The complexity and uncertainty arises from the portability (Lat.: asportatio) of the objects requiring protection. When viewed from that yardstick, land being at the zero or near zero end of the scale, and various objects of varying size, shape and weight scattered across the rest of the scale, then objects susceptible of being subject to intellectual property rights tend to be at the other, near infinite, end. A statue may have intrinsic value because of the amount of precious metal it might contain but one may posit a far greater value attaches to it because of the skill and inspiration of the sculptor and perhaps also because of his or her identity. For instance, the likenesses of Abraham Lincoln and other US Presidents in South Dakota may not be portable at all but the value of the artifacts is immense. Thus, the non-intellectual property rights to the statues, such as the ownership of the real estate where they are located and of which they are made, are fairly simple but the intellectual property rights, such as images and small reproductions, are at least of an order of magnitude more complex. The sculptor's concept, the style of execution, the idea are all eminently portable and therefore subject to wrongful alienation through unauthorized copying and exhibiting.
The peculiar nature of intellectual property rights is perhaps best illustrated by objects which have little or nearly no intrinsic value, such as a blueprint of a novel machine, or a compact disc on which a song or a software application has been recorded. The paper and the plastic are comparatively of no consequence. It is the design evident from the blueprint that deserves protection, the skill or genius of the programmer or musician that should be rewarded . That design, that song and that software are all eminently portable, and the definition and protection of the rights inherent in them are of several orders of magnitude more complex than the statue.
Because of portability, the location where a controversy arises as to ownership and entitlement to profit from intellectual property rights becomes paramount, and, therefore, the variety of possible approaches to resolving them is nearly infinite. One location might accumulate much practical experience in such resolution and another might not. One location might be the source of many ideas from which such rights flow and another might not. One location might ascribe great value to such rights and another might not. One location might intellectualize such rights to a degree of high refinement and another might not. These differences might fluctuate as a function of time between locations.
This is primarily whyintellectual property rights have had such a varied history, valuation, and degree of understanding, and qualify as a mental hydra of epic proportions challenging the intellect. For the same reasons, they often constitute, even on the best of days, a minefield to scholars, authors, artists and entrepreneurs. If to the mix one adds variations in the philosophy of different cultures concerning property rights in general, social concerns and the competitiveness of nations, the three-dimensional confusion that still exists to this day is easy to imagine. Yes, they may be a hydra resident in a minefield, and yet, that same construct embodies the flowering of recognition for the best and greatest of human achievements, the essence of what minds are capable of producing in all disciplines.
These pages are designed to help make sense out of the confusion by defining basic concepts of intellectual property and naming some of the tools used to protect them. We shall, from time to time, invite scholars to share with us their views on particular aspects of intellectual property rights, and encourage all our readers to address their questions and comments, so that perhaps we may all contribute to further great leaps forward in this essential area of human relations.
DISCA sm will, from time to time, publish on this page articles of interest in the field of intellectual property. You are invited to submit your proposed article for publication on the understanding that you agree that your submittal may be deemed to be your representation that the material submitted may be published free of charge and is not subject to any reservation of rights you or anyone else may have under the laws of any country applicable to intellectual property, and that you will hold us harmless from any claim based on the violation of any such rights, if your article is selected for publication.