Intellectual property (IP) is, plain and simple, an attack against private property.
But while IP rights holders claim they can use government force to limit what others do with their own property, it is clear that all these rules accomplish is to create monopolies.
Unsurprisingly enough, the U.S. Department of Defense is now using these very laws to strike a deal with technology firms who have long favored IP laws, and is doing so openly precisely to fend off competition.
According to Roll Call, the Defense Department is fighting so-called Chinese aggression by putting a team of IP experts together to help the Pentagon negotiate rights to technology developed by defense contractors.
This program is part of the 2018 defense authorization bill, which requires the defense department “to ensure a consistent, strategic, and highly knowledgeable approach to acquiring or licensing intellectual property by providing expert advice, assistance, and resources to the acquisition workforce on intellectual property matters, including acquiring or licensing intellectual property.”
But in order to follow Congress’ plan, the Pentagon must bend IP rules to strike new deals with firms providing the U.S. government with defense technology.
As Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, explained, the government is acting offensively to protect “our technology.”
Saying that the government must better define “what is owned by industry and what is owned by government at the outset of a program,” Lord added that officials and contractors are all equally invested in “[addressing] intellectual property.”
But despite their excitement, there’s one aspect to this partnership and their use of IP laws that is being completely ignored.
IP Laws Fuel Crony Capitalism
Regardless of whether the government or defense contractors will control IP rights over technology and data, this move is nothing but another example of crony capitalism in action.
With defense firms either holding exclusive rights to certain technologies or having contracts with the government that guarantee them exclusivity, IP laws give everyone involved a legal way to keep competitors at bay.
By limiting what competitors can do through patent and other forms of IP laws, the government effectively hampers the market, making firms less likely to develop superior and more effective technology. Furthermore, it also inflates the cost of technologies already in use as only a handful of firms have the OK from government to produce defense mechanisms.
Who hurts as a result? The taxpayer.
Because ideas cannot be controlled with physical force, government restricts people’s property rights by keeping them from reproducing these ideas by the way of computers, paper, recording mechanisms, and printing presses. When someone is given a patent, what he is granted is a guarantee from government that a third party’s property rights will be infringed upon once they try to use “protected” ideas.
This isn’t a protection of intellectual property, because ideas cannot be owned the way land or objects are owned. Instead, it is the government imposing limitations on what others can do with their own property.
As argued by libertarians in the past, IP laws serve the government well as they give people the illusion that only a large concentration of power could enforce such a rule. And as the defense department is demonstrating now, they have been right all along.