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Laws of Creation

Laws of Creation: Property Rights in the World of Ideas

Ronald A. Cass
Keith N. Hylton
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 266
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  • Book Info
    Laws of Creation
    Book Description:

    Cass and Hylton explain how technological advances strengthen the case for intellectual property laws, and argue convincingly that IP laws help create a wealthier, more successful, more innovative society than alternative legal systems. Ignoring the social value of IP rights and making what others create “free” would be a costly mistake indeed.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06764-6
    Subjects: Law, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. 1 Ideas, Property, and Prosperity
    (pp. 1-12)

    Ideas are the engines of progress and prosperity. The first man to realize how to make fire and to use it to cook and provide warmth, the first to domesticate animals, the first to use a wheel to move loads across space, gave their societies an advantage in the race to survive.

    Hoary examples make ready reminders of the power of ideas, but modern life abounds in illustrations of the way ideas change our world. Consider, for example, that life expectancy at the end of the twentieth century was more than one-and-a-half times what it was at that century’s outset.¹...

  4. 2 Rights to Property
    (pp. 13-31)

    Although the concepts of “property” and “property rights” are ancient, they remain subjects of debate. The core of the debate traces to the nature of property itself.

    It is common to think of property as something obvious. We have things; they are our things; those things are our property. What could be simpler? And if something is my property, then I must have the right to control it. After all, I don’t think about whether I need to ask your permission to read a book in my home or to turn on my computer. The things in my possession are...

  5. 3 Intellectual Property
    (pp. 32-48)

    While property is a word familiar to everyone, the term intellectual property is not. Yet, everyone is aware of the types of activity that give rise to intellectual property and, at least at a general level, aware as well of the importance of those activities.

    Look first at the activities at issue. Inventors pour time, energy, and large sums of money into efforts to make things work better, faster, and more effectively, to find new solutions to old problems. Writers, producers, singers, actors, and others devote their talents to creating books and films and music for us to enjoy. Firms...

  6. 4 Patent Law
    (pp. 49-75)

    The common description of the main headings of intellectual property law runs something like this: patent law protects novel ideas; copyright law protects creative expression; trademark law protects identification; and trade secret law protects contractual agreements against disclosing information. Each of these shorthand descriptions is basically accurate, but each also misleads in some degree.

    We start with patent law. Patent laws trace back at least to the 1400s.¹ Although other grants of royal or communal privilege to produce certain items had been granted earlier, the “letter patent” had a distinct history. It was not a grant of monopoly privileges to...

  7. 5 Trade Secrets
    (pp. 76-96)

    Some of the best-known names among consumer products are based on intellectual property protected by trade secrecy. In some cases, the secret has been kept for a long time. Coca-Cola has been produced under a secret formula for more than 125 years.¹ Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “11 herbs and spices” recipe has been protected by secrecy for more than 70 years.² Although both have imitators, no other firm has come up with a product that is exactly like Coke or KFC.

    The longevity of these secrets is impressive—and unusual. Benjamin Franklin’s famous aphorism about keeping secrets—that a secret can...

  8. 6 Copyright Law
    (pp. 97-125)

    While patents and trade secrets focus on promoting the development of new ideas by creating rights to their use, copyright law focuses on a different aspect of the world of ideas and information: the particular qualities associated with the expression of ideas. Copyright protects expression by prohibiting the reproduction and distribution of a copyrighted work as well as the creation of derivative works based on a copyrighted work.

    Even more than patent law, copyright law has come under fire as an interference with the creation and dissemination of new ideas. Professor Larry Lessig captures the spirit of the anticopyright arguments:...

  9. 7 Trademark Law
    (pp. 126-146)

    A trademark, such as the product name Coca-Cola, is really nothing more than a label. Given this, it would be natural to assume trademark law to be a relatively narrow and inconsequential field. After all, patent law and trade secrecy law deal with inventions, and copyright deals with such things as books and musical compositions. When thinking of the subject matters of patent, trade secrecy, and copyright, no one questions the degree of ingenuity or effort invested in the ideas and information protected by the law. But in the case of trademark law, the information protected seems comparatively trivial—how...

  10. 8 Making IP Rights Work—Or Not
    (pp. 147-174)

    Intellectual property rights are generally experienced as discrete topics: an inventor will go to a patent lawyer to protect his invention; a firm seeking to protect the identity of its brand will register its trademark; an author or publisher will look to copyright law for its protection; a company will look to trade secret law to protect important private information against disclosure to and use by its rivals. All of these areas share roots in property law, though some owe a great deal to tort, contract, and unfair competition law as well. But they generally are not thought of in...

  11. 9 Antitrust and Intellectual Property
    (pp. 175-208)

    It seems obvious at first glance that there is a conflict between the antitrust laws and intellectual property laws. The conflict story is easy to set out and runs as follows. Antitrust laws aim to promote competition in order to enhance the welfare of consumers. Intellectual property laws, in contrast, aim to suppress competition in order to encourage innovation. Given these different aims, the two sets of laws necessarily conflict with each other and courts must decide which laws take precedence in particular cases.

    While this conflict story is familiar, there is an alternative view that has been expressed in...

  12. 10 Understanding Intellectual Property Law
    (pp. 209-222)

    Although parts of this book address details of the law, the main point is quite simple. Those of us who write and teach and talk about law, economics, and public policy need to regain a more balanced and reasonable perspective on the way our laws treat the world of ideas.

    Despite the obvious contributions of innovations and creative works to improvements in our lives as well as the link between investments in such innovations and the rights protected by intellectual property laws, the concept of intellectual property as a type of property has increasingly come under attack in the academic...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 223-268)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 269-270)
  15. Index
    (pp. 271-275)