Intellectual Property and the Firm

18 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2005 Last revised: 6 Oct 2015

See all articles by Dan L. Burk

Dan L. Burk

University of California, Irvine School of Law


Although much of the innovative activity prompted by the incentive of intellectual property rewards occurs within the context of the firm, relatively little attention has been paid to intellectual property law in light of the theory of the firm. Modern theories of the firm have developed from regarding the firm as an enclave of lowered transaction cost, to a nexus of contract, to a repository of residual property rights. Many of the residual rights held by firms will accrue as intangible intellectual property assets. This view of the firm is congruent with a variety of intellectual property doctrines, such as the "work made for hire" provisions of copyright, the "shop right" of patent law, and much of the law of trade secrecy. Certain other intellectual property doctrines, such as the view of inventive entities under patent law, might be adjusted to better accommodate the residual rights function of the firm.

Keywords: Coase, patent, copyright, theory of the firm, trade secrecy, residual rights, innovation, shop right, work for hire

JEL Classification: D21, D23, H32, L21, O34, M54, O31, O32, O33, J24

Suggested Citation

Burk, Dan L., Intellectual Property and the Firm. Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05-13, Available at SSRN:

Dan L. Burk (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

4500 Berkeley Place
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States
949-824-9325 (Phone)

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