This house would abolish intellectual property rights

Intellectual property (IP) is a legal field that refers to creations of the mind such as musical, literary, and artistic works; inventions; and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce, including copyrights, trademarks, patents, and related rights. Under intellectual property law, the holder of one of these abstract "properties" has certain exclusive rights to the creative work, commercial symbol, or invention by which it is covered, such as a limited monopoly on the sale of inventions and products of creative endeavour. The idea of intellectual property is relatively new, the term itself was not used until the 19th century and the legal principles only date back to the British Statute of Anne in 1710 and Statute of Monopolies from 1623. Different countries have different systems of intellectual property rights so there is often conflict between countries with one countries property rights not being respected by another. There has been some standardization through the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement that established minimum levels of protection for all World Trade Organization members. The main question for the debate on the issue of intellectual property hinges around whether it increases innovation and good business practice, as its defenders maintain, or whether it stifles these things by instituting unjust monopoly powers for the holders of intellectual property rights. However a broader issue of contention revolves around whether intellectual property is indeed a form of property, even though it is intangible in nature, or whether it is simply an invention and not a real form of property at all.

Title 
Intellectual property slows the dissemination of essential information and products
Point 

An individual or firm with a monopoly right to the production of something may not have the ability to efficiently go about meeting demand for it. Intellectual property rights slow, or even stop the dissemination of such ideas and inventions, as it may prove impossible to sway the creator to license or to market the product. Such an outcome is deleterious to society, as with the free sharing of ideas, an efficient producer, or producers, will emerge to meet the needs of the public1. A similar harm arises from the enervating effect intellectual property rights can generate in people and firms. When the incentive is to simply rest on one's patents, waiting to for them to expire before doing anything else, societal progress is slowed. In the absence of intellectual property, firms and individuals are necessarily forced to keep innovating to stay ahead, to keep looking for profitable products and ideas. The free flow of ideas generated by the abolition of intellectual property rights will invigorate economic dynamism. Furthermore, many firms that develop and patent ideas do not share them, nor do they act upon them themselves do to their unprofitability. This has been the case with various treatments for predominantly developing world diseases, which exist but are unprofitable to distribute to where they are needed most, in part of Africa and Asia.2 With no intellectual property rights, the access to such drugs would be facilitated and producers interested in helping the sick rather than simply profiting would be able to help those in need left to die due to intellectual property.
1 Stim, Rishand. 2006. Profit from Your Idea: How to Make Smart Licensing Decisions. Berkeley: Nolo.
Boseley, Sarah. 2006. "Rich Countries 'Blocking Cheap Drugs for Developing World'".The Guardian.

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Counterpoint 

There is no significant slowing down of the spread of information in the long run, since intellectual property generally only lasts for a short time, meaning owners have an incentive to make the most of it while they can. Besides, any small slowing down of the spread of ideas and innovations is a small price to pay for the recognition of a person's fundamental right to the product of his effort. Furthermore, licensing arrangements are becoming more and more refined to allow for the quick transfer of rights in order to meet societal demands for products. Licensing law has also begun to extend to products that producers may not wish to produce, such as medication for sick Africans, and is helping to force firms that refuse to act upon their patents to license the right to those that will.

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Title 
The complicated legal arrangements created by intellectual property raise costs of doing business:
Point 

Many firms cannot act independently, but rather rely on the technology and systems of other firms. The complicated, and often convoluted, licensing arrangements needed by many firms to function sap resources and effort, slowing productivity and causing general economic sluggishness. In high-tech and science research firms particularly, mutual licensing pacts are needed that often slow production and advancement due to the complicated legal arrangements that must be entered into to allow firms to go about their business. For example, the recent battle over rights to computer technology between Hewlett-Packard and Oracle, which has cost both firms millions of dollars in legal fighting1. These costs are entirely mitigated in the absence of intellectual property rights, as ideas flow freely and people can go about their business without the complications of licensing.
Orlowski, Andrew. 2011. "Oracle and Itanic: Tech's Nastiest Ever Row?". The Register.

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Counterpoint 

The complications in the legal framework are not reason to eliminate intellectual property rights. In fact, most licensing arrangements are done swiftly and amicably between firms. Intellectual property battles over licensing arrangements are the exception rather than the rule. With intellectual property, firms feel free to share openly through licensing. Without it, they will be more reticent to share anything.

