Originally posted by David Alexander:
Patents are designed to give the originator a certain amount of time from which to profit from his creation and then it enters the public domain. Had the Boon been patented by Mr. Mason, a right descendable to his estate, it would have run out decades ago.
Again, opposite "demands," what evidence do you offer that this fellow, by law, should pay the estate of Eric Mason a dime?
By this logic, neither Melba Dew nor Paul Fox's kids should have any claim on the design of the "Paul Fox style" cup. He could have taken a design patent, which would have expired by now, and it would have entered into the public domain.
Of course, it appears to have done so anyway. Right now, you can buy, in varying degrees of quality and fidelity, several different "Paul Fox" cups. Does this mean that anyone who pays a little extra (that ends up in Dew/Fox pockets) is a sucker?
As near as I can tell, Joe Porper hasn't attempted to patent his "strong box". Legally, then, has he not put the invention into the public domain? Yet I daresay that if I were to get a local (or Asian) machine shop to whip out a few dozen, and sell them, it would not be well-received in the magic community, at least not in the parts that I respect.
Patents are _a_ type of intellectual property protection. The magic community has historically given somewhat more monopoly rights than a patent grants (or has at least paid lip service to the idea of doing so). I don't think that, since a patent would have expired by now, the issue is put to bed. But maybe that should be the case. If an inventor isn't willing to take the steps on his own behalf that society has codified, to claim his invention, why should anyone else honor his claims?
The usual answer is "money" -- it costs a few thousand $ to prosecute a patent. Suppose a patent could be obtained for $4000. It's good for 20 years. If an inventor declines to get one, he's saying, in effect, "this invention isn't worth $200/year to me". If he puts so little value on it, why should I refrain from making my own?