The Benefits of Intellectual Property Protection

GIPCIf there is one thing about which libertarians are never likely to agree, it is whether intellectual property – patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets – should receive the same legal protection as physical property.

Without wading too deep into the philosophical debate, but showing my colors as an IP advocate, let me share some new research published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) illustrating the benefits of legal protection of intellectual property.

Published on February 10, Infinite Possibilities ranks 38 countries by 30 indicators of strength of IP protection. The indicators measure both law and enforcement: Countries which do not enforce IP rights, despite the letter lf the law, are marked down. Most of the indicators are straight forward: Longer patent, copyright, or trademark terms are better; strong enforcement mechanisms are better; and treaty obligations protecting intellectual property invented in other countries is better.

The report does not attempt to determine causality between strong IP protection and social or economic outcomes. Indeed, 30 indicators is likely far too many to use for such an analysis. Nevertheless, it does determine a number of positive correlations between strong IP protection and other beneficial indicators. For example, the correlation between countries’ scores and

  • access to venture capital is 0.81;
  • number of researchers in research and development is 0.80;
  • access to the latest technologies is 0.83;
  • access to video-on-demand and streaming TV is 0.64;
  • private sector spending on research and development is 0.75;
  • share of workforce in high-value, knowledge-intensive services.

I could go on, but I am sure you get the drift. Some libertarian critics complain that IP protection is the result of innovation, not its cause; and the legal framework is a consequence of rent-seeking rather than the government’s desire to promote innovation.

This chicken-and-egg question may be beside the point: It is very difficult to envision innovation continuing to occur at the current rate if innovative industries lose the protections for which they advocate. Infinite Possibilities shows there are no innovative and prosperous countries today that do not have strong IP protections.

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Lori says:

    I consider myself a Libertarian with strong Christian Far-Right leanings. I am for the protection of IP as it is stealing otherwise. I do not get where you believe that Libertarians do not want people’s property protected, physical and creative. I am against the costs of copyrights and patents as they are excessive. The average person cannot afford most patents and this should be changed so that it is not just the large cprporations and rich people who can afford to file a patent. I have a nephew who could not afford a patent as it was in the thousands and so this man ended up allowing the company he worked for to apply for a patent and get the ‘glory and profits’ that were rightly his. Had the cost been a thousand or less, he could have afforded to patent his model and find someone to make it for him. People should be able to buy a patent without having to ‘sell the farm’ in order to own their own IP.

    • Thank you. It is a complaint I have heard a lot and I think it is credible. There is evidence that sole inventors struggle with the cost of patenting.

      On the other hand (and I do not want to pick sides), we are patenting more than ever and the inventions are very complex. We may be at a level of technical prowess that one inventor in his lab cannot find something new like in the old days.

      Your nephew has a story I have heard many times. We all like to believe our nephews! Could he not find the capital to back his intellectual property? Did the company provide him no benefits? Perhaps he just needed a better negotiator…?

  2. Nicola Harrison says:

    Nice Sharing! Thanks for this helpful information I agree with all points you have given to us. I will follow all of them.- corporate mergers and acquisitions