What is IP For? Experiments in Lay and Expert Perceptions

19 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2017 Last revised: 10 May 2017

See all articles by Gregory N. Mandel

Gregory N. Mandel

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: 2016


The normative justifications for intellectual property (“IP”) law are richly debated. Some policymakers and experts argue that intellectual property should serve utilitarian goals, while others contend that the law should seek to protect natural rights or expressive ends. Such debates have historically lacked data concerning how human actors in the IP system actually conceive of the law. This Essay examines the results of experiments on the understanding of IP law for two critical components of the IP system: the public at large and IP attorneys.

The studies of popular perceptions of IP law reveal that the most prevalent perception does not align with any of the commonly accepted bases. Rather, the modal response is that IP law exists to prevent plagiarism. The study of IP attorneys displays much greater alignment with an incentivist approach to IP rights. That being said, even here there is still variation in this conception and in how IP conceptions align with opinions on the strength of protection. These results raise significant questions about the legitimacy and function of IP law under its traditional justifications.

Keywords: Intellectual Property, Patent, Copyright, Psychology

Suggested Citation

Mandel, Gregory, What is IP For? Experiments in Lay and Expert Perceptions (2016). St. John's Law Review, Vol. 90, No. 3, 2016, Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-10, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2954010

Gregory Mandel (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
(215) 204-2381 (Phone)

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