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June 29, 2017

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So-called 'IP wars' reveal rigged 'competition'

On May 14, the Wall Street Journal published two stories on some of the major players in corporate patent wrangling.

The first story, featuring tech firms Nvidia and Intellectual Ventures, highlights the defensive role of patents as a strategic investment. Nvidia's general counsel, David Shannon, remarks in the article that the "acquisition of IP is a strategy every company is using right now."

Elsewhere, in the litigation theater of the intellectual property wars Shannon cites, Apple and Samsung skirmished in a federal appellate court over whether Samsung could market its Galaxy tablet in the U.S. The case is just one in the constant and frenzied volley of IP-related lawsuits within the technology industries, whose most important assets are no longer physical goods, but special legal protections.

These stories and many more just like them hint at something at the core of the way that the economic ruling class employs the power of the modern state. The role of the state in the economy is and always has been to allow a small elite to create gates and tolls around wealth and natural resources, to monopolize them and the products of labor. As a particular medium for this operating principle, the modern state is somewhat unique, built upon quite specific thinking as to roles and capabilities of bureaucrats working within centralized, hierarchical organizations.

It is in that way very similar, in both its philosophical assumptions and in its functioning, to the modern corporation. Narratives that position business and government as rivals ignore not only the similarities of the two, but their mutual interdependence. Indeed it would be practically impossible to neatly separate the two from one another in the history of the modern, total state.

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