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Title 
Firms and individuals misallocate resources trying to race others to the same goal, and spend resources stealing from one another:
Point 

Intellectual property rights systems create perverse incentives in firms, leading them to inefficiently allocate resources. One such inefficiency arises from the duplication of effort by firms seeking to develop the same process or product, though only the first to do so may profit from it. This leads to brutal races and excessive expenditure of resources to be first over the line and to monopolize the production, at least for a time. Another serious inefficiency arises in the production of similar products to existing ones, seeking to get around existing intellectual property rights. Such has been the case for years in the pharmaceutical industry, which has succeeded in curing erectile dysfunction dozens of times. An overemphasis on such spinning off of similar products is the result of intellectual property rights perverting incentives1. Furthermore, intellectual property rights create the problem of corporate espionage. Firms seeking to be the first to develop a new product so as to patent it will often seek to steal or sabotage the research of other competing firms so as to be the first to succeed. Without intellectual property rights, such theft would be pointless. Clearly, in the absence of intellectual property, markets and firms will behave more efficiently.
Gabb, Sean. 2005. "Market Failure and the Pharmaceutical Industry: A Proposal for Reform". National Health Federation.

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Counterpoint 

The cost of research and development of new products is often extremely high for firms. In order to reap a profit from their efforts, they must be able to count on the guarantee of ownership over their intellectual property. In the absence of such a guarantee, the incentive of firms to research and innovate declines substantially, resulting in a less dynamic business climate. The duplication of effort by research firms is rare in practice, and the efforts to develop spin-off products can easily become the beginning of entirely new inventive projects.

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Title 
Costs of monitoring intellectual property rights by states and companies outweigh the benefits, and is often ineffective:
Point 

The state incurs huge costs in monitoring for intellectual property right infringement, in arresting suspected perpetrators, in imprisonment of those found guilty, even though in reality nothing was stolen but an idea that, once released to it, belonged to the public domain. The United States government, for example, projects costs of investigating intellectual property claims will cost $429 million between 2009 and 20131. Firms likewise devote great amounts of resources and effort to the development of non-duplicable products, in monitoring for infringement, and in prosecuting offenders, all of which generates huge costs and little or no return2. Furthermore, the deterrent effect to intellectual property piracy generated by all the efforts of the state and firms has proven generally minimal. This is because in many cases intellectual property rights are next to unenforceable, as the music and movie industries have learned in recent years. Only a tiny handful of perpetrators are ever caught, and though they are often punished severely in an attempt to deter future crime, it does little to stop it. Intellectual property, in many cases, simply does not work in practice; firms should move with the times and recognize they need to innovate in ways that will compensate.

Legal Alert. 2009. "PRO-IP Act Promises Increased Focus on IP Rights and Expanded Counterfeiting Remedies". Sutherland.

World Intellectual Property Organization. 2011. "Emerging Issues in Intellectual Property".

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Counterpoint 

It may be costly and sometimes ineffective to police property rights, but that does not make them less of a right. Efficiency and Justice are not the same thing. If firms feel they can benefit from fighting infringers of their intellectual property rights, it is their right to do so. The state likewise, has an obligation to protect the rights, physical and intangible, of its citizens and cannot give up on them simply because they prove difficult and costly to enforce. For the state the costs accrued by efforts to enforce intellectual property are repaid many fold by the fact that businesses feel safer to invest in them due to the perceived protections the state promises.

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Title 
There is no such thing as intellectual property, since you cannot own an idea:
Point 

An individual's idea, so long as it rests solely in his mind or is kept safely hidden, belongs to him. When he disseminates it to everyone and makes it public, it becomes part of the public domain, and belongs to anyone who can use it. If individuals or firms want to keep something a secret, like a production method, then they should keep it to themselves and be careful with how they disseminate their product. One should not, however, expect some sort of ownership to inhere in an idea one has, since no such ownership right exists1. No one can own an idea. Thus recognizing something like a property right over intangible assets is contrary to reason, since doing so gives monopoly power to individuals who may not make efficient or equitable use of their inventions or products. Physical property is a tangible asset, and thus can be protected by tangible safeguards. Ideas do not share this right to protection, because an idea, once spoken, enters the public domain and belongs to everyone.
1 Fitzgerald, Brian and Anne Fitzgerald. 2004. Intellectual Property: In Principle. Melbourne: Lawbook Company.

