IP law for Girl Scouts (sentences to ponder)

by on April 5, 2014 at 4:10 pm in Education, Law | Permalink

As STEM fields become increasingly popular, it is important that we teach young people about the incentives and protections available to them through the patent system. IPO Education Foundation is excited about the opportunity to work with the GSCNC and the USPTO to bring the patent system to girls through the IP patch…

There is more here, via Mark Thorson.

So Much For Subtlety April 5, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Some British man once said (of Higher Education or TV or something) more means worse. The only way that STEM subjects can be more popular is if they are dumbing them down. Presumably because they want more girls to study them.

Thus there is likely to be no need to teach anyone IP law. No one will be inventing anything soon anyway.

Claudia April 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Now, I am sure there are many former Girl Scout cookie-mommies in the MR comment section, but if not, let me assure you that GS is not an organization on the cutting edge of market economics. I almost cried when I twice lived through the logistics of cookies sales. But being on cutting edge is not the point. With children (and really anyone) a lot of what we do is teach them *how* to learn and what topics are even out there to learn about. I am all for a social organization for girls exposing the kids to a wide range of issues. And yes it has to be “dumbed down” some … they are KIDS (the real kind, not the adult acting like kids kind).

So Much For Subtlety April 5, 2014 at 5:18 pm

My experience of schools talking about “how to learn” and “critical thinking” is what they really mean is that teachers find teaching boring and would much rather turn on the TV or give the children a computer to play with while they catch a quick break. Which comes back to the point about dumbing down. It is not that science shouldn’t be made simple enough for children to understand. It is that the class moves at the pace of the slowest. If you want more people to do STEM subjects, it means encouraging the marginal students – and the whole class will have to wait for them. That will apply to the whole education system if you want significant numbers of female students to start taking STEM subjects.

It is not as if the entire education system hasn’t dumbed down enough already. God knows you can’t expect High School students to read an entire page without some pretty pictures and a little box to break up the text. In every subject where standards can be measured, students are not learning. Take foreign languages. It is perfectly possible to do a decade in school studying a language and then a couple more at university and still be be able to do much beyond ordering a cup of coffee.

Dumbing down is what has happened to a lot of subjects at university like medicine – girls didn’t like long hours or anatomy classes with real cadavers. So they are getting rid of them.

The best thing about that article is the robust common sense of the comments. And someone with a memory of the good old days:

A. Nnoyed (profile), Mar 28th, 2014 @ 5:53am
Ascap Asks Royalties From Girl Scouts, and Regrets It

Amazing. I would have expected the Girl Scouts to advise the MPAA to shove it as a result of this shakedown by ASCAP in 1996. How quickly they forget.

From the New York Times December 17, 1996:
“Like everyone else, Mr. Berle had read with disbelief that the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers wanted to charge the Girl Scouts — the Girl Scouts! — for songs around the campfire.”

Claudia April 5, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Let’s not get carried away here. We are talking about a Girl Scout badge not the content for AP Engineering exam. Chill out. So much misplaced grumpiness here. (Guess what there’s a whole lot of dumbed down…err I mean simplified economics here and I don’t here much complained.)

Rahul April 6, 2014 at 12:52 am

Exposing kids to a few patent lawyers is perfectly fine. What’s annoying is the organizations (all three of them) making this sound bigger & grander than it actually is.

This is more “here’s another job grown ups do” rather than the ambitious “teach young people about the incentives and protections available to them through the patent system.”

Marie April 5, 2014 at 5:47 pm

It’s not about being dumb, even. My kids are really bright. Amazing readers, above average math. Brag over until later.

But I can’t see them going into, say, engineering. Not in a serious way. My brother is a mechanical engineer, there’s a “right stuff” aspect to it that I don’t believe my kids have or will have. Same for medicine, for one of them. Now, because they are bright, I’m sure if they were motivated to enter those fields (e.g. by money) they could do a mediocre job, and if a lot of other people were there doing mediocre jobs they might even perform above average. But innovation, excellence, true understanding, minimal error, all that? We’ve all seen folks in medicine that are like this, fine for writing an antibiotic prescription but no flare for the field.

