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Justifying patents: a critique of the deontological approach

Justifying patents: a critique of the deontological approach
Justifying patents: a critique of the deontological approach
This thesis assesses philosophical arguments in favour of patent systems. These come in both consequentialist and deontological forms, the latter of which are the focus of this analysis. One kind of deontological argument is based on the concept of desert. I argue that on any plausible conception of desert, the patent system fails to distribute rewards as well as viable alternative systems could. The other kind of deontological argument claims that inventors are entitled to patent rights over their inventions as an extension of their natural rights, drawing on a Lockean account of the conditions of legitimate appropriation of unowned goods. After a discussion of the metaphysics of invention, and of the nature of the commons, I argue that Locke's conditions are not in fact always trivially satisfied in the case of patents. Furthermore, entitlement-based arguments conclude that because new inventions are unowned, claiming property rights in them involves only the same moral considerations that would apply in the state of nature. I argue that because we are not in the state of nature, pre-existing property rights also need to be taken into account, which conflict with patents. The broad conclusion of this thesis is that none of the plausible deontological arguments for patent systems are sound. The implication is that any justification of must therefore be made in consequentialist terms; this ultimately rests on strong empirical evidence rather than normative arguments alone.
University of Cambridge
Binns, Reuben
93947060-2eed-403c-a717-7e2dc9bbd370
Binns, Reuben
93947060-2eed-403c-a717-7e2dc9bbd370

Binns, Reuben (2011) Justifying patents: a critique of the deontological approach. University of Cambridge, History and Philosophy of Science, Masters Thesis, 27pp.

Record type: Thesis (Masters)

Abstract

This thesis assesses philosophical arguments in favour of patent systems. These come in both consequentialist and deontological forms, the latter of which are the focus of this analysis. One kind of deontological argument is based on the concept of desert. I argue that on any plausible conception of desert, the patent system fails to distribute rewards as well as viable alternative systems could. The other kind of deontological argument claims that inventors are entitled to patent rights over their inventions as an extension of their natural rights, drawing on a Lockean account of the conditions of legitimate appropriation of unowned goods. After a discussion of the metaphysics of invention, and of the nature of the commons, I argue that Locke's conditions are not in fact always trivially satisfied in the case of patents. Furthermore, entitlement-based arguments conclude that because new inventions are unowned, claiming property rights in them involves only the same moral considerations that would apply in the state of nature. I argue that because we are not in the state of nature, pre-existing property rights also need to be taken into account, which conflict with patents. The broad conclusion of this thesis is that none of the plausible deontological arguments for patent systems are sound. The implication is that any justification of must therefore be made in consequentialist terms; this ultimately rests on strong empirical evidence rather than normative arguments alone.

Text
R Binns Part III Dissertation.pdf - Version of Record
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Published date: 6 June 2011
Organisations: Web & Internet Science, Faculty of Business, Law and Art

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Local EPrints ID: 365488
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/365488
PURE UUID: 1359ddb8-d9f0-48c4-a172-b00c9dcc1310

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Date deposited: 29 Jul 2014 08:35
Last modified: 21 Mar 2019 17:31

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