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Counterpoint 

Intellectual property rights systems create perverse incentives in firms, leading them to inefficiently allocate resources. One such inefficiency arises from the duplication of effort by firms seeking to develop the same process or product, though only the first to do so may profit from it. This leads to brutal races and excessive expenditure of resources to be first over the line and to monopolize the production, at least for a time. Another serious inefficiency arises in the production of similar products to existing ones, seeking to get around existing intellectual property rights. Such has been the case for years in the pharmaceutical industry, which has succeeded in curing erectile dysfunction dozens of times. An overemphasis on such spinning off of similar products is the result of intellectual property rights perverting incentives1. Furthermore, intellectual property rights create the problem of corporate espionage. Firms seeking to be the first to develop a new product so as to patent it will often seek to steal or sabotage the research of other competing firms so as to be the first to succeed. Without intellectual property rights, such theft would be pointless. Clearly, in the absence of intellectual property, markets and firms will behave more efficiently.
Gabb, Sean. 2005. "Market Failure and the Pharmaceutical Industry: A Proposal for Reform"

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Title 
Policing intellectual property rights is self-sustaining
Point 

While there is a cost to implementing intellectual property rights and policing them this cost is mostly met by those who apply for the patents. Each country’s patent office charges for the patent application, in the case of the UK this is between £230-280.1 It also costs to renew the patent year on year with the cost often rising. This means that the government offices that process intellectual property meet their costs through the user fees.2 Much of the costs of enforcement are also met by those who own the intellectual property as their patents enable them to go to court against those who they believe are infringing their intellectual property rights. 

1Intellectual Property Office, How much does it cost?

2Inventors Digest, Patent Office Unveils New, Bigger Budget, 2011

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Counterpoint 

While there is little cost to the government of recognizing intellectual property rights there is a big cost to those whose intellectual property is being protected. The cost of both processing and enforcement is passed on to the users who are the people who are most innovative. This is adding a cost to innovation and so making it less attractive to innovate.

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Title 
The product of an individual's intellectual endeavour is the property of that individual, who deserves to profit from it
Point 

Every individual deserves to profit from his creative endeavours, and this is secured through the application of intellectual property rights. When an individual mixes his labour with capital or other resources, part of him inheres in the product that arises from his effort. This is the origin of property rights. Property rights are an unquestioned mainstay of life in all developed countries, and are an essential prerequisite for stable markets to develop and function.[1] Intellectual property rights are protected by law in much the same way as more conventional physical property, as well it should be. Individuals generating ideas and using their effort to produce an intangible good, be it a new invention, piece of replicable art, etc. have a property right on those ideas and the products that arise from them. It is the effort to produce a real good, albeit an intangible one, that marks the difference between an idea in someone's head that he does not act up, and intellectual property. Developing new inventions, songs, and brands are all very intensive endeavours, taking time, energy, and often a considerable amount of financial investment. People and firms deserve as a matter of principle to benefit from the products of the effort of creation. For this reason, stealing intellectual property is the same as stealing an actual physical product. Each is a real thing, even if one can be touched while the other is intangible in a physical sense. Often the product of intellect is the source of income of an individual; the musician who is too old to play any longer, for example, may rely entirely upon revenues generated by their intellectual property rights to survive. As a matter of principle, property rights can be assigned to intangible assets like intellectual property, and in practice they are a necessity to many people's livelihood.

[1] Fitzgerald, Brian and Anne Fitzgerald. 2004. Intellectual Property: In Principle. Melbourne: Lawbook Company.

 

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Counterpoint 

No one can own an idea. Thus creating something like a property right over intangible assets is a meaningless endeavour. Doing so gives monopoly power to individuals who may not make efficient or equitable use of their inventions or products. Physical property is a tangible asset, and thus can be protected by tangible safeguards. Ideas do not share this right to protection, because an idea, once spoken, enters the public domain and belongs to anyone who can use it.

