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Sabrina Safrin Guest-Blogging on Intellectual Property Chain Reactions:

I'm delighted to say that Sabrina Safrin, who teaches patent law, international law, and contracts at Rutgers-Newark, will be joining us this week to discuss her new article, Chain Reaction: How Property Begets Property (forthcoming in the Notre Dame Law Review). Professor Safrin spent eight years as an attorney-adviser at the U.S. State Department Office of the Legal Adviser, where, among other things, she helped negotiate treaties and international instruments pertaining to biotechnology, biological diversity, and marine pollution.

I invited Professor Safrin because I read the Chain Reaction piece and liked it very much; here's the abstract:

Classic theories for the evolution of property rights consider the emergence of private property to be a progressive development reflecting a society's movement to a more efficient property regime. This article argues that instead of this progressive dynamic, a more subtle and damaging chain reaction dynamic can come into play that traditional theories for intellectual and other property rights neither anticipate nor explain. The article suggests that the expansion of intellectual and other property rights have an internally generative dynamic. Drawing upon contemporary case studies, the article argues that property rights evolve in reaction to each other. The creation of property rights for some engenders the demand for related property rights by others. These demands and resulting recognition of property rights may have little to do with the value of the resource in question or efficiency concerns. Today's global economy makes the collateral creation of property rights more pronounced because changes in property rights in one country can trigger unanticipated changes in the property regimes of another.

The article offers three explanations for why property rights beget more property rights. The first draws on group behavior theory; the second focuses on a breach of a cooperative norm; the third flows from the right of exclusion. The chain reaction evolution of property rights helps explain why intellectual property rights have vastly expanded over the last several decades and continue to expand. It also sheds light on the increased transformation of spaces and tangible goods from open access or commons property to exclusive ownership regimes. The chain reaction theory of the evolution of intellectual and other property rights has considerable implications. It anticipates the development of unexpected, extensive and ultimately undesirable property regimes.

The Original TS (mail):
I look forward to reading it and her comments. Based on the abstract, she's certainly correct and she'd put her finger on something that's been bother me (and others) for quite some time. I think the trend she outlines in the abstract is particular pronounced -- and dangerous -- in IP because IP isn't like other kinds of property.
3.5.2007 11:50am
Dick Schweitzer (mail):
Ah! But has the test of the converse conjecture been applied.

May I suggest including in one's studies the work of Douglas North (Nobel 1991) and particularly the NEBR Working Paper 12795. I suggest that because what we are dealing with in "property" are resources available within a social order. The commonality of recognition and acceptance of an obligation not to "mess with" a particular power to control access to, and allocation of, the resource generates the "right." Governments exist to enforce such obligations (or at least they used to). If we recognize the extension (extensive meaning) of such obligations applied to a broader spectrum of resources, it might not seem to be a "chain reaction."
3.5.2007 7:07pm