On Patenting Tax Advice - A Lesson From Pythagoras


 On Patenting Tax Advice - A Lesson From Pythagoras

The flap over patenting tax advice reminds me of something I learned long ago about the lessons of Pythagoras and Pythagoreans ages ago - some 500 years B.C. to be precise (and Pythagoreans were supposed to be, if anything, precise).

Aside from inventing the Pythagorean theorem, Pythagoras and his cult were said to have established a small society on the Italian coast, governed by laws that were mathematically-based. The “catch” was that everyone in town was required to obey the laws, but only the Pythagoreans were permitted to know what the laws were. One of the reasons we know so little about the Pythagoreans is that the other residents finally rose up, burned Pythagoras’s house down, and wiped out the society.

There’s surely a moral to that story, and those who, by patenting compliance strategies would seek to prevent others from complying with the law, should, I suspect, consider what happened to Pythagoras.

Frank Cummings

[Editor's Note: A special report on these patents, which includes a chart of employee benefits-related patents and patent applications, can be found in the June 4, 2007, issue of BNA's Pension & Benefits Daily, and the June 5, 2007, issue of BNA's Pension & Benefits Reporter.]