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Boston College Law School




It is useful to think of intellectual property (IP) law both as a system of property rights that promotes the production of valuable information and as a system of government regulation that unintentionally promotes socially harmful rent-seeking. This Article analyzes methods of controlling rent-seeking costs associated with opportunistic and anti-competitive IP lawsuits. My thinking is guided to some extent by the analysis of procedural measures for controlling frivolous litigation, and analysis of antitrust reforms designed to control strategic abuse of antitrust law. These analogies lead me to focus on pre-trial and post-trial control measures that reduce the credibility of weak IP lawsuits. I conclude that intellectual property courts show some awareness of the value of fee-shifting and summary judgment as tools for controlling opportunistic and anti-competitive lawsuits. Courts display less awareness of the need to restrict preliminary injunctions or encourage declaratory judgments as control measures. Antitrust suits have only a limited role in deterring the most egregious anti-competitive conduct.

Besides attacking the credibility of weak lawsuits, it is probably desirable to eliminate the threat of some kinds of IP lawsuits entirely. This could be accomplished by eliminating or restricting IP rights such as business method patents, trade dress protection of product configuration and design, and copyright protection of art reproductions. In other words, it may be desirable to curtail the "standing" of parties who own IP rights that generate a substantial threat of opportunistic or anti-competitive litigation with little corresponding benefit in terms of productive incentives.


Boston University School of Law Working Paper Series, Law and Economics Working Paper No. 02-24

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