Intellectual property rights

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Sun Feb 21 22:16:47 PST 1999

Michael Perelman got me thinking about this some time ago as did Alan Freeman.

Intellectual property rights, trademarks, copyrights, patents, and licensing fees. There has been explosion since the 80s in the number of patent lawsuits filed and the percentage of patents recognized. They have become the main point of contention in international trade agreements.

Workers no longer alienate their labor power only; they must also re-alienate their brains upon switching employers to avoid legal harrasment.

The rights of private property or excludability are being reinforced even as they degenerate more and more into simple rites, archaic cultural institutions that serve no purpose.

Research and development is fully socialized; the development of ever greater productive forces requires public subsidization of both science and technology and the participation of talent the world over. We then allow new knowlege to be commercialized and turned to private profit for companies and nations. Companies fantastically claim that ever tighter property regimes are required to protect "their" investment in research and development. The connections between university research and commercial application are however ridiculously close in pharmaceuticals, certain other chemical technologies, various fields of electronics nad biotechnology.

The wide dissemination of new knowledge though the outcome of a social process is systematically blocked even when there are network externalities to be realized; mind boggling resources are spent on the devlopment of a police legal apparatus to protect trademarks, copyrights, licensing fees, patents, etc. The gains of new knowledge are thus dissipated in the unproductive expenditures required to maintain private appropriation against further leaps in social production.

I would hope that we would develop a critical examination of this particular aspect of the contradiction between the forces and relations of production. Analytical attempts at the reconstruction of Marx's theory of history may be little help here.

best, rakesh

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