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RE: Intellectual Property Law

Posted by plosmedicine on 31 Mar 2009 at 00:01 GMT

Author: Richard Stallman
Position: President
Institution: Free Software Foundation
Submitted Date: October 30, 2006
Published Date: October 31, 2006
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

The reason that it is a mistake to identify "intellectual property"
law with patent law is not that they are distinct. Rather, the former is a generalization that covers many disparate laws, including copyright law, trademark law, and others, as well as patent law. To identify it with patent law is to equate the whole and the part.

Some generalizations are useful, but this one is detrimental to clear thinking, because the laws it lumps together don't have much in common. Their details and their practical effects are very different, so it is a struggle even for experts to construct valid general statements about "intellectual property". The result is that nearly everything people say about "intellectual property" is mistaken. It is a motor for misinformation.

Each real "intellectual property" issue concerns a specific law. (This paper's issue specifically concerns patent law.) It is clearer, and more informative, to identify that law by name, and avoid the gratuitous vagueness that the term "intellectual property" would introduce.

Competing interests declared: I declare that I have no competing interests.