Dr Gurry says, the above changes have in turn made the role of intellectual property in our society change. According to Dr Gurry, innovation will be the basis of competition in the future, meaning intellectual property will have the additional function to regulate competition (for example, competition for human resources).
He added that the outcome of intellectual property decisions will increasingly have a larger impact than ever before (for example, the Google Books database now contains more than 30 million digitised books, and Google has made its intentions clear to scan all of the 130 million unique books in the world by the end of this decade). A quick look at this complex PC Mag infographic setting out smartphone competitor patent suits in the United States shows that finding equilibrium among competing interests is now harder; it is no longer just about sharing knowledge versus exclusive rights.
Further, intellectual property is now used as a way to finance activities as companies are monetising reputation and spectacles. For instance, making money from a sporting event is no longer just about the ticket sales, but about the ability to control access to the broadcast of the event.
Dr Gurry postulated that the changes above lead to three main questions that must be asked in this new environment:
- Entitlement: the question of who invented what first is becoming harder to answer. There is a growing tension between cooperation and competition, which will require regulation in the future. It becomes necessary to ask: how do we promote secrecy in a world of transparency?
- Appropriability: (which Dr Gurry recognises is a made up word) considering whether intellectual property should be given protection and whether it can be given protection are two very different questions. Indeed, intellectual property is increasingly being used in order to protect the efforts behind the cost of production, particularly given the comparatively minute cost of reproduction (for example, a movie may cost millions of dollars to produce, involving a large team of people over a number of months, but once produced, the movie can be reproduced in a matter of seconds at minimal cost). The traditional view was that intellectual property rights should only be given to something new and/or distinct, but now the lines are blurred. Dr Gurry used Louboutin’s red-sole trademark as such an example, which we previously wrote about here.
- Access: intellectual property makes ‘access’ a saleable commodity. Indeed, we have moved from the 18th and 19th century focus on physical capital and industrialisation, to one of intellectual capital and virtualisation. This raises the issue of how to strike a balance between the pursuit of competitive advantage versus the social reaction to property rights over socially beneficial technology. For instance, no one minds millions of dollars being made overnight with respect to social media, however people become sensitive when human DNA or pharmaceuticals are involved.
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