Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The High Cost of Invention Theft

Guest post by Dale Halling 

Edwin Armstrong is the inventor of FM radio, the Regeneration receiver, Super Regeneration, Superheterodyne, and much else.  This creative genius’s life was however wasted fighting RCA, who blatantly stole his patents for FM, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who arbitrarily moved the FM radio range from 44-50 MHz to 88-108 MHz (where it is today) just to destroy the network of radio stations Armstrong had built up. 

If not for this arbitrary decision, Channel 1 on U.S. TV would be at 44-50MHz. This is why Channel 1 does not exist. 

The failure of the government to protect property rights and the arbitrary power given the FCC kept all of us from enjoying FM radio decades earlier, arbitrarily destroyed the investment of hundreds of people, and diverted Armstrong from inventing—which undoubtedly deprived us of other great inventions. 

Edwin Armstrong's struggle encapsulates everything that is wrong with the United States today.

Here is a great article on this genius of radio communications: Edwin Howard Armstrong (1890 to 1954).

Of course the anti-patent crowd does not believe in genius, at least in the technical arts.  Economists argue that someone would of come up with these inventions because of market demand.  (How? Somehow?) This is absurd. First of all there is no “market demand” for something that does not exist. (Did you know you wanted an iPad before Steve Jobs invented it?) Second, all macroeconomic evidence shows that in the absence of property rights for inventions, technological change is glacially slow and mankind falls back into the Malthusian Trap.

This is not somewhere we want to travel.

Dale Halling is an American patent attorney and entrepreneur, and the author of the book The Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur: How Little Known Laws are Killing Innovation.
Read his regular thoughts at his
State of Innovation blog.

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