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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Thoughts on "Justifying Intellectual Property" from Wendy Gordon

Here is an initial post for the book club from Wendy Gordon, William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, Boston University, and Professor of Law, BU School of Law:

Rob Merges’s new book book is an immense achievement.  Intellectually it is stunning, plus Rob is an amazing and appealing writer.

Not since Peter Drahos’s 1996 book, A Philosophy of IntellectualProperty, has someone attempted to bring together a plethora of philosophic perspectives on IP.  Rob adds to this panoptic philosophic view a sharp knowledge of economics, and he puts at the center an acute recognition of how much we need – and lack—crucial empirical evidence about the effects of IP.

Ironically, it’s Rob’s valuable focus on the need for better facts that fails him in the chapter on Rawls.  Rob argues that broad IP rights are consistent with giving Rawlsian priority to the worst off in society.  But the Rawls chapter is riddled with factual assumptions which, if empirically investigated, might well prove the opposite.

One could quibble on philosophic grounds with Rob’s interpretation of Rawls (details of quibble available on request), but even on Rob’s own terms it’s far from clear that the worst-off  benefit from the restraints that patent and copyright  impose on the use of inventions and works of authorship.

Posted by Matt Bodie on January 29, 2013 at 10:24 AM in Books, Intellectual Property | Permalink

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