Law \ Legal

Intellectual Property and the Historic Kinship Between Patents and Copyrights

by Dennis Crouch

In a recently published article, Homayoon Rafatijo and I take-on sovereign immunity in copyright cases.  We argue that the Supreme Court got it wrong in Allen v. Cooper. Our abstract:

The FBI Anti-Piracy Warning provides that “unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal.” In Allen v. Cooper, the Supreme Court effectively qualified this warning by adding an exception in favor of “sovereign” pirates. In allowing the states to usurp citizens’ intellectual property rights, the justices of the Allen Court prioritized either a dogmatic form of stare decisis or the New Federalist ideology over the Constitution and its structure and history. The Allen Court largely based its decision upon a perceived historic kinship between patents and copyrights, concluding that if not patent, then not copyright. This article walks through the historical record, especially in the period following the Federal Convention, and reports key differences between the patent and copyright systems that that tilt toward a conclusion that the States agreed “to be subordinate to the government of the United States” in the copyright space. In the end, Allen creates serious practical problems for copyright holders. The decision emboldens copyright infringement by state actors by cutting-off the possibility of any recovery of damages for the infringement.

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