This movie is about true American heroes (and we owe a debt of deep gratitude to all of them, especially to filmmaker Austin Meyer) being viciously sacrificed for the sake of the “good intentions” of a delusional, thoughtless society. One minute, they’re happily working hard doing those things that make human life on Earth possible – the next, they’ve been slammed with a lawsuit claiming that they’ve really just been stealing others’ property this whole time. Every American needs to see this movie, so they themselves can experience at least a small facet of the injustice that sloppy high-school level thinking (i.e. that patents are good because they “reward innovators”, or some such) actually leads to in reality.
The worst part here is that the very institutions that are supposed to protect them from thieves not only facilitate the thievery but also promote the narrative that the thieves are the true innovators and that the tragic heroes here are really just parasites who want to keep on being parasites. And it’s this that underscores the worst aspect of this movie: at no point does it offer any argument that the reverse is the case. Rather, it uses appeal to emotion and intuition. The fact is that “Just look at how asinine this patent is!” or “These are just shell companies!” are not arguments.
The best argument in the movie was given by the bad-guy patent troll attorney, the recently deceased Raymond Niro. It is not a good argument, mind you, but it is at least an argument. And the argument is: Since I can rightly keep someone from trespassing on my flower garden and ruining it, then of course can I rightly keep someone from trespassing on my government-approved “intellectual property” as well.
The presumption here, namely that the metaphor given between ideas and physical property is legitimate, was never questioned by this movie. But metaphors are not arguments, ergo the patent troll’s argument falls completely flat. Why did the heroic Austin Meyer not point this out? Because, after all he’s been through and as we find out at the end of the movie, Meyer still supports the patent system! Oy vey. (Only one of the victim-heroes – Kevin O’Connor – was savvy or bold enough to question the legitimacy of patents per se. That may be because unlike most of the others, whose lives had been horrifically savaged by their plights, he could still afford his bold stance.)
Meyer believes he had taken the viewer down the rabbit hole, but that’s really quite far from the truth. What Meyer has done is to present us with some heartbreaking examples of what happens when you use a blundering set of arguments to justify a code of law, and of the proverb that “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
I would be remiss to not at least indicate what would constitute a good argument.
As Meyer pointed out, the status quo legal regime presumes that registered patents are valid; the burden of proof is on the victim of a patent suit to prove that he didn’t violate it. As Meyer didn’t point out, the patent system itself is presumed legitimate; the victim may not question whether patents should have existed in the first place. And so, the patent system itself never has to justify itself. And it never does or has, except perhaps to uncritical youth during their process of “education”. But is this right? Where does the burden of proof for this heinous racket lie?
On the one hand we have the defendant, Austin Meyer, apparently peacefully programming in his office and uploading his creation to the Google Play store; on the other, the plaintiff who is using the power of government to violently drag Meyer to court (or to prison if he refuses to show). In other words, the prima facie case is that Meyer is innocent, and that some party is threatening him with violence (prima facie is a legal concept that means: “based on the first impression; accepted as correct until proved otherwise.”)
In other words, uses of violence demand explanation, and it’s not the other way around. That does not mean that we wouldn’t find, in the end, that the recipient of violence was in fact deserving of it, it only means that the burden of proof lies on the violence-wielder to justify himself. This is a foundational principle of any sane rule of law. It’s grossly irrational and immoral to demand that a person being punched in the nose to justify why he should not be punched in the nose. So in this case what must be proven is twofold 1) that the patent system is legitimate, and if so, 2) that Meyer actually violated someone’s patent.
You might think that perhaps some academic somewhere has given a rational justification for the patent system. If true, then even one such proof could be referenced in every patent case. But you’d be wrong – there is no such thing. If we seek them out, all we find are gross non-sequiturs. The entire patent system is nonsense on stilts, a bloated cancerous vestige of a barbaric way of thinking about what ought to be legal.