Tuesday, May 08, 2007, 5/08/2007 07:31:00 AM

The Founding Fathers and Trade Secrets?

From the always interesting and entertaining James Suowiecki in the New Yorker, his Financial Page column on changing American attitudes toward intellectual property. The key quote:

"The great irony is that the U.S. economy in its early years was built in large part on a lax attitude toward intellectual-property rights and enforcement. As the historian Doron Ben-Atar shows in his book Trade Secrets, the Founders believed that a strict attitude toward patents and copyright would limit domestic innovation and make it harder for the U.S. to expand its industrial base. American law did not protect the rights of foreign inventors or writers, and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, in his famous “Report on Manufactures,” of 1791, actively advocated the theft of technology and the luring of skilled workers from foreign countries. Among the beneficiaries of this was the American textile industry, which flourished thanks to pirated technology.

The lesson: try quoting Hamilton the next time you're defending a trade secrets case.

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