By: Laurence Thompson
Intellectual property is a means for individuals who have contributed their creative energy and funds into an idea, product, or persona to protect and capitalize on their investment. However, in a world where great wealth disparity persists and the rich seemingly are getting richer, many people are looking to see if technology is a contributing factor to the gap between the rich and the poor. More specifically, journalists and authors inquire if technology is the culprit or is the lack of upward social economic mobility partly encapsulated in policy.
Dean Baker, contributor at Huffington Post and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research asserts that the benefit of technology depends on the polices we have in place regarding patents, copyrights, and other forms of intellectual property. He says, “While the development of technology may to some extent have its own logic, the distribution of the benefits from technology is determined by policy.” While our clinic focuses on assisting small business owners with protecting their marks and designs, it would be naïve not to consider the barriers to entry that exist within our sector of intellectual property. Thus, it’s imperative to be critical of not only the policies and systems surrounding trademarks but also patents, copyrights, publicity rights and trade secrets.
Policy makers construct the conduits used in gaining intellectual property protection but those with the most resources are more likely to have success navigating the various government agencies that administer protection. Recent policies have extended copyright duration from 55 years to 95 years and patents can include business methods, software and life forms. While it is an innate part of intellectual property to encourage innovation and development, policies can pose a substantial hindrance to crucial stakeholders. These stakeholders include communities of color and even extend to developing countries.
There’s an argument to be made that the stringent requirements that allow companies to monopolize intellectual property and increase costs on consumers is a result of policy choices by legislators. The price of life saving drugs to the cost of medical machinery are all bound up in the companies that own the right to reproduce, make, sell, and market these items. When we discuss upward mobility’s relationship to intellectual property and the social justice it is also imperative that we discuss the policy perspective. As a university located in the nation’s capital, Howard University School of Law and other law schools in the District of Columbia have a role to play on the Hill, with congressman, and lobbyists. Social justice is a battle fought on multiple fronts that requires an intellectual hustle to make long term change and impact.
For the full article on inequality, technology and intellectual property by Dean baker, see here: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/blaming-inequality-on-technology-sloppy-thinking-for_us_59fb1809e4b01ec0dede3fde