It seems insane to work to get more people into STEM fields. What you should work for is making it possible for those who have the aptitude and interest in STEM to go into those fields, I’m sure there are some amazing potential engineers out there that will never make it into engineering.

Adrian Ratnapala April 5, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Can you expand on the “right stuff aspect “? Off the bat I thought you meant a macho elitist attitude, but from the rest of your comment it seems like you mean a particular kind of skill. I think engineering requires a bit of both.

Marie April 5, 2014 at 6:54 pm

@Adrian Ratnapala,

It seem to me there are just some things inherent in some fields that some people are never going to “get” in their gut, no matter how much you drill or teach or spend. It’s just about individual difference. I say that as someone who could undoubtedly have made it through her Masters in mechanical engineering (I’m good at “school”), and still never have been able to do the job. I make mistakes in, for example, orders of magnitude, all the time, and don’t see it until someone points it out to me. I’m not suited for engineering.

School programs that help individuals find their individual calling, STEM or otherwise, are a good thing. Are there any? School programs that decide everyone needs to be STEM, come hell or high water, are best off not succeeding — there’s a danger in letting people think they are good at stuff they’re not very good at.

An example, when my kid was 1 1/2 years old and weighed about 20 pounds, I asked a dietician how many carb she needed each day. She came up with 140 grams of carbs. That’s clearly a drastic error. When I questioned it, she said I shouldn’t try to put my kid on a “low carb” diet because it could cause liver damage. Seriously. She had been taught how to plug in the info, but she didn’t have enough of a gut instinct for her field to sense when she’s made an error. Or maybe she just had a bad day, but you get my point.

I don’t know for engineering, I really don’t, but I don’t want my bridges or medical implants built by people who do that sort of thing.

I don’t know about macho elitism, that made me laugh!

Careless April 5, 2014 at 7:54 pm

140 grams of carbs is 520 calories. A kid that age needs about 1000 calories, half from carbs.

Not a “drastic error”

Careless April 5, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Err, 560

Marie April 5, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Careless, normally I’ll take any math correction you give me!

If you go by this food chart, you’re looking at about 80 to 100 carbs a day.


But my point is just that, I’ve no doubt the charts she followed made the math work, but in the real world it was a drastic error. I was stuffing my kid like a duck, forcing her to eat and altering her diet to get more carbs per serving into her (which meant more largely empty calories and less room for things like peas) .

It’s one thing for her to have given me the number when I asked for one, but when I told her our kid was hitting about half that (which roughly matches the chart above, especially if you consider she was and is a small kid, 25% by nature, not by nutritional deficiency, the pediatrician promised!) she gently told me I was going to damage my toddler’s liver. In her brain, she went straight to “Mom’s trying to put her kid on Atkins”. It was all training and charts, no listening and instinct.

When we got to her endo (pediatric and definitely not an advocate of taking out carbs for growing kids) he said 70 to 100 carbs a day was more than sufficient for healthy growth.

Rahul April 6, 2014 at 12:17 am


The point is, if you are mediocre or lack aptitude it’s more forgiving to err on the side of fields having a robust demand. That might be one reason to justify a STEM push.

If you are only averagely good & motivated you are likely better off trained to become a lab technician than an art historian.

Turkey Vulture April 6, 2014 at 12:47 am

I should have been an engineer, but I did bullshit knowing I could go to law school. I am social cost.

mulp April 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm

“The only way that STEM subjects can be more popular is if they are dumbing them down.”

I must assume you speak from your own experience – you flee anything challenging and gravitate to the simplistic.

Fortunately, most people flee boredom and embrace challenges.

The problem is too many people in positions of authority think like you do, thus the proliferation of mindless jobs for low pay and the lack of jobs building productive assets for a better future.

