Overview[edit | edit source]

The Nation's copyright and patent systems reflect a precise calibration of private and public legal rights designed to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts."[1] The Intellectual Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides that:

Congress shall have the Power to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.[2]

"The economic philosophy behind the clause empowering Congress to grant patents and copyrights is the conviction that encouragement of individual effort by personal gain is the best way to advance public welfare through the talents of authors and inventors in 'Science and useful Arts.'"[3] To encourage innovation, the copyright and patent laws grant the creators of works that qualify for a patent or copyright an exclusive right to use and benefit from their works for a period of years.[4] But on expiration of a patent or copyright, the creation inures to the public, which is generally entitled to copy it and profit from its use.[5]

The Supreme Court has concluded that the references to "Science" (i.e., knowledge generally) and "Writings" creates the right to copyright protection and the references to "useful Arts" and "Discoveries" creates the right to patent protection.[6]

The Supreme Court has characterized this clause as "both a grant of power and a limitation."[7] The authority extends only to promoting the progress of science and useful arts, and it must be implemented accordingly:

The Congress in the exercise of the patent power may not overreach the restraints imposed by the stated constitutional purpose. Nor may it enlarge the patent monopoly without regard to the innovation, advancement or social benefit gained thereby.[8]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. See Bonito Boats, Inc. v. Thunder Craft Boats, Inc., 489 U.S. 141, 150-51 (1989) (full-text); Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186, 123 S.Ct. 769, 786 (2003) (full-text).
  2. U.S. Const., art. I, §8, cl. 8.
  3. Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 219 (1954) (full-text).
  4. See 17 U.S.C. §§301-05; 35 U.S.C. §154.
  5. See TrafFix Devices, Inc. v. Marketing Displays, Inc., 532 U.S. 23, 29, 58 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1001 (2001) (full-text); Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enters., 471 U.S. 539, 545 (1985) (full-text).
  6. Graham v. John Deere Co., 383 U.S. 1, 5 (1966) (full-text). See also Edward W. Alterscheid, The Nature of the Intellectual Property Clause 125-26 (2002); Karl B. Lutz, "Patent and Science: A clarification of the Patent Clause of the U.S. Constitution," 32 J. Pat. Off. Soc'y 83, 87 (1950).
  7. Id.
  8. Id. at 5-6 (emphasis added).

See also[edit | edit source]

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