2010 Wisconsin Law Review Symposium: Intergenerational Equity and Intellectual Property

Intellectual Overview

Academic theory has recently given intergenerational equity much deserved attention. Scholars have begun to ask probing question about what intergenerational equity requires of society as it manages the environment, financial security, and reproductive rights. Yet, one area, intellectual property, has not received proper attention and as a result it has been under-theorized. Intellectual property in its many forms from patent to copyright to trademark to trade secrets to right of publicity plays a vital and central role in how individuals and society order our world. Consider health-related patents, the longer they are in force, the longer one or two generations may be denied access to preventative care; copyrighted educational resources, the longer the works require a license, the longer the society keeps the its best insights and works away from building a truly public education system; and the practically eternal trademark rights over cultural materials, as long as Mickey Mouse, Coca-Cola, and other trademarks are in use, society is restricted in its ability to comment, reshape, and reinvent cultural meanings that are central to our culture. These specific examples illustrate that all areas of intellectual property law must address whether a closed, proprietary system, an open commons-based system, or some blended form of the two, will be able to manage the competing interests of the current generation and future generations. How we manage such resources so that current generations may thrive while leaving open the same possibility for future generations must be better understood. This symposium seeks to start this work.

The symposium speakers will be leading academics organized into six panels to address core issues that intergenerational equity raises for intellectual property.

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