Pluralism, Principles and Proportionality in Intellectual Property

Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 34 (1):181-200 (2014)
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This review article offers a European perspective on the pluralistic, principles-based model of intellectual property (IP) advanced by Robert Merges in his book Justifying Intellectual Property. After introducing Merges’s model and theory of IP with reference to IP theories generally, other pluralistic legal models, and patterns of judicial reasoning in the patent and copyright fields, the article argues that European jurisprudence offers broad support for Merges’s operational model of IP, while also challenging certain aspects of his wider analysis. They include his ‘one size fits all’ foundational theory of IP, his account of key IP rules and practices, and his choice and conception of IP’s midlevel principles. Through this critique the article draws attention to the utilitarian bias of Merges’s model; a bias which undermines its pluralistic claims, in part by undermining Merges’s own foundational theory of IP. The result is to underline the limits of a regime unconcerned with its own normative basis, and the need for more rather than less discussion of IP theory, including more work of the type that Merges’s book undertakes



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Justine Pila
Oxford University

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