Katonomics: how far have we gone?

Regular readers of this weblog have come to appreciate the weekly Katonomics posts from the IPKat's own economist-in-residence Dr Nicola Searle. If you were tuning in to this blog in the hope of catching the next instalment, there isn't one today -- but don't panic! Last week's was the final episode in the first series, but there's a fresh series coming up in January, also penned by our worthy Katonomist Dr N (right)..

Meanwhile, it never hurts to do a spot of revision if you've read the first series before -- especially since some of the earlier posts are encrusted with fascinating comments from readers.  A review of Dr N's posts is even more beneficial if you are one of the many new readers whom the IPKat and his friends feel privileged to welcome to their weblog, since you will soon discover that one of the preoccupations of this blogger is the lack of awareness and understanding which IP owners, lawyers and academics have sometimes displayed towards the discipline by which the performance of IP is so often measured.  So, whether it's a question of "love your friend" or "know your enemy", here's a full list of the first series of Katonomics posts to help bring you up to speed:
  • No.1: The social contract theory of IP
  • No.2: The economics of trade marks
  • No.3: Evidence-based policy: the challenge of data
  • No.4: Where to look for an IP-oriented economist
  • No.5: The paradox of fashion
  • No.6: The economics of IP in pharmaceuticals
Merpel joins the IPKat in saying a big thank you, Nicola" for all this hard work -- and also for helping to place so many IP economists from Europe and beyond on a platform of scholarship which seemed at one stage to consist entirely of transatlantic personalities.
Katonomics: how far have we gone? Katonomics: how far have we gone? Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, December 20, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. Thank you and Dr. N for this valuable modern summing-up!

    It is very strange, but there are two (or three) quite old references that have never surfaced in the discussions concerning the rationale behind patenting and the various kinds of copyright. It is a pity, because they contain much good material, for instance many good arguments of why inventions should not be patented. One would have expected modern protesters to devour them. Have they not done their homework? I will not be the judge of that. However, I can recommend the following book:
    [Robert Andrew Macfie, ed.]: “Recent Discussions on the Abolition of Patents for Inventions in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Evidence, Speeches, and Papers in Its Favour by [a distinguished list, GBN note] With Suggestions as to International Arrangements Regarding Inventions and Copyright”. London, Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1869.

    My (and everybody else’s) copy suffers from self-destructive paper, which may be the reason for its deaccessioning from the United States Patent Office Library. Fortunately, the University of Toronto Library copy has been scanned and is available from the Internet Archive (the other digital versions have large defects).

    The book is a fabulous and very modern discussion, and ought to be staple reading at least in university deparments specialising in IP.

    Mr. Macfie did not stop there, but he followed the book up with a two-volume set, of which I have only perused Vol. 2:
    “Copyrights and Patents for Inventions: Pleas and Plans for Cheaper Books and Greater Industrial Freedom, with Due Regard to International Relations, the Claims of Talent, the Demands of Trade, and the Wants of the People. Volume II. Patents: Exposure of the Patent System by M. M. Chevalier; Evidence from Blue-Books, 1829, 1851, 1864, 1865, 1871, 1872; Extracts & Notes Illustrating Patents and Copyright--- Being a Sequel to ‘Recent Discussions ---- 1869’”, Edinburgh. London, New York & Philadelphia 1883.

    This book is also very worthwhile, and most likely, so is Vol. 1. It tells us as a minimum that patent laws have a fundamental approach to the protection of invention that is still fertile, although there are many modern attacks on it. Go to the Internet Archive.

    My last reference is to a short piece by Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. It is about copyright, and essentially it argues in the most eloquent and convincing manner for “use it or lose it”:

    Mark Twain: “Concerning Copyright. An Open Letter to the Register of Copyrights”, The North American Review No. DLXXVIII (vol. 180, No. 1), 1905, pp. 1-8.
    This one is available via the Internet Archive as well.

    All in all I see a tendency in common law jurisdictions for modern discussions to be inspired by practice (precedent) rather than academic principles. That way, the only arguments that are remembered are those expressed by brilliant lawyers and judges. Is that enough?

    Kind regards, sincere thanks to the IP felines and happy new year,

    George Brock-Nannestad

  2. Economics is analogous to physics without the Higgs Boson to search for. Heisenberg would probably have said that it is not possible to know either where economists are now nor where they are headed.

    Not being one to challenge the likes of Heisenberg, I have, nonetheless, data from CERN of a moment in time that sheds light on the matter:


  3. In reply to Anonymous 21/12, 12;58, I've heard it said that the ideal PhD candidate in Economics is an undergraduate degree in Physics and a masters in Economics. There are a lot of overlaps in physics and econ.

    I've recently dipped a toe into Artificial Intelligence (AI) - also surprised to find that AI and economics (particularly game theory) overlap. I wonder if economists are the magpies of academia?

  4. Just for the fun of it, I tried to use Google Scholar to see the present-day impact of an old staple,
    TAYLOR C, . AND Z. SILBERSTON, Economic Impact of the Patent System, Cambridge University Press,
    Cambridge, 1973.

    It is a book that has been very inpspiring to me, but the few later books on the subject that I have bought have not referred to it, except perhaps doing lip service. Possibly I have just been unlucky.

    The result was very interesting, although I know too little about present-day economic theorizing on and analysis of patents.

    I found ca. 950 papers that quote this book, and about 300 are texts that are freely downloadable in pdf format. They range from previsions on software development in India to four texts on Schumpeterian or Neo-Schumpeterian thought. Von Hippel has contributed texts!

    I also know too little about computer-implemented bibliometry to properly understand what Google Scholar has brought me, but I know that it would be a job to sift the good from the bad in 300 texts. And what about those that are not free? Anyway, some of the texts are given in several versions, and most are from the researchers' universities' servers.

    Kind regards,

    George Brock-Nannestad

  5. I could never be an economist. One day I'd have to explain to my children what an economist does and there isn't a good answer to that.

    I'm also glad I'm not the university careers officer advising the physics graduates that this is one of the few careers they are suitable for.

  6. My last comment was a little uncharitable at this festive time and I was moved to apologise.

    Until, that is I read an extract from Nicola's PhD thesis citing an example of a PhD physicist convicting of stealing trade secrets from a chemical company. His defence: “he was driven to commit the charged offenses not merely out of greed, but out of a deep feeling of failure.”

    A physicist surrounded by chemists producing products! Unsurprising.

    I was disappointed to hear that the recent Coca-Cola case involved the recipes of new products and not the traditional formula. No wonder that Pepsi weren't interested. Although, if they did get hold of the old formula, they would finally have a taste-the-difference test were one of the drinks didn't taste like **** **** (complete as desired).


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