“I wanted to call this book A Dispeptic Introduction to Intellectual Property, but the publishers understandably said “Um, no.”  ~Dan Hunter

Sometimes, a book comes along that is just so cute you have to pick it up and read it.  Such it is in The Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Intellectual Property,” a little guide to U.S. IP laws by intellectual property scholar Dan Hunter.

The Oxford guide provides a precise guide to the current laws of intellectual property and their history.  It follows the basic, straight-forward areas with chapters on Copyright, Patent, Trademark, Trade Secrets, and Related Rights.  Hunter first focuses on the central origins of intellectual property law.  He then explores the justifications for having an intellectual property system..

Hunter explains how intellectual property first came into modern form in the system of Venice during the fifteenth century..  With the rise of the modern state, European rulers came to issue letters patents, a term derived from the Latin litterae patentes or “open letters.”

These were letters from the sovereigns to everyone, stating that an individual or group now had the monopoly to ply a given trade within the realm of the sovereign.  Unlike today’s system, these were often issued to court favorites in order to control the production of gunpowder or certain types of clothing.

Laws need some reason for being, a very clear set of justifications.  Hunter examines the three basic normative justifications for the existence of various intellectual property laws.  These justifications are based (1) in economic or utilitarian theory, (2) on the labor-desert theory of John Locke, and (3) in the personality theory derived form Hegel and Kant.  Unfortunately, he didn’t mean Katherine Heigl.

This guide is a quick read and a great overview for someone who wants to get up-to-speed on the topic without getting bogged down in all the minutia of IP laws.  We recommend it.

The Oxford Introductions to U.S. Law: Intellectual Property,” by Dan Hunter, Oxford University Press Inc, 242 pp, is available from Amazon.

About the Author

Dan Hunter is a Professor of Law at New York Law School. He is an expert in internet law, intellectual property, and artificial intelligence and cognitive science models of law. He holds a Ph.D. from Cambridge University on legal reasoning, computer science and law degrees from Monash University (Australia) and an LL.M. from the University of Melbourne. He regularly publishes on issues dealing with intellectual property law, including the regulation of virtual worlds, artificial intelligence, and high technology. He received a Fulbright Fellowship, an American Council of Learned Societies Research Fellowship, a Herchel Smith Research Fellowship in Intellectual Property Law, and a Science Commons Fellowship.

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