Remember Invisible Ink? How About Vanishing Ink?

Deven Desai

Deven Desai is an associate professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also the first, and to date, only Academic Research Counsel at Google, Inc., and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and the Yale Law School. Professor Desai’s scholarship examines how business interests, new technology, and economic theories shape privacy and intellectual property law and where those arguments explain productivity or where they fail to capture society’s interest in the free flow of information and development. His work has appeared in leading law reviews and journals including the Georgetown Law Journal, Minnesota Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, and U.C. Davis Law Review.

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6 Responses

  1. Sigivald says:

    Only valuable if people take care to preserve the state of the paper and then re-use it directly.

    Don’t fold it; creases are bad for printing. Don’t get grease on that menu; grease is bad for printing. (Not to mention that this needs special paper!)

    I’d put more stock in e-ink for things like that.

    (I’m also not sure I buy the idea that PARC would simply sit on something that Apple wanted to use; it makes more sense all around to license the technology than to sit on it, as you mentioned as an immediate possibility. But that same possibility continues for the life of the patent (up until right before expiration, at least).)

  2. Deven says:


    Great points on the practical issues. Thanks. I did not mean to run by them but yes they too call into question the invention’s use for now.

    As for Apple, the GUI that windows and apple use came from Parc. I am pretty certain that the folks at PARC changed their model a little because they kept coming up with great stuff a la a university and others made money. So today if they are not sure about someone using an invention they could sit on it rather than let it out there as seems to be part of what happened with the GUI. My tech history could be a little off here so those into that subject please share any insights you may have.

  3. Andrew J Sutter says:

    Apropos of “[A]s the rest of the world enters the innovation game, maintaining a more nimble system that generates large amounts of creation may be just as, if not more, important than the intellectual property claims that will go with that creation”:

    Technology and other creations have ALWAYS been more important than intellectual property.

    IP is a way of redistributing wealth, not creating it. Since patents, in particular, are purely exlcusionary, they are entirely unnecessary for making, using or selling anything. When they are not simply a waste of money for the patentee, they are a way to collect money by restricting the availability of creations to society.

    (I leave aside the Econ 101 claims for IP’s incentive value, to which there are many counter-examples; and the notion of wealth arising from “intangible asset value”, which is an ex-post fiction to explain inflated stock prices.)

    BTW, most forms of “e-ink” (actually this is a brand name; you mean e-paper or electrophoretic displays, Sigivald) require special, expensive substrates, as well as power sources and input devices. Achieving color is also a problem, since practical electrophoretics require filters, which reduce brightness. They are not a suitable substitute for paper in many contexts. I spent a lot of time looking into electrophoretic, electrochromic, etc. technologies when I was at Sony. And notwithstanding that Sony itself released an E-Ink-based e-book reader a few years ago, in my past year of riding the Tokyo subways daily, I’ve never seen anyone with their noses in anything but paper or LCD.

    The best e-paper technology I saw, which was passive, reflective and achieved full color without filters, came from a start-up that was later acquired by a cellphone technology giant. Sadly, they have indeed sat on this technology. If PARC and Xerox are *really* concerned about the environment, they could just put the invention into the public domain.

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