Intellectual Property vs. Global Warming

The damage done by intellectual property goes well beyond the prevention of the downloading of music. Yesterday’s story about a Goldman Sachs employee downloading proprietary information was not exactly an example of a violation of intellectual property laws, but rather a theft of trade secrets — perhaps a distinction without a difference.

Below, is a story about Toyota, supposedly benign force in the green economy by virtue of the Prius. Here is another side of the story in which Toyota is using intellectual property to make competition difficult.

One might be sympathetic to Toyota you were selling socks or toothpaste, but global warming seems to be too important to be gamed by such shenanigans.

Murphy, John. 2009. “Toyota Builds Thicket of Patents Around Hybrid To Block Competitors.” Wall Street Journal (1 July): p. B 1.

“The Obama administration’s tough new fuel-efficiency standards could pose problems for some car makers, but Toyota Motor Corp. is hoping to benefit. The Japanese company is betting the rules will give an advantage to its expanding lineup of hybrid vehicles, and it also aims to boost revenue by licensing to other car makers the patents that protect its fuel-saving technologies. Since it started developing the gas-electric Prius more than a decade ago, Toyota has kept its attorneys just as busy as its engineers, meticulously filing for patents on more than 2,000 systems and components for its best-selling hybrid. Its third-generation Prius, which hit showrooms in May, accounts for about half of those patents alone. Toyota’s goal: to make it difficult for other auto makers to develop their own hybrids without seeking licensing from Toyota.”

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