Erkan Gürpınar Presentation: Thorstein Veblen on Capital as Knowledge: Some Implications for the Knowledge Economy [video]

Erkan Gürpınar’s presentation “Thorstein Veblen on Capital as Knowledge: Some Implications for the Knowledge Economy” considered how theories on capital developed by the American economist Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) could be used to understand current developments in the so called “knowledge economy”. Gürpınar emphasizes how Veblen criticized earlier theories for treating capital as mainly manifested in material gods and thus neglecting the importance of intangible assets. He then continues to show how Veblen’s critique is central for understanding the potential conflict between ownership and human capital in modern companies. A main argument in Gürpınar’s analysis is that efforts to control intangible assets may have the unintended consequence that employees will be less motivated to “invest” in their own human capital. Another possible consequence could be that companies will replace investment in human capital, like know-how and tacit knowledge, and instead strive to replace skilled employees by technology, which can be more easily protected.

The ensuing dialog involved questions on Veblen and how he related to patents (he did not say much at all specifically about them), and his relation to Marx (he did not like him). The consequences of the current patent regime for skilled workers were also raised in the discussion, both in terms of future developments and by making historical comparisons.

Dr. Erkan Gürpınar is assistant professor and deputy head of the Economics Department at Social Sciences University of Ankara. He received his PhD in Economics from the University of Siena in 2013. https://eb.asbu.edu.tr/en/staff/assist-prof-erkan-gurpinar

Video by LiU communications officer Per Wistbo Nibell. Text by Björn Hammarfelt who also chaired the event.

Janice Denoncourt presentation: Patents as Capital: Prioritising business model, intangibles and IP rights records and ownership information to support legally mandated corporate reporting [video]

In her presentation, Janice Denoncourt discusses the challenges of making intangible resources, such as patents, visible in corporate accounting and reports. While corporate law and accounting practices have routines and tools to report and value tangible resources, intangible resources and patents tend to be unaccounted for. This tendency to ignore, or even actively hide, patents in corporate reporting is further exacerbated by the common practice of placing a corporation’s patent ownership in separate patent holding companies. Disclosing patents in accounting and corporate reports becomes increasingly relevant in a time when the value of intangible resources often vastly exceeds the value of the tangible resources and patent information in general is becoming increasingly accessible in public databases.

The importance of making intangible resources and patents visible in corporate reporting goes to the heart of the question of corporate transparency and accountability, towards shareholders as well as to customers and the general public. Accounting for patents is instrumental not only to properly value corporations but also to ethically evaluate their business practices and to prevent insider trading. Furthermore, the invisibility of patents in accounting makes it much harder to trace the chain of ownership of patents over time, compared to tangible resources such as real estate where it is usually much easier to find records of past ownership.

In worst case scenarios, the inability to properly account for the character and quality of patents as corporate properties also opens for outright fraud. One of the most blatant examples of this being the infamous case of the biotech company Theranos, where Elizabeth Holmes managed to raise huge investments based on patents to faulty innovations that were never properly scrutinized or accounted for.

Dr. Janice Denoncourt is Associate Professor at Nottingham Law School, she is founder and leader of the NLS Intellectual Property Research Group at the Centre for Business and Insolvency Law (CBIL). More here https://www.ntu.ac.uk/staff-profiles/law/janice-denoncourt

Video by LiU communications officer Per Wistbo Nibell. Text by Martin Fredriksson who also chaired the event.

Susi Geiger presentation: Transparency as a flank movement to patent activism in pharmaceutical markets [video]

At the second PASSIM workshop on ‘Patens as Capital’, Prof Susi Geiger presented her research on ‘Transparency as a flank movement to patent activism in pharmaceutical markets’. Providing a concise overview, introducing the issue of pharmaceutical patentability and its impacts on the right to healthcare, the presentation elaborates on the economic perspective of the social contract inherent to the exclusive rights provided by patents. Prof Geiger shows why this contract is not adequately fulfilled by considering both upstream- and downstream problems. In particular, the presentation elaborates on why the standard arguments pro patent, and the industries reference to CSR, donations and voluntary licensing fail in reflecting the economic reality. This is concerning when regarding how IP is owned and moved around in economic entities as a type of capital, for example by investment firms. The situation is of particular concern when considering for example how the EU neo-liberalised their markets, opening for multinational corporations, and, in this process, privatised the last remaining public pharmaceutical companies. The role played by government becomes further problematic with respect to the “gunboat diplomacy” adopted by Western countries aiming to create and protect IP system that are specifically tailored toward the benefit of ‘their’ industries.

