Reinventing copyright and patent

Abraham Bell*, Gideon Parchomovsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Intellectual property systems all over the world are modeled on a one-size-fits-all principle. However important or unimportant, inventions and original works receive the same scope of protection, for the same period of time, backed by the same variety of legal remedies. Essentially, all intellectual property is equal under the law. This equality comes at a heavy price, however. The equality principle gives all creators access to the same remedies, even when those remedies create perverse litigation incentives. Moreover, society overpays for innovation through more monopoly losses than are strictly necessary to incentivize production.

In this Article, we propose a solution for these problems in the form of a self-tailored system of intellectual property rights. This self-tailored system would allow inventors and creators to select the optimal type and scope of protection for their intellectual property. Working from the bottom up, our self-tailored system would give each innovator a basic package of intellectual property rights and enforcement powers and then allow her to add more rights and legal remedies in exchange for a fee.

Our self-tailored system would reduce wasteful litigation while encouraging wider dissemination and more extensive use of inventions and expressive works. In addition, our proposal would lower the social cost of granting monopoly protection to intellectual goods while maintaining an adequate level of economic incentives to create. Accordingly, our self-tailored system would constitute a marked improvement over the extant one-size-fits-all design of intellectual property rights.

Unlike other proposals for reform, which often seek to improve access to expressive works and inventions through compulsory licenses and other coercive policies, our model is purely voluntary. It respects authors’ and inventors’ autonomy and uses market mechanisms—specifically, pricing—to recalibrate our intellectual property system in a way that improves societal well-being.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)231-278
Number of pages48
JournalMichigan Law Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Michigan Law Review. All Rights Reserved.


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