Eg, mindless stupid computer education instead of dynamic teachers who get people involved in solving problems all over again as if the students had discovered something for the first time. Which they did, for themselves. And thus they feel the joy of discovery. Infants and very young kids do that every day, but then people like you who think kids can’t discover things cram them into boring molds to make them dull and boring.

Z April 5, 2014 at 5:47 pm

“Fortunately, most people flee boredom and embrace challenges.”

Are you Pauline Kael?

Kabal April 5, 2014 at 6:20 pm

“Fortunately, most people flee boredom and embrace challenges.”

Flee boredom, yes.

Embrace challenges, no. Especially when the challenges in discussion (STEM material) are something most people, with girls more-so, will find boring.

So Much for Subtlety April 5, 2014 at 9:00 pm


I must assume you speak from your own experience – you flee anything challenging and gravitate to the simplistic.

Well I am actually replying to your comment.

dangerman April 5, 2014 at 6:35 pm

A mediocre-to-bad scientist/engineer is more valuable to the world than an excellent English major.

Marie April 5, 2014 at 6:59 pm

I kinda think there should be no such thing as an English major. The kinds of people who can do good with language are better off doing it outside of a school program.

But otherwise, I think you’re wrong. First, because a bad engineer or scientist can do a lot of harm a goof English major can’t. Second, because using language well is a valuable and useful skill, it just looks like fluff or drek because for decades we have been teaching everyone English as if everyone could and will become good at it, and so the “field” has been dumbed down and watered down, as per above. So now they want to do it to hard sciences and math?

Last time I subbed for an 8th grade English class, they were teaching them poor formulaic useless writing. I prayed that any kid in that class with any talent at all was tuning out or sleeping, or the bad was going to crowd out the good. I’d bet 40% of the kids in that room left it at the end of the year with an A, and with the belief that they were good writers. I think doing that to science and math would be a very, very bad thing.

Rahul April 6, 2014 at 12:23 am

No I think he’s absolutely right. I think you are talking a very black-n-white view of things & forgetting one crucial point: demand.

There’s not just good & bad engineers. There’s a range in between. In sectors where demand is robust there’s a lot more employability of the intermediate types.

Marie April 6, 2014 at 9:48 am

Me, take a black and white view of things? Never!

Is there demand? For grunt work mediocre engineers? I guess if I had faith in that (and my lack of faith may be pure ignorance and lack of contact with the industries) I’d understand.

But it seems to me that if you are “School” your job is not to get every kid into a make work job. Your job is to participate in the smooth running of a well ordered economy. So the point is not to train kids to step into jobs they can do, if poorly, because those jobs are more available than other jobs and now they are employed. That’s a stopgap at very, very best. I think there are a lot of unemployed IT guys out there now that went into the field because there would be jobs, and five or ten years later the flood of applicants coming up behind them washes them out of employment.

It seems to me that each kid being educated should be looked at not just as a source of labor but as a source of employment. Sure, most won’t function in the second role. But if you train them all to broadly fit into STEM mid-level Dilbert jobs, you are assuming a static economy. Same jobs, same industries will be there for the rest of these kids’ lives. Fit them out to plug them in. You actually stunt the economy that way. But, hey, maybe I’m talking out my ear, hadn’t really deeply considered any of this stuff before. I’ve just seen enough waves in education to be wary of this one, generals may be always fighting the last war but educators seem to always be training kids to make up for the last decade’s errors.

andrew' April 6, 2014 at 5:49 am

Stem needs to be dumbed down.

