Intellectual Property Rights and Institutions: A Pluralist Account

202 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2013 Last revised: 25 Feb 2015

See all articles by Michael E. Kenneally

Michael E. Kenneally

Harvard University - Law School - Alumni

Date Written: May 5, 2014


Debates over intellectual property’s justifications tend to treat natural rights and utilitarian accounts as competitors, but they should be seen as complements instead. Lockean and Kantian theories of intellectual property highlight the strong interests that intellectual property creators have in profiting from and exercising some degree of control over their work, but neither theory gives sufficient justification for the full assortment of rights that intellectual property owners have under current law. Utilitarian accounts provide an essential supplement to these natural rights theories by focusing on society’s interests in the production of useful information and creative expression, but that does not mean intellectual property law should single-mindedly strive only to maximize social welfare. Developing both natural rights – based and utilitarian justifications, this dissertation advances a pluralist account of intellectual property that understands different features of copyright, patent, and trademark law to be serving different normative interests.

Suggested Citation

Kenneally, Michael E., Intellectual Property Rights and Institutions: A Pluralist Account (May 5, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Michael E. Kenneally (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Law School - Alumni ( email )

5163 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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