The dominant Law and Economics paradigm regarding “Intellectual Property" – a vehicle or an obstacle for innovation, growth and progress?
The term "intellectual property" is a relatively a modern term, first used in its current meaning when the UN established the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 1967. Beforehand laws around the world protected various aspects of informational goods - inventions and creations - using separate legal concepts, such as copyright, patents and trademarks, which were not perceived as property rights. This linguistic aspect is by no means anecdotal or marginal as it can be argued that the term "intellectual property" constituted its contemporary meaning including the economic analysis of informational goods and services, as can be demonstrated by the recent call to treat trade secrets not as a contractual agreement but as intellectual property (Epstein, 2005). This paper focuses on the normative analysis of IP rights and criticizes the implicit shift in economic analysis of IP from the incentives paradigm, which is founded upon the public good analysis of neo-classical micro-economic theory, to the new propriety paradigm, which is intellectually founded upon the tragedy of the commons literature. It further criticizes the dominant contemporary Law and Economics writings in this field as pre-assuming information to be an object of property, overlooking its fundamental differences from physical property and thus focusing on its management and maximization of value for its "owners" rather than on its initial justifications and its social value and contribution to innovation, growth and progress.
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