Economic and Social Justice Perspectives
Edited by Anne Flanagan and Maria Lillà Montagnani
Chapter 3: The Value of Irrationality in the IP Equation
Sharon K. Sandeen INTRODUCTION 1. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, while working for the Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN), Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web and, in the process, forever changed the way that we communicate and conduct business.1 Like other inventors, Berners-Lee could have sought patent protection but, instead, he made the conscious decision to freely distribute his invention so that it could benefit the world.2 Berners-Lee is not the first inventor to make the decision to contribute a valuable, ground-breaking invention to the public. Dr. Jonas Salk did the same thing when he developed a vaccine for polio in 1955, leading to the subsequent near eradication of a horrible and dreaded disease.3 The famous American inventor and statesman, Benjamin Franklin, made a similar decision with respect to all of his inventions, including the important Franklin stove.4 For a history of how the World Wide Web was created, including the contributions of other individuals such as Robert Cailliau, see James Gillies and Robert Cailliau, How the Web Was Born (OUP, Oxford 2000). 2 Id., at 209 and 234. 3 In a famous interview with Edward R. Morrow, when asked ‘Who owns the patent on the vaccine?,’ Dr. Salk responded: ‘Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?’ See It Now (CBS television broadcast, 12 April 1955). 4 Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Dover Publications, New York 1996) 92 (‘Gov’r. Thomas was...
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