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Intellectual property and access to im/material goods
Dominicé A., Lai J., Edward Elgar Publishing, Incorporated, Northampton, MA, 2016. 360 pp.  Type: Book (978-1-784716-61-5)
Date Reviewed: Oct 18 2017

Reciting once-famous cases, strange doctrines expose ongoing adventures of intellectual property (IP) rights. For example, Charles Dickens bequeathed one of his manuscripts to a female relative, and concurrently (1870) left all of the rest of his estate to his children; so the courts eventually ruled that “all of the rest of his estate” included copyrights to the physical manuscript, but not the physical manuscript per se. One wonders, of course, if that could ever have been his intention, considering how literate he was in crafting written expression.

Sharing substantial dilemmas and profound paradoxes, welcome to an inaugural think tank conference, comprising a scholarly anthology of 11 insightful, articulate essays, which collectively portray a history of sharpening cutting-edge technology, between a rock (capitalism), a lubricant (socialism), and a hard abrasive grit (legal precedents). Behold: many well-referenced contemplations worthy of your esteemed consideration.

As this wonderful book proceeds into problems of rights, one begins to deconvolve typical contemporary technological progress manifestations as products of “mountains” of basic research, quasi-blind or (sometimes also) double-blind experimentation, and indeterminate development cycles (often curiously just-not-converging according to prior understanding expectations). These, in turn, are the respective sweet-sour-or-bitter fruits of endless numbers of tired individuals, for-profit “educational” institutions, bureaucratic organizations, “transcendent” corporations, and unknown episodes involving diffuse instantiations of unseen, unrecorded counterintuitive inspirations. As with the Dickens estate, the courts again must ponder how and to whom IP rights should be apportioned.

Exposing larger IP vistas, this book shares various orientations characterizing conflicting visions, respectively described, documented, and discussed among the sections dealing with “Theoretical Reflections,” “New Technologies,” “Practical Considerations,” and “Traditional Knowledge,” eventually exposing today’s world, where there are many “competing” best practices models of appropriate technology innovation (from inception to obsolescence) that conform to acceptable economic incentives, yet fail to provide a broad spectrum of rights, rewards, and privileges. Diverging legal theories contemplate consistent schemes, paradigms, and programs to bless (or exploit) mankind with more of the new, useful, and unobvious, albeit not necessarily navigating to any altruistic tomorrow.

Okay, a general thought experiment (for readers appreciating the courts’ unfolding IP conundrum): current manufactured goods are an assembly of working components, operational logic, user interfaces, integration protocols, design specifications, nested packaging topologies, ergonomic accommodations, model-derived thresholds, government-regulated calibrations, and consumer education, motivation, and habituation emanations (trademarks, branding, psychophysical semiotics, and so on). Sorting such industrial aspect categories by value added depends on too many factors specific to exemplary items. Viewed through this book’s insights, industrial-produce elements, aspects, and attributes will allow assessment of respective values added. Furthermore, peeking over the horizon of today’s technologies, the ongoing conflict between social needs and economic interest argues where value-appreciated uniqueness may be substantially worthy of legal protection, perhaps as some form of property rights.

Being impossible to mention all of the invigorating examples mentioned across these essays, here is a glimpse into echoes from my personal favorites. The dematerialization focus of IP rights is reinventing the scope of “genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and folklore” (as defined by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)) to include the beliefs and practices of indigenous peoples ... and their “intangible heritage” of “knowledge, meanings, relationships, and rights and responsibilities associated with objects, sites, and landscapes.” Alternately stated: modern legal doctrines relating to human rights and natural sites are reconstructing the IP legal doctrines of Aboriginal people. Likewise, just as trademarks are renewable in perpetuity (if maintained in use), intangible cultural expressions should to be considered akin to ancient “marks” that have acquired an anthropological equivalent to “famous marks” (which are IP accepted to extend beyond any specific class of goods or services).

In another example, imagine the presidential inauguration as if the separation of religion from state actually is a long-term proposition to invest state protocol “expressions of ritual and ceremony” as intangible spiritually significant forms. Thus, not unlike the ancient tribes, the current exemplary IP agenda calls for adjudicating recognizing exemplary tangible embodiments (such as costumes and instruments) as inseparable from associated elements of “music, song, dance, and chants” within the same folklore (think of the military marching band and inaugural balls). Other emerging IP examples: world heritage sites and historic landmarks are our primitive postmodern entry into an acknowledgement of sacred spaces; encapsulated decommissioned nuclear facilities are our eternal mythical monuments to misguided “earthly dominion”; or our detachment from Aboriginal and primordial roots are forcing us to recreate (in exhaustive detail) the IP wisdom that we once deemed primitive.

Thus, even if you have time to read this book (between your professional working hours), consider making it one of your personal carry-on items (for your next vacation), by reason that you will enjoy studying these essays (and their legal footnotes)--more than any app on your mobile device--on the plane, on the beach, and even in place of checking your email.

Reviewer:  Chaim Scheff Review #: CR145596 (1712-0799)
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