Intellectual Property for the Technological Age

Intellectual Property

Article Snapshot


Richard Epstein


The Manufacturing Institute: The Manufacturing Innovation Series, May 2006


This paper replies to critics of intellectual property (IP).

Policy Relevance

In the big picture, the present IP regime works quite well. Small reforms are preferable to drastic ones. Critics tend to overstate problems with IP, and overestimate the workability of alternatives.

Main Points

  • Critics of IP argue that it can hinder innovation by:
    • Giving holders monopoly power.
    • Freezing out new technologies.
    • Creating so many rights that negotiations are impossible.
    • Being too complex and costly.


  • The threat of IP monopolies is overstated, and cures like compulsory licensing do more harm than good.


  • Generally, the current IP regime works well. Alternatlves like open source software have limitations.


  • Some reforms would be helpful.
    • The patent and trademark office should be reformed.
    • The United States should switching to first-to-file and require publication within 18 months.


  • More should be done to stop the systematic piracy of intellectual property. 

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