17 August 2013

Bayh-Dole and IP Pluralism

A concise overview of Bayh-Dole and other aspects of US university research commercialisation is provided in 'University Research and Licensing' by Jennifer Carter-Johnson, Jeffrey S. Carter-Johnson and Jorge L. Contreras in Bioinformatics Law: Legal Issues for Computational Biology in the Post-Genome Era ed by Jorge L. Contreras & A. James Cuticchia.

The authors indicate that
 This chapter in an overview of the law of bioinformatics covers the legal issues uniquely facing universities and other research institutions. Among the topics covered are modes of university technology development, the Bayh-Dole Act, the questionable status of the patent research exemption in the U.S., publication and data release, and socially-responsible licensing.
There's a more searching - and for UC intellectual property Honours students more useful - discussion of intellectual property in the 178 page 'Intellectual Property Rights and Institutions: A Pluralist Account' by Michael E. Kenneally

Kenneally comments that
Debates over intellectual property’s justifications tend to treat natural rights and utilitarian accounts as competitors, but they should be seen as complements instead. Lockean and Kantian theories of intellectual property highlight the strong interests that intellectual property creators have in profiting from and exercising some degree of control over their work, but neither theory gives sufficient justification for the full assortment of rights that intellectual property owners have under current law. Utilitarianism’s focus on society’s interests in the production of useful information and creative expression provides an essential supplement to these natural rights theories, but without establishing that intellectual property law should single-mindedly strive only to maximize social welfare. Developing both natural rights-based and utilitarian justifications, this dissertation advances a pluralist account of intellectual property that understands different features of copyright, patent, and trademark law to be serving different normative interests. 
His conclusion states that
It is tempting to look for a possible justification for intellectual property through either the lens of natural rights or the lens of utilitarianism. Either way of focusing on the subject proposes to make it intelligible to us in terms of a single purpose, although of course they each offer competing portraits of that purpose. In the former case, intellectual property is preoccupied with securing what properly belongs to individuals and, in the latter case, with promoting the good of society as a whole. Because of their disagreement of intellectual property’s fundamental purpose, these two accounts are regarded as diametrically opposed. But having scrutinized natural rights and utilitarian accounts of intellectual property in the preceding chapters, I have come to reject the either/or mindset that they pressure us to adopt. Instead of assuming that intellectual property is justified either as a matter of natural rights or on utilitarian grounds, we should consider a pluralist account of intellectual property’s justifications that incorporates what is most appealing in both the natural rights and utilitarian accounts. Intellectual property pluralism avoids the limitations of the natural right and utilitarian perspectives and allows for a richer understanding of the relationship between intellectual property rights and our intellectual property institutions. Natural rights–type justifications of intellectual property ownership do well in highlighting the interests of those individuals who create intellectual goods, but they run the risk of overemphasizing those interests or of underestimating the interests of those whom intellectual property laws place under duties. In particular, natural rights accounts of intellectual property can proceed too quickly from a justification of physical property ownership to a justification of intellectual property ownership, disregarding the differences in the ways that intellectual property and physical property laws affect the relevant normative interests given the differences in the nature of intellectual and physical goods. In Chapter 2, I stressed how Lockean approaches to intellectual property rights are especially susceptible to this danger. A physical property owner’s interests in material gain are greatly imperiled by others’ unauthorized use of her physical property, since such unauthorized use routinely interferes with the owner’s own use of her property. But in focal cases of intellectual property, especially works of creative expression and inventions, others’ unauthorized use of the property generally does not interfere with the owner’s own use of her property. On the other hand, unauthorized use of trademarked symbols that confuses consumers does interfere with the trademark owner’s ability to use the symbol to communicate with the consuming public. And so our discussion of Lockean arguments for intellectual property rights indicated that different intellectual property law doctrines may have different justifications. Locke’s arguments against interference work pretty well in justifying central trademark doctrines but not those of copyright or patent law. The pluralist account of intellectual property that I am defending forsakes a unified theory of intellectual property not only by relying on a plurality of normative considerations, but also by advancing different justifications for different areas of intellectual property law. 
