To Enrich the World by Intellectual Property Law?
Yoshiyuki Tamura , Professor
Graduate School of Law
High school : Azabu High School (Tokyo)
Academic background : The University of Tokyo Faculty of Law
- Research areas
- intellectual property law
- Research keywords
- intellectual property rights, patents, copyrights, trademarks
What are you studying?
I study intellectual property law. Intellectual property law is a law concerning intellectual property, such as patents, copyrights and trademarks. As our economic society matures, the focus of economy is shifting towards “soft” aspects, such as services and giving an added value to things. Accordingly, intellectual property rights regarding such soft are gaining increased attention.
Why do such rights exist?
The first argument is that a person who have invented the patentable article or created the copyrightable work should be granted the right to use such a new invention or work as natural right. This way of thinking is known as natural-rights theory. It has been frequently advocated through the ages and is still convincing.
The second argument, which opposes this natural-rights theory, is that while the person who has accomplished an invention or creation should be rewarded, others should not always be forbidden to make any use of the invention or work. For example, while singing a song also involves the use of a work, no one should be required to obtain an approval from the copyright holder each time one sings the song on the road.
According to this argument, patent rights and copyrights are not given as natural rights, but are simply created out of necessity. Why are they necessary? If there were no rights, everyone could use the inventions and works of others free of charge and for whatever purpose. It would then be absurd to spend one’s own money and make any effort to invent or create copyrighted works. Nobody would do so. Accordingly, patent rights and copyrights are understood as being granted to the extent necessary so as not to discourage people engaged in intellectual creation, while being enforceable in cases such as singing a song before an audience for commercial purposes. This way of thinking, called incentive theory, takes into consideration the fact that patent rights and copyrights exist for the purpose of promoting industry and culture.
What is the problem?
Because intellectual property rights can generate huge sums of money, the enterprises that hold many of these rights are lobbying politicians both inside and outside of Japan for stronger intellectual property rights. On the other hand, due to the lack of time and funding, users remain unable to have their opinions politically expressed. As a result, current intellectual property rights are stronger than originally intended.
The patent on an airplane granted to the Wright brothers in 1906. This patent was later enforced so rigorously that it hampered the use of airplanes. This patent is therefore frequently referred to when the importance of the patent system is discussed.
According to the second argument described above, this is a worrisome situation because intellectual property rights should promote the growth of industry and culture. Furthermore, even if one agrees to the first argument, one could argue that while it is important to protect creators, stronger rights are not necessarily a good thing.
With these ideas in mind, the members of my lab are studying at what protection level intellectual property rights can properly enrich people and society, along with how we can achieve this level in the current political climate.According to the second argument described above, this is a worrisome situation because intellectual property rights should promote the growth of industry and culture. Furthermore, even if one agrees to the first argument, one could argue that while it is important to protect creators, stronger rights are not necessarily a good thing.
Yoshiyuki Tamura, Chitekizaisanho (Intellectual Property Law) (5th edition), Yuhikaku (2010)