Protecting the Right to Innovate: Our 'Innovation Wetlands'

Andrew W. Torrance

University of Kansas - School of Law

Eric A. Von Hippel

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

October 9, 2013

MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 5115-13

Individual citizens have been found to be a major source of new product and service innovations of value both to themselves, and to the economy at large. These individuals operate in a little-understood legal environment that we call the innovation wetlands. We show via a review of fundamental rights guaranteed in the US Constitution and elsewhere that individuals in the US participating in the innovation wetlands have strong legal protections with respect to both their freedom to innovate and their right to diffuse information about their innovations to others. However, we also show that legislation and regulation — often promulgated without awareness of consumer innovation as a valuable resource — can, in practice, significantly interfere with individuals’ exercise of their fundamental freedom to innovate. This interference can cost society dearly.

We offer three approaches to protecting the valuable resource of innovation by individuals from excessive negative impacts caused by legislation and regulation. First, we propose enhancing general awareness of the issue by framing the concept of individual innovation rights as an "innovation wetlands" that must be protected. Second, we describe the legislative and regulatory frameworks and practices that demark today’s innovation wetlands, as experienced by individual and collaborating innovators. Third, we suggest improvements that can strengthen protection of the innovation wetlands, including heightening awareness of the issue in existing, mandated cost-benefit analyses that are already applied, although imperfectly, to regulation in the US.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 28

Keywords: user innovation, individual innovators

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Date posted: October 12, 2013 ; Last revised: August 29, 2014

Suggested Citation

Torrance, Andrew W. and von Hippel, Eric A., Protecting the Right to Innovate: Our 'Innovation Wetlands' (October 9, 2013). MIT Sloan Research Paper No. 5115-13. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2339132 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2339132

Contact Information

Andrew W. Torrance
University of Kansas - School of Law ( email )
Green Hall
1535 W. 15th Street
Lawrence, KS 66045-7577
United States
Eric Von Hippel (Contact Author)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-7155 (Phone)
617-253-2660 (Fax)
Feedback to SSRN

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