≡ Menu

The Mountain of IP Legislation

I observed in “Legislation and Law in a Free Society” (longer and updated version in Legal Foundations of a Free Society) various problems with using legislation to “make” law. For one thing, it requires a legislature, which requires a state. For another, it conceives of law as being “made” by human will rather than natural principles “found” by people seeking justice. One problem with IP law–mainly patent and copyright, but also trade secret and trademark, to varying degrees–is that it requires modern state legislation. It cannot be created without it.

I was working on lecture #4 for my Mises Academy course “Rethinking Intellectual Property: History, Theory, and Economics” [KOL175] and was compiling some of the key statutes, treaties, international bodies, and pending legislation and treaties that undergird modern patent, copyright, and other types of IP law. Just seeing it all in one place is striking; it cannot fail to make the libertarian advocate of IP a bit queasy, one would think.

I list some below with minimal commentary, and links.

Key IP Statutes and Treaties


  • 1624: Statute of Monopolies 1623 (England): key patent statute
  • 1710: Statute of Anne 1709 (England): key copyright statute
  • 1691: South Carolina enacts first “general” patent law (as distinguished from authorization to the Crown to make patent grants)1

Modern IP (US)

Modern IP Additions (US)

Major International Bodies

IP Treaties

Pending IP Laws and Treaties

[Mises cross-post]: archived comments:


Silas Barta November 24, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Key physical property statutes and treaties:

Code of Hammurabi…

Stephan Kinsella November 24, 2010 at 7:19 pm

nice justification, statist sycophant! or as we say in libertarian–pathetic!

DixieFlatline November 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm

@Silas, successful troll is successful.

Andras November 24, 2010 at 4:50 pm

What is the alternative to courts? Shooting each others?

Dan McCarthy November 24, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Shooting each other’s movies and making them better ;)

Peter Surda November 25, 2010 at 5:31 am

I have proposed reciprocal damages for IP before. That does not require courts or shooting. If someone violates your IP, the appropriate reaction would be to violate his IP back, e.g. by libel or slander. I don’t see why IP proponents should object, since to them, imaginary property is either equivalent or superiour to physical property.

Michael A. Clem November 25, 2010 at 9:28 am

There’s nothing wrong with the general idea of courts–third party arbitration makes a lot of sense. The problem is in what type of law the courts are supporting, which in turn goes back to what is supporting the courts: government courts are supported by taxation and legislative appointments. Private courts are supported by their customers. Which type of court do you think is going to support the absurdities of IP?

  1. See Fritz Machlup, An Economic Review of the Patent System (1958), 79-80., Part II.B. []
  2. Fashion Rights Extension to Copyright Coming Down the PikeEd Lopez: Fashion Copyright: A New Defense of Design CopyingChristopher Sprigman on IP and the Fashion Industry.  []
{ 7 comments… add one }

To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.