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  • Writer's pictureD. Thinker

The "Ideas Can't Be Property" Blockchain

I have lately come around to Stephan Kinsella's view in "Against Intellectual Property" that ideas can't be property, but not just for logical reasons. I have also seen firsthand the dislocated incentives and behavior that "IP" causes in the startup world.

IP is something that startup founders like because it makes them feel valuable for just thinking. This is alluring but false. Ideas are valueless until enough work is put into delivering a product or service experience that customers repeatedly buy. At this point it is the product or service experience, not the idea, that the customer is buying.

When I was younger, I thought patents were a mark of innovative capability. I now have two pointless patents and have been involved in countless others, and I know they have nothing to do with innovative capability or market value.

Founders waste a lot of time and money thinking their ideas are something they need to "protect" as valuable in-and-of themselves. They need Austrian Economics to realize that value is subjective ( and then read The Lean Startup to reinforce that just beause it was created doesn't mean it has any value to anybody. And patent legal battles are one of the most value-destroying activities to engage in. If you have to prevent someone else from serving customers through a patent suit, you aren't innovative enough to serve those customers anyway and should go into a different business.

The purpose of this post though was not to rant. One solution to the problem of Intellectual Property might be just to flood the world with ideas so that nothing can really be claimed to be unique.

Instead of competing in secret to get something blessed by centralized patent examiners, innovators should immediately pubish their ideas to get the real compensation ideas are worth: bragging rights. Just like scientists are known for discoveries but don't get to patent characteristics of the natural world, innovators should be known for being first but not granted an artifical monopoly by governments. This would also get startups to focus purely on delivering customer value and not on potential protection rackets.

What if there were a blockchain project just for publishing ideas in order to make those ideas non-protectible through IP? It could be easily searchable so that patent examiners have no excuse not to view prior concepts. It could have a mechanism for people to attach evidence of it being already known, to vote on the perception of uniqueness, to cluster similar ideas together, etc. The reason for being on a blockchain is simply provenance, to prove it was written down at a specific point in time.

It might also allow innovators with similar ideas to find each other and pursue building upon those ideas together...


Here is a sample possible record:

Ideastamp: 08-16-2022-14:26 - Print Bitcoin Dollar Bills

Time: Aug 16, 2022 12:26pm PST

Author: David Shackleton - daveshack.eth

Title: Print Bitcoin Dollar Bills

Keywords: cryptocurrency, software, printing, business model, product

Problem: Transacting with Bitcoin and Bitcoin digital wallets is still a challenge for many people who are more familiar with paper currency and physical wallets.

Solution: What if you could use your home printer to print a paper document that has enough information to unlock a specific amount from your account like $20 USD worth of bitcoin? When you hand somebody the bill, they still have to use a smartphone app to validate that the bill is valid and remove the $20 worth (or a smaller amount like remove $4.75 and return $16.25 to your main account). However, you don't have to feel like you are carrying around your entire balance but only the subset you want to have accessible for purchases. A lost physical wallet with $60 USD worth of bitcoin is still lost bitcoin just like a real wallet, but that is a smaller amount than having your entire balance at risk if your digital wallet is lost or compromised.

Insight: The key insight here is that paper currency offers a built-in limit to an amount to risk. This is an attempt to mimic that characteristic in cryptocurrencies while providing a more physical way of interacting.

Related Timestamped Ideas:

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Listen to Kinsella on Tom Wood's podcast discussing Intellectual Property:

The essay "Against Intellectual Property":



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