Debunking Intellectual Property Myths: Cross-Cultural Experiments on Perceptions of Property

54 Pages Posted: 6 May 2019 Last revised: 13 Jun 2019

See all articles by Gregory N. Mandel

Gregory N. Mandel

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Kristina Olson

University of Washington - Dept of Psychology

Anne Fast

University of Washington-Department of Psychology

Date Written: April 5, 2019

Abstract

For decades the prevailing view in the United States and many Western countries has been that China does not appropriately respect intellectual property rights. These beliefs lie at the heart of President Donald Trump’s current trade war with China. Despite substantial geopolitical debate over differences between American and Chinese attitudes towards intellectual property rights, and despite the critical effects that such attitudes have on international economic markets and the function of the intellectual property system, empirical evidence of these attitudes is largely lacking. This Article presents original survey and experimental research that explores cross-cultural differences between American and Chinese attitudes towards intellectual property rights, personal property rights, and real property rights.

The results of the studies are somewhat counter-intuitive. First, Chinese participants are found to have more consistent preferences towards different types of property rights than Americans. In a series of vignettes designed to test attitudes towards patented subject matter, copyrighted subject matter, tangible personal property, and real property, Chinese responses were more consistent and less context driven. Second, Americans do identify a preference for stronger intellectual property rights than Chinese, but only where infringement is committed by a private party for private benefit. Where infringement is conducted for public benefit, whether by a private or a governmental entity, Chinese and Americans tend to have the same attitudes towards intellectual property rights. Third, Americans display a lower regard for intellectual property rights than for tangible property rights in most contexts, a differential that is not echoed in Chinese responses. The distinctions that Americans draw based on the use to which property is put, and between intellectual property and tangible property, is not consistent with the law.

Our experiments reveal that the ongoing debates over Chinese attitudes towards intellectual property rights miss the mark in certain regards. Chinese and American preferences for property rights are more similar than most have assumed, and the manners in which they differ are inconsistent with most proffered theories. These results provide important lessons for the future of international intellectual property rights relations, discourse, and enforcement.

Keywords: Intellectual Property, Property, China, Culture, Trade War, Patent, Copyright

JEL Classification: F13, F68, K11, K33, O34, O38, O57

Suggested Citation

Mandel, Gregory and Olson, Kristina and Fast, Anne, Debunking Intellectual Property Myths: Cross-Cultural Experiments on Perceptions of Property (April 5, 2019). Brigham Young University Law Review, Vol. 2020, No. 2 (Forthcoming); Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-19. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3312822 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3312822

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)

Kristina Olson

University of Washington - Dept of Psychology ( email )

Seattle, WA
United States

Anne Fast

University of Washington-Department of Psychology ( email )

Guthrie Hall Box 351525
Seattle, WA 98195
United States

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