Sunday, January 29, 2012
You may not catch it from the title, but William T. Gallagher's (Golden Gate U. Law) new paper posted to SSRN is firmly about the legal profession, the bar, and the practice of IP law. Using an empirical/interviewing methodology, Gallagher explores the construction of copyright/trademark law through day-to-day practice, cease and desist letters, and the stuff that never makes it to courts. A teacher of both Professional Responsibility/lawyer regulation as well as IP law, he has spent years collecting the data for this revealing study. His abstract:
In recent years, as Congress has created new intellectual property (IP) rights and courts have often interpreted those rights broadly, legal scholars have frequently decried the expanded scope of protection afforded IP owners in most substantive areas of IP law. According to this critique, the over-expansion of IP rights throughout the past two decades harms competition, chills free speech, and diminishes the public domain as increasingly broad areas of social life are brought within the scope of strong IP protection. While this over-expansion theory reflects an important — indeed, foundational — policy debate concerning the proper balance between IP owners’ rights and the public’s rights of access to the information, ideas, and expressions that IP protects, it is incomplete precisely because it focuses largely on what Congress or the courts do. In reality, most enforcement of IP rights takes place not in court, but in the everyday practices of IP owners and their lawyers. “Cease and desist” letters, phone calls, and negotiations with alleged infringers constitute the bulk of IP enforcement efforts in trademark and copyright practice. To be sure, these efforts take place in the “shadow” of IP law and are therefore influenced by it. But it is in these everyday practices — and not in trial or appellate courts — that most IP rights are asserted, resisted, and negotiated. Thus, if we want to know whether IP rights are over-enforced or over-extended, we need to know how, why, and to what effect these rights are exercised in daily life. To date, however, IP scholarship has focused virtually no attention on this critical arena of everyday practice. Most IP scholarship is primarily doctrinal, focusing on published appellate cases. Even the growing empirical scholarship on IP focuses largely on published or, at least, filed cases. As in every other area of civil justice, however, most IP disputes do not result in litigation, and most litigation settles well before trial. Certainly, published appellate decisions and even filed cases represent only a small percentage of IP disputes. Thus, in order to more fully understand whether IP rights affect competition, chill free speech, diminish the public domain, or impede creativity, it is necessary to explore how IP claims are made and resolved in private negotiation rather than in litigation, which is the focus of this Article. It presents findings from a qualitative empirical study of the trademark and copyright disputing process outside of court, based on original data derived from semi-structured interviews with experienced IP attorneys who advise clients on how to enforce their rights. This research is one of the first studies to examine how trademark and copyright claims are actually enforced in practice.