Intellectual Property Proliferation: Strategic Roots and Strategic Responses

CIGI Paper No. 121

March 21, 2017

Intellectual property (IP) is essential for commercialization in the knowledge-based economy.  However, the creation of intellectual property rights (IPRs), which were originally developed for a world of sparse and sporadic invention, has led to potential stumbling blocks for industrialized research and development and continuous and massively parallel innovation. This potential has been actualized through the untrammelled proliferation of IPRs in recent decades. This paper argues that this proliferation has strategic roots at the national level, based on the potential to capture global rents through the internationalization of IPRs. In a rules-based system, a World Trade Organization agreement, championed by the United States and China, modelled conceptually on the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union, would establish disciplines on the creation of IP, provide for a timely retirement of non-performing IP (modelled on mutual tariff elimination under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and establish an international IP court for the adjudication of cross-border infringement claims. This would reduce innovation costs, in particular for start-ups, address the “tragedy of the anticommons” and contribute to the policy reforms required to address the “stag-deflation” to which IP proliferation has been a contributing factor.

About the Author

Dan Ciuriak is a senior fellow at CIGI, where he is exploring the interface between Canada’s domestic innovation and international trade and investment. He is the director and principal of Ciuriak Consulting, Inc.