CPIP Fall Conference Papers Highlight How Intellectual Property Rights Promote Global Prosperity

By Alex Summerton

The George Mason Law Review has just published the papers from our Fourth Annual Fall Conference, Intellectual Property & Global Prosperity, which was held at Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University, in Arlington, Virginia, on October 6-7, 2016. The conference highlighted the importance of IP rights in the global marketplace and discussed how countries that leverage the availability of such protections enjoy creative, technological, and economic benefits far surpassing those that place less value on IP.

The newly-published papers are outlined below:

Kristina M. L. Acri, née Lybecker, Economic Growth and Prosperity Stem from Effective Intellectual Property Rights, 24 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 865 (2017)

Professor Kristina Acri of Colorado College discusses the importance of IP in incentivizing innovation by enabling firms to recuperate development expenditures. She explains how the static loss resulting from the patent system is far offset by the dynamic gains resulting from both increased innovation and public disclosure of knowledge. Acri identifies how countries employing strong IP regimes realize greater benefits in pharmaceutical innovations in the form of more available treatments and earlier implementation than countries with weaker protections. Furthermore, she highlights how robust IP systems encourage both revolutionary and incremental technology developments, promote domestic technology industries, and foster new employment opportunities for domestic labor forces.

Key to this analysis are the fundamental economic forces that drive patented innovation. Acri discusses the importance of patents to innovator companies that must bear substantial fixed costs in the form of research and development, while generic competitors need only compete on negligible marginal costs with the innovators. She further explores how countries employing strong patent protections attract innovation businesses, as well as develop investment industries and educated workforces to support such innovation. Finally, Acri analyzes the positive correlation between a country’s rank as an innovative hot spot and the relative strength of its IP protections.

Walter G. Park, Averting a “Tripsxit” From the Global Intellectual Property System, 24 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 883 (2017)

Professor Walter Park of American University examines the benefits that developing countries can realize by implementing stronger IP right systems in the context of the globalized marketplace. He considers the effect the TRIPS Agreement has had on the relationship between developed and developing countries as a function of the grant rates for technologies originating from various countries and the balance of technology imports and exports. Park seeks to explain why certain countries have developed into technological powerhouses in the last few decades, while others have remained behind and lagged in technological production.

Park looks at various factors that could have influenced, and in turn have been influenced by, these divergent development paths, such as trade practices, legal and sociological structure, and the flexibility that TRIPS gives member states to set their own schedules. He concludes that countries seeking to move themselves into modern economies can benefit greatly by examining and adjusting their IP regimes to encourage both domestic and foreign innovations and investment in the local territory.

Stan Liebowitz, The Case for Copyright, 24 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 907 (2017)

Professor Stan Liebowitz of the University of Texas explores several rationales for copyright, commenting on both economic and moralistic perspectives and discussing how, as a common misconception, many people fail to recognize that the property rights imparted by copyright truly enable economic returns. He focuses heavily on the economic case for copyright, seeking to dispel the myth that copyright is an economic monopoly. Liebowitz notes that popular works enjoy unusually high monopoly-like rents because they are uncommon and disproportionately successful as compared to unpopular works, not because they benefit from any economic monopoly imparted by copyright.

Liebowitz discusses the concept of market-determined values of works in contrast to alternative systems such as centralized markets and patronage systems, and he concludes that these alternative systems lack the ability to incentivize the production of either high quality or high quantities of works. Finally, he explores the moral justifications for the remuneration of authors of successful works and discusses several alternative, although morally absurd, repugnant, or questionable, systems for securing payments for authors. Liebowitz posits that copyright enables markets to efficiently set the price of works and facilitates the determination of what society does and does not want produced.

Brett Danaher & Michael D. Smith, Digital Piracy, Film Quality, and Social Welfare, 24 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 923 (2017)

Professors Brett Danaher of Chapman University and Michael Smith of Carnegie Mellon University assess the impact of piracy of copyrighted works on the production, in terms of both quantity and quality, of artistic works, particularly films. They discuss the trade-offs of copyright enforcement versus piracy for consumers and producers, and they outline the expected welfare transfers that occur for both users who would and would not otherwise purchase the consumed media in the absence of piracy. Danaher and Smith also delve into the hidden impact that piracy and the non-enforcement of copyright laws have on markets that traditionally have relied on copyright.

Danaher and Smith analyze the origination of high-quality works and examine how the rise of online piracy has caused a depression in the production of award-winning films in countries where copyright is laxly enforced. They further identify the collateral negative effects of the lack of copyright enforcement, including the frustration of attempts to secure funding for riskier projects. Danaher and Smith explain how this potentially robs the world of artistically meritorious, but financially unsafe, projects, thereby decreasing overall social welfare.

Kevin Madigan & Adam Mossoff, Turning Gold Into Lead: How Patent Eligibility Doctrine is Undermining U.S. Leadership in Innovation, 24 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 939 (2017)

CPIP Legal Fellow Kevin Madigan and Professor Adam Mossoff of George Mason University focus on recent developments at the Supreme Court that have made patenting high-technology inventions, particularly in the computer and biotechnology disciplines, more difficult and the consequential danger this poses to the United States’ position as a global innovation leader. They begin by reviewing the late-20th century jurisprudence that placed the U.S. in a position to be a technological force in the new millennium, especially with respect to the patentability of biotech and computer technology. Madigan and Mossoff then review more recent Supreme Court precedents that have led to a recession from a pro-patentability position while providing very little guidance on what could be patentable.

Madigan and Mossoff go on to assess how this change in jurisprudence has resulted in a retreat from America’s position as a patent powerhouse. They point to cases where applications were rejected as unpatentable subject matter in the U.S. while the corresponding technologies were found to be patentable in Europe and China. Madigan and Mossoff also discuss the general trend of rejecting applications and invalidating patents with scant actual justification for why those applications and patents were patent ineligible. They conclude that data available from the last few years shows that the U.S. may be receding as a technological center since its patent laws have become unreliable for inventors and investors seeking protection.

Jiarui Liu, The Predatory Effects of Copyright Piracy, 24 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 961 (2017)

Professor Jiarui Liu of the University of San Francisco analyzes strategic behavior in copyright enforcement, particularly in countries that have not yet developed robust copyright industries and that have lessened incentive to invest in effective copyright policy. He discusses the phenomenon in China, where large copyright entities sometimes prefer pirating of their works to enforcement when they cannot expect any return for their work. As Liu explains, expecting the ability to develop a market and later determine how to recover payments for pirated copies, this lax enforcement of copyright policy results in a suppression of domestic industries that would compete with large entities.

Liu outlines the reality of copyright enforcement in China, a lackluster effort on the part of the Chinese government that has led to rampant piracy of a wide range of copyrighted works. He explains how the piracy of software products, such as Microsoft Office, has stunted the development of new and competing technologies, a result implicitly approved by the market-dominant copyright owners. Liu compares this behavior of strategic non-enforcement to predatory pricing practices traditionally viewed as part of antitrust law, since it places the product into consumer hands at an initial loss in order to establish market dominance that will later enable the firm to exert monopoly power once its product has become the dominant force. Finally, Liu discusses possible mechanisms of corrective actions, both private and public, to combat non-enforcement as strategic behavior.

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