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What’s IP Good For?

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6 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    As for questions of attributions and credit, why do they apply “to a lesser extent” in patent law? If inventors aren’t correctly identified on the application, any issued patent is invalid. What could be more central than that?

  2. Jessica Silbey says:

    Because inventors don’t get to control the manner of attribution beyond being on the patent. They get “credit” only by being listed. But what their company does to name or attribute the invention to them is otherwise entirely a feature of contract law. Marketing of the product, advertising as “invented by me” is rarely part of the bargain.

  3. A.J. Sutter says:

    Thanks for your reply. But have you read a lot of engineers’ resumes? Regardless of who is the assignee of the invention (which usually is the employer, thanks to agreements signed at hiring), this is a very important part of marketing oneself, not the product. I’ve worked for companies in the semiconductor and electronics industries, and I assure you engineers and scientists are very intense about getting credit on patents. BTW, I have a patent on my resume, too, even though a large corporation owns the rights. (In fact, the prestige of the assignee is another form of reputational credit.)

    It’s not necessarily different in the entertainment industry, where I’ve counseled clients as a private practitioner. E.g., if you’re on a movie with a dozen writers, where no more than 3 teams of 3 writers can get credit under WGA rules (assuming such teams even were involved), you will want to be one of the lucky 9 or fewer people getting credit — not because the movie will be advertised as being written “by you” (you’re at best just 1 out of a crowd of people in illegible font), but because if the movie does well the credit will affect your next paycheck. You may object that WGA rules are contract law, not copyright law, but nonetheless this blunts the distinction you make in your 11:08 reply to my comment.

  4. A.J. Sutter says:

    PS: my 12:54 comment tried to eliminate distinctions between the two situations, but in fact there’s an important one, consistent with my point at 10:36: As far as resume value goes — i.e., marketing the creator, not the creation — patent law is aligned with protecting inventors’ reputational interests, since if an inventor isn’t named the patent isn’t valid. Copyright law, on the other hand, is not sufficient to protect the reputational interests of authors in the practical screenplay situation I describe; if you didn’t get credit on the screenplay, you’d either have to leave it off your resume or mention that you were uncredited, which isn’t necessarily a plus.

  5. Jessica Silbey says:

    I agree that reputational interests are huge for creators and innovators, the resume example you give is a good one. And I have spoken with many, many engineers and scientists (my book is on just this issue based on interviews with such folks). So I agree with you that credit and attribution are important, if not the most important thing, for many. But IP law doesn’t help with that at all, except in very narrow ways (inventorship rules, as you say, and when plagiarism and copyright infringement align). I feel much more certain, apropos of Molly VH’s post, that IP works best when it’s serving corporate welfare, not individuals. This is also Julie Cohen’s point.

  6. A.J. Sutter says:

    Thanks for your reply. “IP works best when it’s serving corporate welfare, not individuals.”: Then we’re batting 1.000, because I agree with this, too.