One Hundred Years of Solicitude: Intellectual Property Law, 1900-2000
Author(s): Robert P. Merges
Abstract: The elaboration of intellectual property law is closely intertwined with new technologies. This Review Essay draws on selected episodes from the past 100 years to illustrate the three typical stages by which the legal system accomodates new technologies: (1) disequilibrium; (2) adaptation and adjustment; and (3) legislative consolidation. The final section of the Article introduces a cautionary contemporary note. As a byproduct of the increasing value of intellectual property, there has recently been a rapid increase in legislative activity, and concomitant lobbying activity. This changing political economy is greatly compressing the traditional three-step process, and may bypass it entirely in some circumstances. As a counterbalance to overzealous legislation, courts may be forced to look to the constitutional foundations of intellectual property as a source of limiting principles.
Keywords: intellectual property