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The Elgar Companion to Law and Economics, Second Edition

Edited by Jürgen G. Backhaus

This thoroughly updated and revised edition of a popular and authoritative reference work introduces the reader to the major concepts and leading contributors in the field of law and economics. The Companion features accessible, informative and provocative entries on all the significant issues, and breaks new ground by bringing together widely dispersed yet theoretically congruent ideas.
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Chapter 9: Intellectual Property and the Markets of Ideas

Don Bellante


Giovanni B. Ramello1 Introduction The term ‘intellectual property rights’ denotes a set of legal doctrines – namely patent, copyright, trademark and trade secret – that differ in their structure, scope and spheres of application, but nevertheless have in common the feature of granting the owner rights over the economic exploitation of an idea or its ‘reification’ (that is, its expression in any tangible medium, as in the case of copyright–authors’ rights). Such rights are generally exclusive, meaning that the owner is given a legal monopoly over the protected idea.2 From this perspective, therefore, and despite the distinct peculiarities of each, the roots of all intellectual property rights can be traced to the advent of a knowledge economy and the private appropriation of certain types of information. In fact, as the production of knowledge began generating increasing value, in tangible economic terms as well as socially, the question arose as to the appropriability of this new knowledge – or more to the point of the benefits derived therefrom – which was resolved in Western commercial and industrial societies through the attribution of specific property rights. In this respect, intellectual property rights are only one possible solution to the dilemma of the ownership of knowledge.3 Different societies have resolved this dilemma in different ways.4 Of the various possible solutions, those adopted by Western society are especially propitious to the circulation of knowledge within economic contexts and its exploitation in the marketplace.5 Moreover, it has the effect of specifically stimulating the production...

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