It is how they do it. Easier bs or more technical degrees, whatever.

andrew' April 6, 2014 at 5:59 am

Work is also going to have to adapt to more hierarchy to accommodate the “bad” engineers as assistants and apprentices to the good ones. They will be paid a lot less too. Good engineers will need to transition to management faster. Bs and ms degrees will need more project/management training. Maybe replace thermo 3 with human capital 1.

andrew' April 6, 2014 at 6:03 am

Work is also going to have to adapt to more hierarchy to accommodate the “bad” engineers as assistants and apprentices to the good ones. They will be paid a lot less too. Good engineers will need to transition to management faster. Bs and ms degrees will need more project/management training. Maybe replace thermo 3 with human capital 1.

One of the reasons stem can get easier is that everything else needs to get harder.

Chris S April 7, 2014 at 9:30 pm


Most engineers don’t routinely use differential calculus, but it is a core requirement of the program. Many people can learn to expertly use cad and other engineering software – which really is the day to day of the field for average staff – but can’t clear the calculus hurdle.

Lowering the “shame” penalty for vocational training and technical associates (two-year) degrees would go a long way.

Marie April 8, 2014 at 8:45 am

Well out of my depth here, but if what you are saying is that you can divide out sectors of STEM fields so that folks who have an aptitude for CAD don’t have to have an aptitude for higher math, that seems a clear good thing. I personally wouldn’t view that as dumbing it down, because I passed calculus but couldn’t get certified in CAD if my life depended on it.

If the schools are subdividing subjects and offering lots of different areas within STEM in order to better offer training to those kids with aptitudes in different areas, that’s fabulous. It seems unlikely they have the inclination or ability to do that, but more power to them if they do. I only object to pushing kids into areas they have already discovered they have no aptitude for, and consequently out of areas they do have a real aptitude for, in order to fill a perceived coming labor market.

Anonymous April 7, 2014 at 5:33 am

But you don’t need to invent anything to make use of IP laws. Just patent something someone else has invented or something that is basically common knowledge!

dearieme April 5, 2014 at 4:50 pm

“Some British man once said more means worse.” Not quite: he said “More will mean worse”. In other words, it was not a universal law he was propounding but a specific prediction.

If memory serves it was Kingsley Amis. He was right too.

Adrian Ratnapala April 5, 2014 at 5:13 pm

What was he righting about?

dearieme April 5, 2014 at 6:57 pm

As the man implied, it was about the expansion of higher education.

Marie April 5, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Respect to Claudia and other moms out there still trying, but GS is a really screwed up organization these days. I’m hoping one of those diligent moms will create a good alternative one day for us lazy moms to take advantage of, because I’m so sad my girls can’t do the GS stuff I enjoyed as a kid. Heritage Girls is closer, but costly and kinda narrow.

GS is a good example of the modern mania in nonprofits and NGOs for “partnering”, meaning any old nastiness can glom on to its reputability to enhance its own.

Claudia April 5, 2014 at 5:38 pm

(my daughter dropped out after two years in brownies and no complaints from me) … as with any group it’s the volunteers (moms and dads) at the local level that make it worthwhile. we had the most awesome and grounded troop leaders…they made it fun for the girls. the super structure of GS didn’t impress me tons as a parent and I thought it was silly as a kid.

Marie April 5, 2014 at 7:48 pm

I’ve heard that many times about Boy Scouts, it’s the local people that make it.

Norman Pfyster April 5, 2014 at 8:51 pm

I suppose that is true of any locally-organized institution, but I can affirm from my own personal experience the truth of that. I was part of two BS troops because I moved. One was high-quality, led by dedicated and serious-minded leaders from the adults to the more senior scouts. The other was a bunch of fuck ups from the top down. Admittedly, I managed to fit in rather well with the latter group (much to my mother’s dismay).

Marie April 5, 2014 at 10:17 pm


Bob April 5, 2014 at 7:07 pm

The GS content is often pretty low quality. A friend of mine was pretty unhappy earlier this week about what they were teaching Daisies about respect for yourself and others. Apparently their example of this valuable topic was to ‘aim to look your best and look happy all the time’.

Self respect alright.

Kabal April 5, 2014 at 8:10 pm

Fun exercise: reading comments about “GS” in this thread with the other GS in mind.

