Innovation and IP: A Dialectical View

Authors: Henning Berthold (University of St Andrews) and Barbara Townley (University of St Andrews)

This paper aims to explore the ambiguous space of innovation and intellectual property (IP) by juxtaposing new venturers’ conflicting accounts of the significance of IP and critically engaging with established economic arguments that frame the concept as a means of incentivisation for creativity and innovation. Whilst it has gained prominence in the political and public discourse, the state of the economic literature on such effects of IP is inconclusive. In fact, contrary to the orthodox view, the paper finds support for the argument that it is in the absence of intellectual monopolies that competition is fierce and innovation may thrive. This is particularly evident in the case of new entrepreneurial ventures aspiring to the Schumpeterian notion of being first (to market) and being best. It is argued that the ambivalent state of IP is not least to do with an increasingly fragmented understanding of what constitutes (economic) value and how it ought to be created. Using empirical material from a Scottish innovation initiative, the paper illustrates the growing tensions between public and private as manifest in the handling of intellectual goods, and contributes to a more nuanced theory of IP that emphasises its conditional relevance.

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