Leaps, Metes, and Bounds: Innovation Law and Its Logistics

50 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2015 Last revised: 8 Oct 2015

See all articles by James Ming Chen

James Ming Chen

Michigan State University - College of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2015


Economic analysis of technological innovation, diffusion, and decline often proceeds according to sigmoid (S-shaped) models, either directly or as a component in more elaborate mathematical representations of the creative process. Three distinct aspects of American innovation policy — Aereo’s failed attempt to retransmit television broadcasts, agricultural biotechnology, and network neutrality — invite analysis according to one variant or another of the logistic function. Innovation and legal policies designed to foster it follow the leaps, metes, and bounds of sigmoid functions.

Part I introduces the logistic function as the simplest analytical expression of a sigmoid function. Its parameters provide very clear interpretations grounded in physical principles. Part II evaluates the Aereo controversy and agricultural biotechnology as instances of logistic substitution between competing products. The deployment of plant-incorporated pesticides and herbicide-resistant crops arguably follows the Hubbert curve, a related function that describes peak production of depletable resources and their eventual exhaustion. Part III proposes multiple ways of understanding network neutrality as a problem of multilayered innovation. The presence of two different types of nonlinear growth, in network operating costs and in expressive diversity online, suggests that the law should prescribe independent rather than bundled solutions to these conceptually distinct subjects.

Keywords: Logistic, sigmoid, innovation, Verhulst, Lotka, Volterra, Aereo, agriculture, biotechnology, glyphosate, net neutrality

Suggested Citation

Chen, James Ming, Leaps, Metes, and Bounds: Innovation Law and Its Logistics (March 1, 2015). 2015 Michigan State Law Review 845, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2571830

James Ming Chen (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - College of Law ( email )

318 Law College Building
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

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