Ray Lopez April 6, 2014 at 1:13 am

As TC touched upon in the last couple of posts, there is a disconnect in innovation that needs to be addressed via incentives. Reading these comments, it is apparent to me that most people still believe in the “Flash of Genius” rule for innovation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_of_genius) which was once popular in law as well. Another way of putting this: most people believe “inventors are born, not made”, like Marie and some of the others upstream of this post. This is false at the marginal level. Like in chess, while it’s true that perhaps super grandmasters are born, not made, it’s also true anybody can learn the rules of chess, and via study and incentive become strong players like me. You don’t need to be a maestro in blindfold chess (i.e. have a photographic memory) to become a strong player. Likewise you don’t need to be a super-nerd to excel in STEM subjects.

I’ve thought through carefully what the effect of not rewarding vs rewarding innovators is: simply put, it accelerates the pace of civilization, nothing more. If you don’t reward innovators, eventually you’ll get to the same endpoint or level, because gratuitous “Good Samaritans” will innovate for free (this is the “innovators innovate” model that Maria et al and most people believe in, as do most societies), just for the sake of societal fame (think Nobel Prize scientists, who really do it just for the glory, not for the money). By contrast, if you reward innovators, civilization progresses at a faster pace. I really do think we would we way ahead now if we did not have two World Wars, a better patent system, and the Third World had better infrastructure so all those bodies were doing some more than just fulfilling Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at the basic level (which makes multinational corporations that provide such basics very happy, but really does not push the envelope for creativity).

Marie April 6, 2014 at 10:00 am

Hmm, I don’t know.

I’m sure most of my posts are full of hyperbole, but I don’t think I’m just referring to the supermen, the next great innovators, when I say that if you have no intuition for math and technology you will do a poor job if you are in a job that needs math and technology skills. And maybe I take math and tech too seriously, but it seems to me this could be a problem. Either you get the medical device with errors, which matters, or you get a huge number of BS tech industries — e.g. an economy flooded with electronic bath towels, which matters.

If it’s just about employing people, wouldn’t it be easier to just officially redistribute to make fake jobs digging holes and filling them up, rather than second hand redistribute by skewing the market to employ towel manufacturers?

I know most folks with average intelligence can put in their 1000 hours and be able to play chess or do algebra. I believe I could get much, much better at either if I were motivated (which would probably have to be with pay). But it would always be better in relation to my previous self. Yes, work can get you to a place where you can approximate innate ability, and innate ability is useless without work. But you then have to look into the opportunity cost of taking folks whose aptitudes are other and making them move into fields they have no aptitude for. You also have to get real, most young people are not going to put incredible amounts of work into studying fields they have no natural aptitude for.

If it helps, I think every person has a genius. Some have a genius for nuclear physics and some for peanut butter cookies, and while that sounds dopey I genuinely believe an economy should be able to piece together physics and cookies, because cookies are good, too. If you take cookie-baker and make her a low level assistant in a physics lab, you don’t just risk errors and accidents in the lab — you lose out on good peanut butter cookies.

Marie April 6, 2014 at 10:08 am

And isn’t law an excellent example? You have a field that everyone moves into because it’s the field that has a demand, even if you have no love of law you study hard and become an attorney. And then the field has to self-perpetuate, and not on the flash of genius level. And that creates enormous social, political, and economic distortions.

Ray Lopez April 6, 2014 at 10:16 am

@Marie- good point about lawyers. But arguably if the field is STEM and they “self-perpetuate” then society is much better off with too many STEM workers rather than too many lawyers.

Marie April 6, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Are those my only choices?

As much damage as people can do with law distorted, don’t you think they can do more with STEM distorted?

prior_approval April 6, 2014 at 4:51 am

Two decades, the Girl Scouts had a different perspective –

‘The queen of American songwriters, Marilyn Bergman, was dining out in Los Angeles last summer when she ran into Milton Berle.

