Intellectual Property Stories

Intellectual Property and Patents

Article Snapshot


Rochelle Cooper Dreyfuss and Jane Ginsburg


Jane C. Ginsburg, Rochelle Cooper Dreyfuss, eds., Foundation Press, 2006


This book uses a series of stories and cases to spotlight the emergence of intellectual property as an academic subject.

Policy Relevance

As intellectual property rights become more and more important, policy makers will face pressure for reform and expansion from both lobbyists and the public.

Main Points

  • Intellectual property (IP) rights allow a patent holder to exclude others from using their invention or a copyright holder to stop others from using their logo. The existence of this type of property developed through judicial decision in legal cases over the last century.

  • Modern IP rights developed out of the right to control transmissions of World War I news bulletins. This early form of IP right formed the foundation from which the expanded IP rights of a more technological world would develop.

  • Creativity and originality as justifications for property rights developed as policy goals of both copyright law and patent law. These policies helped direct the formation of the law in favor of conferring rights to creators, despite the potential benefits that might have been granted to society if IP protection did not exist.

  • As both technological and legal complexity increased, it has become necessary to distinguish between what kinds of use are permitted against the will of the IP rights holder and what is considered infringing, or wrongful, use. This issue is still in contention but has led to the doctrine of fair use in the copyright context.

  • Technological advances have also forced courts to continuously change what is considered protectable and what is not. For example, software has gone through a series of possible protections ranging from copyright to patenting. As each new technology is tested by the courts, the law grows in competency, but also in complexity.

  • The complexity of these issues is increased when foreign nations and their own laws on IP rights are involved. At present, judges are forced to respond to each issue as it arises, forming what is called the common law.


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