Is there a lot of talk about intellectual property in the Declaration of Independence?
Not a lot. It was a not a burning issue in 1776.
But I did find some passages that I thought were worth considering in light of trademark and copyright practice here in the middle of the third century of American independence, at least when juxtaposed against some quotable quotes on the topic:
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another . . . A decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
BIG IP: The . . . Second Circuit . . . concluded that the Lanham Act cannot be read to afford protection to a foreign mark under the “famous marks” doctrine. . . . Professor McCarthy calls the decision a “great embarrassment” for the United States.
Ouch. How about this?
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: We hold these truths to be self-evident . . .
LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION STANDARD: “Look, this is a subjective test, so you can’t be wrong. Just disqualified for a judgeship.”
It’s good to be the king! Let’s try copyright:
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
COPYRIGHT PREEMPTION: Conversion under state law is the exercise of control over property ‘without authorization,’ and the court says that this element is ‘conceptually indistinguishable from an unauthorized taking in the copyright context.’ The court finds that a trespass to chattels cause of action is similar to a conversion claim, and both of these claims are preempted [by the Copyright Act].
Well, that’s a highly technical issue, isn’t it? It’s not like the chief executive is being undemocratic about the IP laws, is it?
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. . . . [T]aking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments
THE ADMINISTRATION: It certainly appears that the US Justice Department and ICE don’t think they need any new law to go after people in foreign countries over claims of criminal copyright infringement. . . After all, Megaupload was one of the key examples used for why[SOPA / PIPA] was needed. As lots of folks are currently digesting, the Justice Department, along with ICE, have shut down the site and arrested many of the principals . . . [for] criminal copyright infringement.
Just kidding. None of this is tyrannical, really — except to the little people whose lives and businesses are ruined by it. You got to break a few eggs to make an omelet, though, right?
Frankly, independence has worked out very well for us. Just… be careful!