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Balancing Private Rights and Public Policies: Reconceptualizing Property in Databases

80 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2003  

Jacqueline D. Lipton

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law


This Article presents a new paradigm for thinking about intangible property rights in response to recent criticism that information products such as databases should not be over-propertized. Analyzing the inherent problems with existing approaches, the Article concludes that creating private property rights in these intangible assets will not inevitably lead to commercial and social problems. On the contrary, legislatures can create private property rights that when accompanied by appropriate oversight and monitoring will preserve commercial markets and the public domain of information. Indeed, a new database law can use the concept of property as an organizing tool to properly balance private rights and public policies. In developing this new approach to database protection, this Article examines the international debate on the creation of private property rights in databases. Furthermore, unlike previous models for sui generis database protection law based on copyright or trade secret law, the model in this Article draws on the principles underlying trademark and patent law in reaching a new solution.

Keywords: database, copyright, trademark, sui generis

JEL Classification: K10, K11, K20, O34

Suggested Citation

Lipton, Jacqueline D., Balancing Private Rights and Public Policies: Reconceptualizing Property in Databases. Berkeley Technology Law Journal, Vol. 18, pp. 773-852, Summer 2003. Available at SSRN: or

Jacqueline Deborah Lipton (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-383-3207 (Phone)

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