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What’s Intellectual Property Good for?


  • Michele Boldrin
  • David K Levine


The controversy over Intellectual Property Rights (patents and copyright) is here to stay. The steady accumulation of substantial empirical evidence casting serious doubts on the allegedly beneficial effects that iprs have on innovation and creativity is forcing an increasing number of researchers to question received wisdom. We have been doing this for a long time, and the recent findings seem to be vindicating both the analysis and the predictions we put forth in our research in this area. In particular, it is becoming clear that the continuous strengthening of iprs is not causing a surge in the innovation rate or in the rate of growth of labor productivity but, rather, it is generating ever increasing legal and transaction costs that reduce the rate of innovative activity. It is also clear that a number of criticisms raised against the arguments we developed in our book Against Intellectual Monopoly follow either from a poor understanding of the theory developed there or from a very cursory reading of the book to which claims are attributed that are never in fact made. We debated first the most important and then some of the most fashionable among such criticisms, showing that in almost every case they miss the point rather egregiously. We conclude by pointing out that, as in the case of free trade, the case against intellectual monopoly is clear both as a matter of economic theory and of empirical evidence, still it will have to be built up slowly and patiently in the political economy arena as the lobbying interests supporting the current system of iprs are still overwhelmingly strong and capable of dominating the debate in the public arena.
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Suggested Citation

  • Michele Boldrin & David K Levine, 2011. "What’s Intellectual Property Good for?," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000000082, David K. Levine.
  • Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:786969000000000082

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