The Washington Post Letter to the Editor: Intellectual property rights are not monopolies, by Brian P. O’Shaughnessy
This letter originally appeared in The Washington Post on October 12, 2015.
The Oct. 10 Economy & Business article “Protections for drug firms in trade bill fuel fresh opposition” inaccurately referred to “monopolies” in discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Intellectual property rights are not monopolies. Rather, they protect the inventor’s property by affording the right to exclude others from commercially exploiting that which the inventor created. Were it not for the inventor, the public would not have the benefit of that invention.
The Constitution expressly acknowledges that the quid pro quo of a limited exclusive right in exchange for disclosure of the invention is an effective means for promoting the progress of the useful arts (Article I, Section 8). James Madison said the utility of that provision would scarcely be questioned and that the public good fully coincides with the claims of individuals (Federalist No. 43). By rewarding the productive use of our creative faculties, intellectual property protection enhances the human condition with new products, gives birth to new businesses and stimulates economies. Effective intellectual property protection and the number of patents granted are among the most reliable indicators of a robust and growing economy.