A Handbook of Contemporary Research
Edited by Toshiko Takenka
Chapter 4: A Spanner in the Works – Or the Spanner that Works? Patents and the Intellectual Property System
Jeremy Phillips Introduction The word ‘patent’ has become so heavily overlaid with secondary meanings and subjective baggage that it is difficult to evaluate it for what it is. To some it is the epitome of capitalist greed, vesting in a single party the right to exercise exclusive and absolute control over the sector of the market that falls within its scope, with no concomitant responsibility to confer any benefit upon the marketplace or upon society as a whole. To others it is a symbol of the purity of the incentive to divulge an innovation and to share its benefits, by protecting the inventor’s investment of time and effort in creating it and bringing it to fruition. This chapter sets out to contextualise the patent right, its limitations and its exceptions. It proposes to do so at a high level, within a fluid market in which other intellectual property rights may enhance or weaken its effect as a means of facilitating or controlling access to and use of its subjectmatter. In metaphorical terms, the following pages represent a gentle attempt to describe the patent as one of a number of available legal tools within a toolbox from which a handyman may seek to perform a range of complementary or contradictory functions upon an ever-moving object – the consumer. The informed reader will observe that much of the content of this chapter is based upon generalised and widely accepted observations concerning the operation of patent law rather than upon the laws of any...
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