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Burning the Ships: Intellectual Property and the Transformation of Microsoft by David Kline, Marshall Phelps

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Chapter 6. The Road Ahead (with Apologies to Bill Gates)

America and the world now face the worst economic crisis in 80 years. Among the many other challenges facing business leaders in the years ahead, one will be the role that IP—and the innovation embodied in it—will play in the revitalization of business and the economy.

To appreciate the possibilities, it's helpful to look back to an earlier age—to the dawn of the industrial revolution and the birth of the U.S. patent system itself—and examine the effects America's unique IP regime had on what was then a backwater agrarian economy.

Although most people don't realize it, America's Founding Fathers did not simply create the world's first modern democratic republic. They also gave our young and fragile democracy, through the creation of the world's first and only democratized patent system, the means by which it could succeed and prosper in a world dominated by much more powerful armies and economies.

The Founders very consciously set out to do this by constructing a patent system that would do what no other patent system had ever done before—namely, stimulate the inventive genius of the common man.

They did this first of all by enshrining for the first time anywhere in a nation's fundamental law—Article One of the U.S. Constitution—the obligation of government 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." ...

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