”Marilyn,” Mr. Berle said, ”have you heard about this Girl Scout thing?” He stopped himself. ”Oh, of course you have.”

Like everyone else, Mr. Berle had read with disbelief that the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers wanted to charge the Girl Scouts — the Girl Scouts! — for songs around the campfire.

For Ms. Bergman, the president of Ascap, the stories were a disaster that she was even then discussing over dinner. ”This is my public relations consultant,” she said to Mr. Berle, introducing Ken Sunshine.

Ascap Asks Royalties From Girl Scouts, and Regrets It
Published: December 17, 1996

The queen of American songwriters, Marilyn Bergman, was dining out in Los Angeles last summer when she ran into Milton Berle.

”Marilyn,” Mr. Berle said, ”have you heard about this Girl Scout thing?” He stopped himself. ”Oh, of course you have.”

Like everyone else, Mr. Berle had read with disbelief that the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers wanted to charge the Girl Scouts — the Girl Scouts! — for songs around the campfire.

For Ms. Bergman, the president of Ascap, the stories were a disaster that she was even then discussing over dinner. ”This is my public relations consultant,” she said to Mr. Berle, introducing Ken Sunshine.

”Verrrrry good work,” Mr. Berle said to him. ”Congratulations!”

It was, in fact, a public relations debacle: the story of how a New York and Hollywood bully that chases after music royalties for its songwriters wanted to beat up on millions of innocent girls. The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article under the headline ”The Birds May Sing, but Campers Can’t Unless They Pay Up.” Television stations around the country broadcast pictures of Girl Scouts dancing the Macarena in silence.

Ascap, gasping, finally had to issue a press release saying it never intended to charge for campfire sing-alongs, and that it ”has never brought nor threatened to bring suit against the Girl Scouts.”

Today, Ascap is still reeling from a battle that has only begun. Ms. Bergman, who says the rights of songwriters are under attack as never before, is readying for renewed fighting in Congress next year against what she calls an ”unholy alliance” of Ascap enemies, religious broadcasters and restaurants.

Ascap’s opponents say they have rarely encountered such an obnoxious foe, and do not seem especially impressed that it is the oldest and largest music licensing organization in the world, with charter members like Irving Berlin and John Philip Sousa.’ http://www.nytimes.com/1996/12/17/nyregion/ascap-asks-royalties-from-girl-scouts-and-regrets-it.html

prior_approval April 6, 2014 at 4:52 am

Strange copy formatting again – sorry about that.

andrew' April 6, 2014 at 6:15 am

I think when people complain about things like scouts they are often unknowingly complaining about kids.

You are welcome to start your own troop. It is a lot of work. Try to delegate.

Marie April 6, 2014 at 9:39 am

Naw, I’m not.
I do a lot of organizing for kid functions. Yes, it’s tons of work, and not a little expense. Wanted to bring my girls to scouts just because I thought camping with other kids, earning badges, all that was fun, nice to tap in to an American tradition.

Became very clear very quickly that the kids would sit in some school gym and do a few crafts, maybe something with foam, and then sell cookies. Lots of accent on the cookies. Huge lots of talk about the cookies.

This certainly could have been just local, but it seemed like if you wanted to do anything different you’d have to buck the national, which has become. . . . . I didn’t care enough to rebel against girl scouting, I just take my kids camping instead and get them with other kid who camp, etc.

andrew' April 6, 2014 at 1:45 pm

I would tend to agree on the thin mint mafia.

Martin April 6, 2014 at 7:05 am

Is this my latest browser update, or are the posts here now so riddled with ads that it seriously disturbs reading?

Anon April 6, 2014 at 12:01 pm

I’m not encountering ads, so I have a feelings its the Browser.

Chris S April 7, 2014 at 9:34 pm

No ads here, try the chrome or firefox plugin Adblock Plus. And give the author $20 because it is one of the best deals in software going.

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