We Are Surrounded by Intellectual Property - Until We Aren’t
Not to Mention the Flugelbinder
Tom Cruise has made more than a little bit of money as an actor.
For which Cruise has to thank genetics, astronomical-odds-beating luck - and rigidly protective copyright laws.
These Intellectual Property (IP) statutes protect the movies in which Cruise appears. Thereby ensuring said flicks are (mostly) commercially available in formats on which he and his cohorts make money.
And most rightly and righteously, when thieves (like Communist China) steal movies - joints like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) act.
MPAA Names Top Online Sites Pirating Movies
MPAA Wins Movie Piracy Case in China After Failed Anti-Piracy Deal
The reason we mention Cruise specifically - is a scene from his 1988 flick Cocktail. In which he and actress Elizabeth Shue - sit in glorious admiration of the IP all around them. And, of course, the millions of dollars each IP item represents.
(Just millions? Hey - it was the 1980s. Don’t let inflation and economic growth throw you. It’s now billions - and then some.)
Cruise: “You know - there’s a guy who makes these. (He’s holding a drink umbrella.)
Shue: “One guy. He must be exhausted.”
Cruise: “Yes, he is. But still - he gets up in the morning, he kisses his wife and he goes to his drink umbrella factory. And he whips out ten billion of these a year. This guy’s a millionaire.”
Shue: “How about the guy who makes these? (She picks up an ashtray.)”
Cruise: “What about that guy. Not to mention the guy who makes these. (He picks up a wrapped toothpick.)”
Shue: “And those little wrappers are made by another guy.”
Cruise: “What about these plastic things at the end of these (shoe) laces?”
Shue: “Hmmm. It’s probably got one of those weird names too - like ‘Flugelbinders.’”
Cruise: “We sit here - and we are surrounded by millionaires.”
Indeed we are. Only now it’s millionaires and billionaires.
And the foundation of all that wealth creation - is IP protection.
Each and every item Cruise and Shue highlight - are protected by patents.
In real life, someone had the very helpful idea - to wrap the ends of shoe laces in plastic. Born was the flugelbinder. (Actually, it’s called an aglet).
And that someone - then patented his idea. Because that’s what you do when you have a good idea. You look to lock it down with the IP protections expressly described in our Constitution:
“The Congress shall have Power To…promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries….”
You can not have a successful economy or country - without private property protections. And by private property - we mean both physical and intellectual.
Looking for another bolsterer of IP - besides Cruise and Shue (and screenwriter Heywood Gould)?
“(Lincoln) called the introduction of patent laws one of the three most important developments ‘in the world’s history,’ along with the discovery of America and the perfection of printing.”
Well that’s fairly important.
In this the Digital Age and the Information Economy - Intellectual Property and its protections have only become even more important than that.
So why did we spend the entirety of the Barack Obama Administration undermining it all?
The Administration spent its eight years issuing all sorts of regulations and rulings - and filing all sorts of lawsuits - all designed to undermine IP.
Republicans were hardly better. In sickening pursuit of Silicon Valley political coin, they gleefully drafted and passed the very awful, very-awfully-misnamed America Invents Act.
Which - like the Affordable Care Act - did the exact opposite of what the name suggests. It strip mined IP protections from anyone inventing anything.
And of course, the-most-anti-IP-President-ever Obama - gleefully signed it.
The result? When Obama entered the White House, the US was on the global innovation ranking list - consistently #1 or very close to it.
By the time we were rid of Obama?
Intellectual Property Crisis: U.S. Drops Out Of The Top Ten In Innovation Ranking
President Donald Trump is on several fronts addressing the Obama anti-IP mess he inherited.
Congress should - amongst other things - as rapidly as possible pass Kentucky Republican Congressman Tom Massies actually-accurately-named Restoring America’s Leadership in Innovation Act.
As Cruise and Shue noted, we are surrounded by IP.
Until one day we wake up to find the IP creators have left the US - and taken their IP with them.
Because we decided to do everything we could to be vociferously inhospitable to them.
Of course, their eventual departure is only understandable. Because - human nature.
If I repeatedly beat you about the head and shoulders with a bat - I should at least have the decency to not act surprised when you get up and leave.
We absolutely must get back into the IP protection business. Our economic and national security depends on it.
And each of us must work to ensure those in a position to clean up this mess - clean up this mess.
This means you.
Abe Lincoln will thank you.
And Tom Cruise will buy you a drink.
This first appeared in Red State.