Chapter 2: An Intellectual and Political History of Intellectual Property Rights
Intellectual property rights traditionally include copyrights, patents, and trademarks. An abstract concept of property does tie them together, but the endeavor to carve clear lines amongst them is destined to fail. They are, largely, amorphous legal creatures, which still belong to what has been called ‘the metaphysics of the law’.1 The right to print a book, for example, has fallen, in the past, in the domain of both copyright and patent, and all kinds of intellectual rights may, in particular cases, protect different features of the same intellectual object. Hidden behind copyrights, sometimes obviously and sometimes subtly, has been the somehow odd pair of commerce and censorship.2 Patents are exclusive rights of inventors to their inventions. They have been in existence for a long time, in both civil and common law countries, and they serve perhaps more obviously than copyrights the public interest in securing a fair number of inventions. Trademarks have been tied to commerce more than copyrights and patents. A trademark is primarily a way to ensure that the public will not confuse a certain product with another. It is difficult to overstate the commercial value of some trademarks, such as, for example, Coca-cola. The history of intellectual property rights starts at different times,3 depending on different authors. In this book, we will use the most commonly accepted, in the literature, starting point of relevant legal rules. 1. Early copyright in England Copyright presents quite a topic for the legal historian, for it grew in the different...
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