INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY (OR “IP”) law is the set of laws that primarily encompasses copyright, patent, and trademark law. It also includes trade secrets and publicity rights. It is one of the most important structuring systems in modern society, as it underpins vast industries such as aerospace, architecture, pharmaceutics, media, and entertainment. It is the locus of concerns about counterfeiting and piracy, it grounds arguments about trade, export, and competition, and it is at the core of discussions over knowledge-based economies, and policies relating to creativity and innovation.
IP laws are all about us, but go mostly unrecognized. They are complicated and arcane, and few people understand why they should care about, for example, copyright law, the grant of a patent, or the registration of a trademark. The IP system didn't exist in its modern form until the 18th century, and as recently as 1945, it was only important to a tiny group of people—newspaper proprietors, film studios, engineering firms, and toothpaste companies. Nowadays, the IP System profoundly affects global trade, and enables trillions of dollars of commerce. These laws define the modern era; without them we wouldn't have famous brands like Coca-Cola or Sony, the internet would not exist, and we wouldn't have an iPhone in our pocket.
In this book, we have brought together a group of contributors who have been drawn not only from law and history, but also from sociology, media studies, horticulture, science and technology studies, among others, while spanning a wide geographical range. In their chapters, they address the different IP regimes to tell a history of IP in 50 objects.
These objects demonstrate the importance of the IP System. They invite questions about various aspects of its multifaceted development. The objects show us how IP has developed and worked within human history, and show its influence on a ränge of historical events, developments, and movements. And perhaps most importantly, they are at the core of some great stories.