On the Sociology of Patenting
L'École de droit de Sciences Po a le plaisir de vous inviter à son prochain séminaire qui se tiendra autour du thème: On the Sociology of Patenting.
Le séminaire sera animé par Dan L. Burk, Chancellor’s Professor of Law University of California.
Dan L. Burk is Chancellor’s Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine, where he is a founding member of the law faculty. An internationally prominent authority on issues related to high technology, he lectures, teaches, and writes in the areas of patent, copyright, electronic commerce, and biotechnology law. He is the author of numerous papers on the legal and societal impact of new technologies, including articles on Internet regulation, on the structure of the patent system, and on the economic analysis of intellectual property law. Professor Burk holds a B.S. in Microbiology (1985) from Brigham Young University, an M.S. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (1987) from Northwestern University, a J.D. (1990) from Arizona State University, and a J.S.M. (1994) from Stanford University. Prior to joining the faculty at UC Irvine, he taught at the University of Minnesota. He has served as a legal advisor to a variety of private, governmental, and intergovernmental organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union Committee on Patent Policy and the OECD Committee on Consumer Protection.
Recent commentary on the patent system has argued that there is little evidence supporting the incentive justification for patenting, so that continued faith in this theory constitutes a kind of irrational adherence to myth or falsehood. While an obituary for the incentive theory of patenting is likely premature, the concept that the patent system is based upon myth should not be surprising. Over the past 30 years, some of the most prominent work in sociology has focused on social ordering, including legal ordering, that is found to be structured around prevalent social narratives or myths. Explicitly rejecting the economic construct of rational behavior, such “new institutional” approaches to social ordering recognize that organizations adopt practices and structures according to widely recognized scripts or conventions that lend legitimacy to their goals. In this essay I suggest that the known behavior of patenting firms likely fits the models developed in new institutional sociology: firms patent because other firms patent, because investors expect them to patent, and because patents validate the firm as innovative and reputable. Following such conventions is socially rational, but not necessarily economically rational. Applying new institutional approaches to patenting could explain several pervasive yet puzzling behaviors within the patent system, and moves us away from interminable fruitless arguments over the idealized efficiency or inefficiency of patents.
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