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Laws of Creation

Laws of Creation

Property Rights in the World of Ideas

Ronald A. Cass, Keith N. Hylton

ISBN 9780674066458

Publication date: 01/01/2013

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While innovative ideas and creative works increasingly drive economic success, the historic approach to encouraging innovation and creativity by granting property rights has come under attack by a growing number of legal theorists and technologists. In Laws of Creation, Ronald Cass and Keith Hylton take on these critics with a vigorous defense of intellectual property law. The authors look closely at the IP doctrines that have been developed over many years in patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret law. In each area, legislatures and courts have weighed the benefits that come from preserving incentives to innovate against the costs of granting innovators a degree of control over specific markets. Over time, the authors show, a set of rules has emerged that supports wealth-creating innovation while generally avoiding overly expansive, growth-retarding licensing regimes.

These rules are now under pressure from detractors who claim that changing technology undermines the case for intellectual property rights. But Cass and Hylton explain how technological advances only strengthen that case. In their view, the easier it becomes to copy innovations, the harder to detect copies and to stop copying, the greater the disincentive to invest time and money in inventions and creative works. The authors argue convincingly that intellectual property laws help create a society that is wealthier and inspires more innovation than those of alternative legal systems. Ignoring the social value of intellectual property rights and making what others create and nurture “free” would be a costly mistake indeed.


  • Be it the illegal downloading of music on the Internet or the sale of fake designer products on street comers, intellectual property is under attack these days. For many, intellectual property is a barrier to commerce and the sharing of ideas, a zero-sum game between the creator and the rest of the world. Cass and Hylton, authors of this cogent and readable book, disagree, arguing that the protection of intellectual property enhances social welfare and creativity. The book offers a good overview that defines what intellectual property is, explains why ideas are protected, and then provides successive chapter discussions of its four major components: patent, trade secrets, copyright, and trademark law. Each chapter explains the law and the economic justification of each type of law. The authors also discuss the challenges of protecting intellectual property in a global economy and under terms of rapidly changing technology. This is an excellent book for those wishing to understand how and why many common practices such as file swapping on the Internet threaten creativity.

    —D. Schultz, Choice


  • Ronald A. Cass is Dean Emeritus, Boston University School of Law, and President, Cass & Associates, PC.
  • Keith N. Hylton is the Honorable Paul J. Liacos Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law.

Book Details

  • 288 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press