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Title 
Intellectual property rights incentivize investment of time and money in developing new products
Point 

When a real chance of profit exists in the development of a new product, or writing a new song, people put the effort into developing and creating them. The incentive to profit drives a great deal of people’s intellectual endeavors. Research and development, for example, forms a major part of industries’ investment, as they seek to create new products and inventions that will benefit consumers, and thus society as a whole. Research and development is extremely costly, however. The 2000 largest global companies invest more than €430 billion a year in researching new products1. The fear of theft, or of lack of profit stemming from such research, will serve as a powerful disincentive to investment, which is why countries with less robust intellectual property rights schemes are not home to research and development firms. Without the protection of intellectual property rights, new inventions lose much of their value, since a second-comer on the field can simply take the invention and develop the same product without the heavy costs of research involved, leaving the innovative company worse off than its copycat competitor. This will lead to far less innovation, and will hamper companies currently geared toward innovative and progressive products. Furthermore, intellectual property is particularly important to firms with high fixed costs and low marginal costs, or with low reverse engineering costs, such as computer, software, and pharmaceutical firms. The costs of commercialization, which include building factories, developing markets, etc., are often much higher than the costs of the initial conception of an idea2. Without the guarantee of ownership over intellectual products, the incentive to invest in their development is diminished. Within a robust intellectual property rights system, firms and individuals compete to produce the best product for patenting and licensing that will give them a higher market share and allow them to reap high profits. These incentives lead firms to “invent around” one another’s patents, leading to gradual improvements in technologies, benefiting consumers. Clearly, intellectual property is essential for a dynamic, progressive business world.

1Institute for Prospective Technological Studies. 2009. “The 2009 EU Industrial R&D Investment Socreboard”. Economics of Industrial Research and Innovation

2Markey, Justice Howard. 1975. Special Problems in Patent Cases, 66 F.R.D. 529.

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Counterpoint 

Research and development will continue, irrespective of intellectual property rights. The desire of firms to stay ahead of the competition will drive them to invest in research regardless. That their profits will be diminished by the removal of intellectual property rights is only natural and due to the fact that they will no longer have monopoly control over their intangible assets, and will thus not be able to engage in the rent-seeking behavior inherent in monopoly control of products.

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Title 
The salable and conferrable nature of intellectual property allows for the efficient and just distribution of ideas
Point 

Intellectual property rights are extremely important in the efficient and equitable allocation of ideas to firms and individuals1. The ability to sell intellectual property rights allows the price mechanism to assign ownership to the firms most likely to make a profit, and that are thus most likely to produce the product most efficiently, which will benefit all consumers. Furthermore, the ability to confer intellectual property rights on others is important, as often intellectual property, like licensing and patents, can support inventors' and artists' families after they are incapacitated or die. This is no different from the fact that ownership of physical property can be conferred for the betterment of dependents and family. It is only just that intellectual property be recognized and protected by law, so that it may be efficiently and fairly sold and transferred between parties.

Counterpoint 

It is no more just that an individual's family benefit from a monopoly over an idea, than the individual who created it. There remains no inherent right to an idea. As for the sale of patents and licenses, firms will waste precious resources in fighting amongst each other for monopoly control over intellectual property, and will even buy the rights to products with no intention of using them, planning simply to prevent any competitors from doing so. The most efficient system is to have ideas be public and accessible and usable by everyone. When they are, more innovation will occur.

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Title 
Intellectual property rights allow individuals to release their inventions into the public domain
Point 

Without the protection of intellectual property, artists, inventors, and innovators may develop ideas without ever releasing them to the public because they lack the ability to market them successfully, or to profit by their endeavours. After all, no one likes to see others profit by their hard work, and leaving them nothing; such is tantamount to slavery. The recognition of intellectual property rights encourages the release of ideas, inventions, and art to be released to the public, which serves to benefit society generally. Furthermore, the disclosure of ideas and inventions to the public allows firms to try to make the product better by "inventing around" the initial design, or by exploiting it once the term of the intellectual property right expires1. If the idea never enters the public, it might never do so, leaving society bereft of a potentially valuable asset.
Business Line. 2007. "Patents Grant Freedom to Invent Around". Hindu Business Line.

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Counterpoint 

More ideas are not released into the public when there is intellectual property. The release of ideas is most bountiful when there is active and constant competition to produce newer and better products and ideas. This is only possible in the absence of constricting intellectual property rights. The ideas circulating in the public domain are only expanded by the constant competition and innovation essential for firms to succeed in the absence of intellectual property protections.

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