Transaction Costs and Patent Reform

This Faculty Working Paper has been updated and posted within the Faculty Scholarly Works Series. It is currently available here.


This article considers current proposals for patent law reform in light of a simple theory about intellectual property law: In a world without transaction costs, the assignment of property rights is not necessary to stimulate the optimal production of creative goods. Because potential users of inventions could contract for their creation, a compelling justification for granting property rights in these intangibles is the reduction of real-world transaction and information costs that hinder, or make impossible, contract formation between users and creators. Proposals for patent law reform, therefore, should be evaluated by whether a change in legal rights, or in the regulatory process increases or lowers these costs.