Sunday, 13 November 2016

Should the IP community listen to economists?

Economic Approaches to Intellectual Property, a new book by Nicola Searle and Martin Brassell, deserves a spot of serious attention. Dr Searle, currently of Goldsmiths, University of London, has previously served as Economics Adviser to the UK Intellectual Property Office and is well known as having a sense of humour and a level-headed, sympathetic approach to intellectual property rights -- both of which being qualities that appear to have eluded many of her fellow economists.  Martin Brassell, co-founder and Chief Executive of Inngot, has hands-on experience of raising capital for SMEs; he also co-authored Banking on IP?, an independent report for the UK Government on the challenges of leveraging intangible assets to obtain debt funding. 

The publishers -- no less than Oxford Uiversity Press -- have this to say about literary venture:
This book is a comprehensive, critical analysis of economic interpretations of intellectual property, written for researchers, practitioners and policymakers. It analyses the interface between economics [the incomprehensible], finance [the unobtainable], accountancy [the indigestible] and intellectual property law [the invaluable].
Commencing with a critical analysis of the economics of innovation, law, industrial organisation and welfare, the book then critiques the economics of specific intellectual property rights, including copyright, patents, trade marks, geographical indications and design rights [this doesn't leave much out ...]. It further assesses the interaction between economics, IP and competition. Finally, it examines why, when and how IP generates value, reviewing contemporary approaches to valuation and accounting, and the emerging use of IP to facilitate business finance.

This analytical text offers readers a better understanding of IP's contribution to macro- and microeconomics, as well as insights that inform the debate on evidence-based IP policy.
Should the IP community listen to what economists have to say? After years of being hit on the head by hostile and often misguided analysis at the academic level and through the pages of the popular press (in the form of opinion pieces in The Economist itself), it's good to be able to say that here's a book that makes it easier for this reviewer to say "yes".

The message that comes through in this book is that the relationship between IP and the disciplines with which it comes into contact is not set in concrete and that, as we understand more about the manner in which business operates, we must be prepared to reassess fundamental assumptions.  The prime movers when it comes to reassessment of these assumptions are twofold. One is the availability of more, and more accurate data, since it is plain that real information cannot be ignored and must displace any hypotheses, rules of thumb and guidelines that they cancel out.  A second is the ability to analyse that data more effectively, as happens when analytics are brought to play upon big data.  If nothing else, it will make it easier for economists and policymakers to understand that patents, for example, operate very differently in different commercial sectors and at different times in a technology's life-cycle. It will also make it easier for financiers and strategists to appreciate the interplay of different types of intellectual property right with each other within the context of a business plan.

Unsurprisingly, since both its authors are skilled communicators, the book is an enjoyable read. Equal treatment for rights other than patents, short paragraphs, helpful footnotes and a refreshingly up-to-date bibliography enhance the serious reader's experience.  If you are looking for a pleasurable escape from end-of-year vegging out and TV-viewing, you can get full details of this book by clicking the OUP website here.

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