Chapter 3 considered possible Kantian natural rights–type justifications for intellectual property ownership. This discussion went beyond the preceding chapter on Locke’s labor theory by identifying another type of interest of intellectual property owners that is not reducible to Lockean interests in material gain. These other interests are interests in controlling one’s own actions and, relatedly, in having a public reputation that accurately reflects the actions one has chosen to do. I argued against a recent interpretation of Kant’s account of physical property ownership, according to which any unauthorized use of another’s property wrongfully limits that person’s freedom by conscripting her into the pursuit of ends that she has not chosen for herself. But, drawing on Kant’s own writing about copyright, I argued that there are particular ways of using intellectual property that unjustifiably violate the intellectual property creator’s interest in having control over her actions and/or reputation. In particular, falsely claiming credit for someone else’s work or describing someone else as responsible for choices that she did not in fact make would disregard this sort of interest without promoting the legitimate interests of others. Here, too, however, the arguments really only support core doctrines within trademark law—especially rules against passing off counterfeit goods as the real thing, or some instances of so-called “reverse passing off,” in which a person attempts to sell another’s goods as though they were her own. Although copyright law prohibits some examples of plagiarism, in most situations it does so under very general directives not to reproduce or distribute others’ work that do not explicitly refer to copyright owners’ interests in receiving attribution. Originally, however, copyright ownership included a right to decide when to release a new work for the first time, and this right to release can be understood as furthering Kantian interests in having control over one’s actions. 
But the core of patent and copyright law—the parts that prohibit unauthorized copying and distribution of patented inventions and copyrighted works—are justified not by the natural rights arguments that Locke and Kant supply, but by more functionalist lines of thought. Innovators, artists and others who invest in creative endeavors would be reluctant to devote their resources to developing inventions and expressive works in the absence of special encouragement, because it is too easy for others to copy such goods without compensating the people who invested in their development. On this proposal, the crux of copyright and patent law is ultimately justified by the widely shared interests of the members of a society in the availability of new inventions and creative works, not by the interests of inventors or artists themselves. The fact that copyright and patent rights supply socially beneficial incentives has often been considered the heart of the utilitarian argument for intellectual property. I argued in Chapter 4, however, that we should resist the utilitarian label because utilitarianism characteristically directs us to formulate all normative questions in terms of the expected effects on overall amounts of well-being. If social welfare provides the only proper measure of intellectual property’s justifications, policymakers’ appeal to overtly nonutilitarian considerations will always seem like an aberration or even an inappropriate distraction. This is an unwelcome consequence, in my view, because the effects of intellectual property laws on social welfare are somewhat indeterminate and because other sorts of normative considerations are important enough in their own right even if, on balance, furthering them does not prove to maximize social welfare. Consider, for example, the Kantian argument for attribution rights. In light of an author’s interest in controlling her actions and in having a reputation that accurately reflects what she has chosen to do, intellectual property law is justified, according to the Kantian argument, in prohibiting others from falsely claiming credit for her work. It is conceivable, however, that this attribution right would present significant administrative and enforcement costs, and it is also conceivable that very few people would be seriously unhappy to see it go. Likewise, it is conceivable—though I admit, not terribly likely—that social welfare would be increased if the law expressly empowered authors to sell their exclusive right to claim credit to the highest bidder. Even if it turned out that money would be saved or more books would be produced if the right to attribution were not legally recognized or were made transferable, I am not sure it follows that we ought to give up on recognizing a nontransferable version of it in our law. At the very least, it seems to me that we ought not to commit ourselves to designing our right to attribution in whatever way maximizes overall amounts of well-being solely because we think copyright law is primarily justified because of the socially beneficial incentives it provides. 
My endorsement of the functionalist argument and rejection of Lockean and Kantian arguments for copyright and patent rights suggests a noteworthy difference between justifying intellectual property ownership as a matter of natural rights and justifying it as a matter of social convention: the two types of justification do not seem to face the same argumentative burden. Establishing that there are natural rights of intellectual property requires showing that a person or group’s failure to respect the alleged right would warrant disapprobation, unless some sort of special excuse applied. Because failing to respect the particular right in question is presumptively a moral mistake, there must therefore be a decisive reason for respecting it. But for a social institution to have an adequate social convention–type justification, it suffices to establish that the institution serves the common good in an unobjectionable way. The reasons for establishing the particular institution need not be decisive. And yet, as I argued in Chapter 4, once a social institution is justified, even as a matter of social convention, it can have the power to generate new moral rights, respect for which is not completely optional. Our pre-legal or natural rights give shape to our legal institutions, but our legal institutions also give shape to our moral rights. The interplay between intellectual property rights and intellectual property institutions is thus highly complex and, without careful attention to the relevant normative considerations, even a bit mysterious. A pluralist account of intellectual property’s justifications does not eliminate the complexity, but hopefully it unravels some of the mystery.