World Intellectual Property Organization

Book Review: Understanding and Profiting from Intellectual Property by Deli Yang

August 2008

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Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan ISBN: 978-1-4039-9172-0
Price: £55

Ms Yang is currently Reader in International Business at Bradford University School of Management in the U.K., and subtitles her book A Guide for Practitioners and Analysts: she explains that the aim is to “investigate intellectual property in the context of international business,” so that business practitioners (including business managers and IP owners) and IP analysts (corporate analysts and academic researchers) may understand and benefit from IP.

Part I (“IP Fundamentals”) outlines the nature of the various types of IP, including both industrial property and copyright, as well as the systems, national and international, under which it operates. Part II (“IP Environments”) examines IP in the context of political economy, education and culture in developed and developing countries. The next part (“IP Management”) deals with the management of IP assets, personnel and products/services. The final part (“IP Strategies”) is possibly the most advisory, and goes into the global commercialization of IP, considering matters such as marketing concerns, contracting and licensing IP, combating piracy and counterfeiting and using the most suitable partnerships to maximize benefits from IP.

The author has undertaken a formidable task with serious scholarship (viz. her copious references to other works) and analytical intent – no less than the whole socio-economic and political scope of IP in the national and international business context. Her dilemma, as she realizes, is that, though analyze she must, her material does not always permit definitive judgments. She is commendably cautious about using an economist’s tools to extrapolate hard evidence, commenting that the use of empirical study to determine the effects of IP on foreign direct investment is hampered by “lack of data on international FDI flows and measurement standards, and the inadequacy of econometric models.” Such caution should also be extended to her direct comparison between the World Trade Organiztion’s perceived strength in its ability to enforce its dispute settlements and WIPO’s perceived weakness therein: their respective terms of reference and their corresponding structural and functional differences are such that WTO may enforce – but with the risks that greater political empowerment brings.

Another grey area for analysis is the effect of philosophies and religions on attitudes to IP. Motivations are immensely difficult to unravel.  For example, the author suggests that an individualistic Western society will more easily resort to litigation, whereas the collectivist ethos and emphasis on social harmony in China discourages it as the very last resort. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? As Ms Yang indicates earlier in her book, the reward system for creators in the Soviet Union and pre-reform China are now history, and she gives the increase in the number of lawyers in China as from 19 in 1979 to 70,000 in 2000; moreover, there is now increased spending power there for lawsuits. A counter-argument could also be that litigation as a very last resort is advice not infrequently given by lawyers in market-economy Western countries.

Ms Yang has enlivened what could have been a dry, specialists-only book by including diagrams, statistics, and illuminating case studies. It is enlightening to learn that in the 18 th century, Millar won a case claiming perpetual copyright based on common law (shades rise again in the perpetual copyright demanded in some quarters today!), but that this was overturned by a ruling that the base law, the Statute of Anne of 1710, prevailed; also interesting are the measures to protect the recipe of Coca Cola when it is reconstituted in various parts of the world. This is a well-researched and thought-provoking read for both the academic and business communities.       

By Anuradha Swaminathan, Communications and Public Outreach Division.

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