Abstract: Business Models and the History of Intellectual Property: Reification of the Intellect

Gamze N. Bedirhanoglu


The globally enforced, one-size-fits-all intellectual property regime is an outcome of the historical processes that transformed knowledge, information, and intellect into property. In order to examine these processes, the emergence of a link between "ideas" and "property" that eventually reified intellect needs to be traced. The early forms of knowledge protection are seen as antecedents of intellectual property. However, these early forms of protection were not commodified. These nascent forms were protecting either the actual production process or the mechanical reproduction of the products. The two cornerstones of modern intellectual property protection emanated from corporate business models. In the twentieth century, U.S. firms adopted and improved the German business model of the late nineteenth century with professional research and development departments. This model marked the institutionalization of intellectual property as a part of the business models. The second development is the codification of the contemporary trade-based intellectual property regime (TRIPS) and TRIPS-plus standards in compliance with the needs of IP-based US corporations. The business model adopted by the U.S. firms by 1980s, which prioritizes intellectual property production and outsources the actual production process, operates with the assumption that intellect embedded in goods can be alienated and protected separately.