Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Monday, March 6, 2006

French Chefs and Copyright

Emmanuelle Fauchart, Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers (CNAM), and Eric A. von Hippel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management, have published "Norms-Based Intellectual Property Systems--The Case of French Chefs" as MIT-Sloan Research Paper #4576-06. Here is the abstract.

In this paper we propose that “norms-based” intellectual property systems exist and are an important complement to or substitute for law-based intellectual property systems. Norms-based IP systems operate on social norms that are held in common by members of a given community and specify the nature and extent of rights that a group member can assert to intellectual property. They also include procedures for the claiming of intellectual property rights, and community-accepted types of sanctions for violators.

We document the existence of a norms-based IP system among a sample of accomplished French chefs. These chefs consider recipes they develop to be a very valuable form of intellectual property. At the same time, recipes are not a form of innovation that is effectively covered by law-based intellectual property systems. Via grounded research, we identified three strong social norms related to the protection of recipe IP. Via quantitative research, we found that accomplished chefs do rely on these norms to enhance their economic returns from their recipe-related IP.

In our discussion, we compare the attributes of norms-based and law-based IP systems, arguing that each has different advantages and drawbacks. We also point out that the existence of norms-based IP systems means that the usage of information that is freely accessible and not legally protected may be nonetheless restricted to the benefit of innovators. Indeed, information “commons” may in fact be criss-crossed by norms-based fences, with access by those adhering to community norms controlled by IP owners.

The paper is also downloadable through the SSRN network here.

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