Privatizing the Intellectual Commons: Universities and the Commercialization of Biotechnology
Julia Porter Liebeskind
University of Southern California - Management and Organization Department
Nicholas S. Argyres
Boston University - School of Management
This paper analyzes universities' attempts, since the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, to adapt their organizational arrangements to accommodate the commercialization of biotechnology research conducted by their faculty. We argue that universities' adaptive efforts have been severely hampered because internal and external parties have sought to enforce universities' adherence to their outstanding social commitment to create and sustain an "intellectual commons" for the benefit of society at large. The internal organizational arrangements universities efficiently maintain to administer the intellectual commons have also served to impede adaptive efforts. We conclude that social-contractual commitments and organizational standards may place important limits on the scope of organizations generally, as well as significantly affecting the shape and outcome of negotiations over property rights.
JEL Classification: K23, L69working papers series
Date posted: July 2, 1998
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