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Expression in Copyright, and its Reflections in Patent and 'Freedom of Expression'

152 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2010 Last revised: 22 Feb 2013

Xinglong Cao

City College of Zhejiang University

Date Written: March 28, 2009


This article carefully peruses some pivotal theories around the concepts of 'expression' and its equivalent in copyright, patent and 'freedom of expression,' such as 'dichotomies' of the 'expression/idea,' 'aesthetics/utility,' 'invention/nature' and 'method/idea.' The finding is that the existent definitions of the 'expression' in copyright law, 'invention' in patent law and 'method' in free speech law are confusing, which appears more obtrusive in cases related to modern scientific and technological issues. Through empirical and philosophical research, the author finds that the implementation of the traditional 'dichotomies' is in actuality unfeasible for the inseparable nature of all these subjects to be dichotomized. This research results that those so-called 'expression,' 'invention' or the 'method of communication' are always merged with their 'uncertain' ideas or nature. This finding, under the current legal frameworks, provides a more efficient approach for settling some fundamental puzzles in the intellectual property and free speech fields, including issues of self-justification of intellectual property systems and randomized works produced by computers. Such a new theory also introduces some new questions for further research.

Keywords: copyright, patent, freedom of expression, expression, idea, aesthetics, utility, invention, nature, method, dichotomy, merger, randomized, abstract, philosophy, intellectual property

Suggested Citation

Cao, Xinglong, Expression in Copyright, and its Reflections in Patent and 'Freedom of Expression' (March 28, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Xinglong Cao (Contact Author)

City College of Zhejiang University ( email )

Gongsu District
Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310058

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