Research Handbook on Political Economy and Law
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Research Handbook on Political Economy and Law

Edited by Ugo Mattei and John D. Haskell

Events such as the global financial crisis have helped reveal that the drivers and contours of governance on a national and international level remain a mystery in many respects. Set in this context, this timely Research Handbook is the first to explicitly address the constitutive relationship between law and political economy. With scholarly contributions from diverse disciplinary and geographic backgrounds, this authoritative book covers, in three parts, topics surrounding money and markets, the relations of organization, and commodities, land and resources.
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Chapter 30: The propertization of intellectual property

Alina Ng Boyte


The three main branches of intellectual property – patents, copyright and trademark – started as laws with the specific aim of advancing a country’s economy. For patents, it was to establish new industries; for copyright, to disseminate knowledge; and for trademark, to prevent consumer confusion. However, today these laws appear to be suboptimal in supporting the appropriate type of investment in innovative and creative activity. Instead of encouraging right holders to invest in activities that contribute to economic development, these laws encourage right holders to allocate more resources in policing their property right and managing potentially infringing activity by market competitors. The social and economic effects of current intellectual property laws and market practices show that there is a significant departure from the initial purposes of having patent, copyright and trademark laws and that this departure has had an adverse effect on market economies. This chapter traces these departures and concludes with the normative position that intellectual property laws should encourage openness, transparency and reasonableness to ensure the success of the globalized economy. A widespread assumption about intellectual property law in economic theory is that these laws are necessary to encourage entrepreneurial and talented individuals to invest and engage in socially productive activities. Inventive, creative and trade pursuits have been widely perceived by economists to generate novel ideas and useful information, which in turn spur technological development.

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