Patents have seldom troubled civil libertarians. A specialized form of property, patents seemed pertinent to the technologies of traditional industry but little else. Patent instruments offered their readers mere technical documentation; patent cases presented no more than the mapping of a text onto an instantiated artifact; patent policy was principally oriented toward economic optimization of the length and scope of protection. Unbound from technology, contemporary patent law now seems a more robust discipline. Modern patent instruments appropriate a diverse array of techniques that span the entire range of human endeavor. Patent claims, cut loose from physical moorings, have grown more abstract and oriented toward human behavior. We have yet to realize fully the consequences of postindustrial patenting, but the potential impact of the patent law upon personal liberties is becoming more apparent and more worthy of concern. Although the principles of the patent canon demonstrate sufficient flexibility to regulate uses of such inventions as software, business methods, and genetic fragments, they persist in bearing little regard for civil rights. The private rule making, made possible through the patent law, holds the potential to impinge upon individual liberties in ways not previously considered possible.
39 Hous. L. Rev. 569-619 (2002)
Scholarly Commons Citation
Thomas, John R., "Liberty and Property in the Patent Law" (2002). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 307.