June 11, 2003

I get paid to read this?

While some of the work I've been doing lately is repetitive, boring, and uninspiring, I love that at times I get paid to read US Supreme Court opinions. A very elated me just spend an hour reading, digesting and applying Graham v. John Deere Co.--a brief history of the patent system and the test for non-obviousness all rolled into one 8-page opinion.

The references to Jefferson in Graham pushed me over the edge. I caved in and ordered Thomas Jefferson : Writings : Autobiography / Notes on the State of Virginia / Public and Private Papers / Addresses / Letters. I think the title could use a little work, but that doesn't mean I'm any less excited about devouring it.

Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of
society. It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual
brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. ...He who
receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who
lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely
spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man,
and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently
designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without
lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have
our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then
cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the
profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may
produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience
of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody.

--VI Writings of Thomas Jefferson, at 180-81 (Washington ed.).

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