A Lockean Theory of Intellectual Property

Hamline Law Review, Vol. 21, pp. 65-108, Fall 1997

44 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2012 Last revised: 6 Mar 2018

See all articles by Adam D. Moore

Adam D. Moore

University of Washington - The Information School

Date Written: 1997


What follows is a brief introduction to the domain or subject matter of intellectual property, an examination of the most widely supported rule-utilitarian argument, a defense of a new Lockean model, and suggested revisions in Anglo- American intellectual property law based on the Lockean model. I will argue that incentives based rule-utilitarian arguments fail to justify anything remotely close to modern Anglo-American copyright, patent, and trade secret institutions. Moreover, rule-utilitarian moral theory is beset with a number of problems that undermine its initial plausibility. If I am correct, and rule-utilitarian models of intellectual property fail, justification for intellectual property rights must be found elsewhere.

In the most general terms, my hope is to change public policy and the way judges and lawyers think about protect- ing the creative efforts of authors and inventors. Rights to control intellectual works are not ultimately based solely on grounds of social utility. This is clear in the most trivial of case; independent of social utility, individuals have the right to control the contents of their minds. I will argue that we must recast institutions of intellectual property in a Lockean light, thereby providing a firmer foundation for rights and a closer fit with other rights found within the Anglo- American tradition.

Suggested Citation

Moore, Adam D., A Lockean Theory of Intellectual Property (1997). Hamline Law Review, Vol. 21, pp. 65-108, Fall 1997, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1980882

Adam D. Moore (Contact Author)

University of Washington - The Information School ( email )

Box 352840
Mary Gates Hall, Ste. 370
Seattle, WA 98195
206.685.9937 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://ischool.uw.edu

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics