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These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

Economics (ECON)

ECON 408W Intellectual Property (3) A comparative and cost-benefit analysis of intellectual property that examines patents, copyrights, government supported research, and prizes.

ECON 408W Intellectual Property (3)

We live in a society that has a decentralized system based on the institutions of private property and trade. In such a system, things belong to people and can be transferred by their owners to other people. An exchange that moves something to someone who values it more than its present owner produces a net benefit, which may be shared between the parties to the exchange. Thus such a system tends to move everything to those who most value it, producing an efficient allocation of goods and services. The logic and limitations of this process make up the branch of economics called price theory.

The course undertakes an examination of intellectual property, a subfield of property rights.

In the context of intellectual property, there are five specific areas of note: patent races, poorly constructed incentives, standards, licenses, and an examination of costs.
There are three factors relevant to the costs of providing legal protection to some particular sort of intellectual property. One is how easy it is to define and defend property in that sort of idea. Another is the degree in which someone who creates and claims ownership in that particular sort of intellectual property reduces, by so doing, the options available to other people. The more serious these problems are, the less the gains from defining and enforcing property rights in ideas. Where they are sufficiently serious, we are better off with an intellectual commons--a legal regime in which certain classes of ideas are free for all to use than with intellectual property. These three costs must be balanced against the benefits--production of more and better intellectual property and better coordination of intellectual property once produced. The larger these benefits are likely to be, the greater the costs we are willing to bear in order to get them.

The course objectives are to apply the framework of comparative and cost-benefit analysis to the study of intellectual property. The course will examine the empirical evidence, and also consider policy issues in this area.


General Education: None
Diversity: None
Bachelor of Arts: None
Effective: Summer 2008
Prerequisite: ECON 402 orECON 444

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.

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