Order Without Intellectual Property Law: Open Science in Influenza

Amy Kapczynski at Cornell Law Review: “Today, intellectual property (IP) scholars accept that IP as an approach to information production has serious limits. But what lies beyond IP? A new literature on “intellectual production without IP” (or “IP without IP”) has emerged to explore this question, but its examples and explanations have yet to convince skeptics.

This Article reorients this new literature via a study of a hard case: a global influenza virus-sharing network that has for decades produced critically important information goods, at significant expense, and in a loose-knit group — all without recourse to IP. I analyze the Network as an example of “open science,” a mode of information production that differs strikingly from conventional IP, and yet that successfully produces important scientific goods in response to social need.

The theory and example developed here refute the most powerful criticisms of the emerging “IP without IP” literature, and provide a stronger foundation for this important new field. Even where capital costs are high, creation without IP can be reasonably effective in social terms, if it can link sources of funding to reputational and evaluative feedback loops like those that characterize open science. It can also be sustained over time, even by loose-knit groups and where the stakes are high, because organizations and other forms of law can help to stabilize cooperation. I also show that contract law is well suited to modes of information production that rely upon a “supply side” rather than “demand side” model. In its most important instances, “order without IP” is not order without governance, nor order without law. Recognizing this can help us better ground this new field, and better study and support forms of knowledge production that deserve our attention, and that sometimes sustain our very lives….(More)”.