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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Logic of Innovation and IP in Europe

The Logic of Innovation: Intellectual Property, and What the User Found There, published by Ashgate in its Intellectual Property, Theory, Culture series, is an engaging and imaginative piece of writing from emeritus Kat and eminent academic Johanna Gibson (Herchel Smith Professor of Intellectual Property Law, Queen Mary University of London).

While many IP authors have picked on Lewis Carroll's Alice themes in their writings, and an more still have relied on his two out-of-copyright children's tales for any number of often out-of-context quotes, this Kat has yet to find any serious account of IP that has both sustained Alice themes throughout an entire book and made sense of them in so doing.  But this is what Jo has done.  As the publisher's web-blurb explains:
The Logic of Innovation examines not merely the supposed problem of the efficacy and relevance of intellectual property, and the nature of innovation and creativity in a digital environment, but also the very circumstances of that inquiry itself. Social life has itself become a sphere of production, but how might that be understood within the cultural and structural transformation of creativity, innovation and property? 
Through a highly original interlocutory and therapeutic approach to the issues in play, the author addresses the concepts of innovation and the digital by means of an investigation through literature and the imagination of new scenarios for language, business and legal reform. The book undertakes a complex inquiry into innovation and property through the wonder of Alice’s journeys in Wonderland and through the Looking-glass. The author presents a new theory of familiar production to account for the kinship that has emerged in both informal and commercial modes of innovation, and foregrounds the value of use as crucial to the articulation of intellectual property within contemporary models of production and commercialization in the digital.
This is an easy book to read, but a difficult one to read properly since the intelligent reader must make the effort to adapt both to the mindset of the author and to that of the Wonderland/Through the Looking-glass context.  But the effort is worthwhile: for anyone who is sick to the back teeth of books that are described as "essential reading for every patent practitioner" but aren't, here's a book that isn't essential reading for anyone unless they want to exercise their brain and their imagination -- and to get a little glimpse of what it is that makes intellectual property such a magical subject for those of us who love it.

Bibliographic data: hardback. xiii + 356 pages.  Price £80 (£72 from the publisher's website). ISBN 978-1-4094-5417-5. Also available as an e-book. Rupture factor: small, unless you laugh a lot.  Book's web page here.

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The fourth edition of Tritton on Intellectual Property in Europe, published at the tail-end of 2014, is a welcome update -- or to be more accurate upgrade -- of this standard work, a new edition of which emerges like clockwork every six years.  Once upon a time the subject was manageable enough to occupy the time and effort of a single author, but after 18 years this book's progenitor and founding author Guy Tritton has been joined by four other contributors, all drawn from among his colleagues in Hogarth Chambers -- Richard Davis, Ben Longstaff, Ashley Roughton and Tom St Quintin [Merpel notes that, with characteristic humility, Guy has chosen collaborators all of whose surnames precede his own in the alphabet ...].

Given the fact that intellectual property law has expanded in terms of its subject matter, its scope and the manner in which it interfaces with not just competition law but so many facets of European substantive and procedural law, it is astonishing that the authors have managed to keep this book to a single volume, albeit a very large one. Had the book been composed with paper that was thick enough to prevent the reader being occasionally distracted by the reverse print on the other side of each flimsy leaf, it would unquestionably have required a second volume.  Even with paper as thin as this, the next edition is unlikely to be contained between a single cover unless the subject ceases to grow and the world stops dead in its tracks -- or unless the publishers shrink the agreeably large type.  However, since Tritton on IP is one of the few English-language commentaries that Advocates-General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) seem to feel comfortable with, the incentive to the authors to influence the CJEU as well as to record its rulings will remain powerful, so we can expect more pages of analytical content come what may.

This Kat has used Tritton on IP since its inception and has happily recommended it to others.  Unlike some lengthy works that are reissued at regular intervals, this one does seem to be carefully thought through rather than tinkered with in an ad-hoc basis: this consequence is the product of three factors: the first two are the rapid and fairly constant rate at which IP in the European Union changes at macro- and micro-levels, and the willingness of the authors to respond to these changes.  The third is the need to keep a watchful eye on developments in the United States: even though this is a book of European law, we cannot pretend that we live in a world in which IP is increasingly protected and managed globally and that what happens in the EU is often that which has already happened in the United States. An example is the pay-for-delay species of litigation settlement agreement.

Having praised the book and its authors, this Kat must find something or someone to criticise, so he is taking a swipe at the publishers, Sweet & Maxwell.

In the modern era, in which most of us have been using the internet for more than two decades and expect a good deal from it, Sweet & Maxwell take precious little advantage of this medium as a marketing tool when promoting this work.  Most publishers provide a good deal more by way of description and explanation of their books; some offer a click-through to the book's contents or a sample chapter. It might even be a good idea to offer free access to the author's preface or a distinguished person's foreword -- in this case written by CJEU judge Christopher Vajda [Merpel agrees. It's not as if anyone is likely to say "well, I've read the preface so now I don't have to buy the book"]. As it is, the publisher's description of the book is scarcely adequate.  Sweet & Maxwell might also bear in mind the potential of the internet for making a book look more appealing by giving it a pretty cover, or at least one where the text on the front cover is legible.

Bibliographic data: hardback. cxcv + 2,027 pages [incidentally, these are all pages of real text: there aren't 100s of pages of appendices]. ISBN: 9780414042308. Price £279.  Rupture factor: severe.  Book's web page here.

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