented copies.
The Ethical Case against Intellectual Property, Part 1
The video shows exhibits several scenarios where technological companies encounter different challenges presented by the complexity of the IP environment. Cases presented by David Koepsell regarding the patenting of genes raises a matter of questions concerning the unethical nature of Intellectual Property (Koepsell, 2009a). In the video, David Koepsell argues that the intellectual property rights are attempts aimed at locking up the idea of commons by necessity. Simply put, IP rights distinguish scarce goods and infinite goods. While physical goods such as land can be possessed, things like genes cannot be allocated easily (Koepsell, 2009b).
Many IP rights generate inefficiencies because they limit the ability of individuals to innovate despite the existence of freedom of expression. In certain situations, intellectual property rights discourage competition by designing patents that block any efforts by competitors to create products that may improve or compete with the patented product. For instance, to show the practicality of the unethical nature of Intellectual properties, take a case of a software that enables scientists to identify drugs for certain diseases. Efforts to develop a product that may improve the process of designing drugs for the diseases is prohibited under patent laws irrespective of the benefits the innovation can bring to humanity. This act abridges the act of modifying information or programs to improve the better.
A second example of the unethical nature of intellectual property is a scenario where the Intellectual Property rights abridges an individual’s freedom to express his speech and thoughts freely (Koepsell, 2009a). For one, the ability to improve the ability of a program to produce lifesaving results is prohibited because a patent denies the individual the ability to think in the line of what the program can accomplish. Second, the patented product denies a person the right to express your knowledge to another person. To conclude this case, Intellectual properties are necessary and right, but in situations where they endanger knowledge, innovation, and creativity, they law needs to be revised.
Koepsell, D. (2009a). The Ethical Case Against Intellectual Property, Part 1.
Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEEm7kMa2gM
Koepsell, D. (2009b). Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your
MICROSOFT CORP. v. AT&T CORP., 550 U.S. 437 (U.S. 2007)