Against this background, the presentation provides an overview of now historic activism that opposed the current international patent regime. Three waves of activism are introduced: 1.) actions taken by HIV/AIDS activists in the West who wanted to be involved in the decision making and development of medications for their needs, 2.) activism in low-income countries against the proliferation and abuse of patent rights, and 3.) activism pushing towards more focussed innovation concerning rare diseases. From this, two shifts are identified, the first indicating a revival of patent activism in high income countries, and the second being the rise of transparency activism. The latter of these constitutes an activism that is initiated by states that identified the need to require the pharmaceutical industry to be more transparent as to their research, their pricing strategies, and the value of the IPs they hold. Prof Geiger elaborates on this type of activism and related issues addressing the role of the state and the industry, indicating that transparency is something states can buy into while changing IP systems is not. This is the case even though the transparency activism is a result of the recognition that current patent rights have simply become too strong and thus offer to much leeway for abuse. Lastly, the presentation is supported by current findings and indications that can be taken from the recent experience with Covid and the many controversies that surrounded the protection of pharmaceutical patents in the midst of a pandemic.

The discussion following this brilliant presentation introduced further interdisciplinary considerations concerning a deeper explanation of state involvement, while it was also reflected on whether patents constitute the actual problem, or whether the main problem lies in their abuse. Further debates concerned whether transparency in licensing may reinforce the current patent system, or whether transparency could be utilised to help in enhancing the efficacy of compulsory licensing. The discussion then concerned the interplay between the application of the law, and economic and political perspectives, including pressure exercised by the industry to prevent an access to medicines centred application of the TRIPS exceptions. In this vein, questions arose as to the strategy of the industry adopted to counter these activist movements.  Lastly, the discussion concerned the location of transparency in regard to where transparency statements should be included, for example in CSR statements. In this context it was argued that annual reports are notoriously scarce in providing information that actually matters.

If you missed the stimulating discussion, you unfortunately simply missed it. Prof Geiger’s insightful presentation, however, you can watch here on the PASSIM Blog right now:

Susi Geiger is a Full Professor of Marketing & Market Studies at UCD College of Business, she currently leads the EU Horizon 2020 European Research Council project MISFIRES (see misfires.ucd.ie for more information).

Video by LiU communications officer Per Wistbo Nibell. Text by Marc Stuhldreier who also chaired the event.

Vitor Ido presentation: Modernity and Nation Building: The politics of patents “with Chinese characteristics” [video]

Vitor Ido’s presentation ‘Modernity and Nation Building: The politics of patents “with Chinese characteristics”’ offered a rich analysis of the entanglements between patents, nationalisms and intellectual property politics of the Chinese government and legal institutions, both domestically and internationally.

The analysis pointed to the need to disaggregate a monolithic understanding of the Chinese state by focusing on specific bureaucratic practices and policies that reveal an ambiguous relationship between patents and practices of nation building and reveal patents as “spectres of modernity”.  Ido traced patents’ mobilisation and adaptation for Chinese domestic patenting policies, international diplomacy and industrial development. Whilst China is invested in the international patent legal order as its biggest user and performs its commitment both domestically and internationally, the analysis pointed to the differential value of capital afforded to Chinese patents because they are presumed to be of lower quality and hence are afforded a different degree of credibility. International legal rules materialise in uneven ways, as the question of what a patent is worth is influenced by economic and political nationalisms.

The ensuing discussion explored diverse adjacent issues, such as sources of nation-building with patents; historical parallels to Switzerland’s introduction of patent law; the suitability or non-applicability of historical comparisons for analysing nation building practices and IP strategies; the use of structural analysis for identifying different manifestations of patent cosmology; the question of temporality assumed in patents in relation to imaginaries of modernism and techno-futurism; and the role of translation (incl. AI automated software) in patent information dissemination and administration.

Vitor Ido works at the South Centre Geneva: www.southcentre.int He holds a PhD in Law from Universidade de São Paulo.

Video by LiU communications officer Per Wistbo Nibell. Text by Hyo Yoon Kang who also chaired the event.

Welcome to “Patents as Capital” and a brief presentation of the PASSIM-project with PI Eva Hemmungs Wirtén [video]

In 2019, we hosted the first of the altogether three workshops we have planned during the lifetime of the project. Intellectual Property for the Un-disciplined took place in Norrköping between September 10-12 and was devoted to an interdisciplinary dialogue on “doing”  intellectual property scholarship. During 2020 and 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the PASSIM team to rethink and reschedule the project’s planned activities, resulting in workshop two, “Patents as Capital,” and workshop three, “Patents in the Service of War and Peace,” being organized as back-to-back events at Louis De Geer Konsert and Kongress in Norrköping between May 11-13 and May 17-18, 2022. And, here we are now, finally. The video below shows PI Eva Hemmungs Wirtén opening “Patents as Capital”. Over the course of the coming day we will publish video material from the of invited speakers respective talks:

  • Susi Geiger, University College Dublin: “Transparency as a flank movement to patent activism in pharmaceutical markets”
  • Vitor Ido, South Centre Geneva: “Modernity and Nation Building: The politics of patents “with Chinese characteristics
  • Janice Denoncourt, Nottingham Trent University: “Patents as Capital:  Prioritising business model, intangibles and IP rights records and ownership information to support legally mandated corporate reporting”
  • Erkan Gürpınar, University of Ankara: “Thorstein Veblen on Capital as Knowledge: Some Implications for the Knowledge Economy”

We would like to thank LiU communications officer and camera wizard Per Wistobo Nibell for taping and producing the material.