Abstract: The Internet presents opportunities for corporations to efficiently build their brands online and to enhance their global reach. But there are threats as well as opportunities, since anti-branding and free-riding activities are easier in cyberspace. One such threat is the unauthorized incorporation of a trademark into a domain name. This can lead to trademark dilution and cause consumer confusion. But some users claim a right to use these trademarks for the purpose of parody or criticism. Underlying these trademark conflicts (...) is the familiar tension between property rights and free speech rights. While some trademark scholars are reluctant to consider a trademark as property, we find strong support for the property paradigm in Hegel’s philosophy. Assuming that a trademark is an earned property right, we propose that a trademark owner should be allowed to control the permutations of its trademark incorporated into domain names unless a reasonable person would not confuse that domain name with the company’s mark. But we also conclude that there must be latitude to employ a domain name for negative editorial comment, so long as the source and purpose of that domain name is plainly apparent. (shrink)
The primary theme of this paper is the normative case against ownership of one's genetic information along with the source of that information (usually human tissues samples). The argument presented here against such “upstream” property rights is based primarily on utilitarian grounds. This issue has new salience thanks to the Human Genome Project and “bio-prospecting” initiatives based on the aggregation of genetic information, such as the one being managed by deCODE Genetics in Iceland. The rationale for ownership is twofold: ownership (...) will protect the basic human rights of privacy and autonomy and it will enable the data subjects to share in the tangible benefits of the genetic research. Proponents of this viewpoint often cite the principle of genetic exceptionalism, which asserts that genetic information needs a higher level of protection than other kinds of personal information such as financial data. We argue, however, that the recognition of such ownership rights would lead to inefficiency along with the disutility of genetic discoveries. Biomedical research will be hampered if property rights in genes and genetic material are too extensive. We contend that other mechanisms such as informed consent and strict confidentiality rules can accomplish the same result as a property right without the liabilities of an exclusive entitlement. (shrink)
This paper uses two recentworks as a springboard for discussing theproper contours of intellectual propertyprotection. Professor Lessig devotes much ofThe Future of Ideas to demonstrating howthe expanding scope of intellectual propertyprotection threatens the Internet as aninnovation commons. Similarly, ProfessorLitman''s message in Digital Copyright isthat copyright law is both too complicated andtoo restrictive. Both authors contend that asa result of overprotecting individual rights,creativity is stifled and the vitality of theintellectual commons is in jeopardy. It isdifficult to evaluate the claims and policyprescriptions (...) of these books without someappreciation for the moral foundations ofintellectual property. The utility and labordesert theories remain the two most prominentin the Anglo-American tradition. Afterexploring those theories, we argue for a secureregime of protection based on the Lockeanvision that property rights are justly deservedas a reward for labor that creates value. However, as Locke''s famous proviso implies,even a natural property right is not absoluteand must be balanced by regard for the publicdomain. But a natural right cannot besacrificed simply to advance technologicalinnovation or to achieve marginal social andeconomic gains. While we agree with Lessig andLitman that recent legislation goes too far weconclude the essay by attempting to illustratethat some of their policy recommendations errin the opposite direction by underprotectingvalid property rights. (shrink)
The web creates manyopportunities for encroachment on intellectualproperty including trademarks. Our principaltask in this paper is an investigation into anunusual form of such encroachment: theimproper use of metatags. A metatag is a pieceof HTML code that provides summary informationabout a web page. If used in an appropriatemanner, these metatags can play a legitimaterole in helping consumers locate information. But the ``keyword'' metatag is particularlysusceptible to manipulation. These tags can beeasily abused by web site creators anxious tobait search engines and bring (...) scores ofvisitors to their sites. The law aboutmetatags is far from settled and many legalscholars are uncomfortable with the conclusionthat the unauthorized use of a trademark in ametatag represents infringement. How should weassess this practice known as ``spamdexing'' froma normative perspective? Is it commercial fairplay or something more sinister? We make thecase here that there are salient moral problemswith spamdexing since it exploits thereputational goodwill of trademark owners andconfuses consumers. It violates basic moralduties and it flouts the golden rule principle. Hence unauthorized use of a competitor'strademark in a metatag is not morallyacceptable. (shrink)
This essay is a critique of LarryLessig's book, Code and other Laws ofCyberspace (Basic Books, 1999). Itsummarizes Lessig's theory of the fourmodalities of regulation in cyberspace: code,law, markets, and norms. It applies thistheory to the topics of privacy and speech,illustrating how code can undermine basicrights or liberties. The review raisesquestions about the role of ethics in thismodel, and it argues that ethical principlesmust be given a privileged position in anytheory that purports to deal with the shapingof behavior in cyberspace. Finally, (...) itproposes a philosophy of ethicalself-regulation instead of an over-reliance ongovernment policy to deal with certainimproprieties and negative externalities thattend to disrupt the Net. (shrink)
This paper explores the ethical obligations of pharmaceutical companies to charge fair prices for essential medicines. The moral issue at stake here is distributive justice. Rawls'' framework is especially germane since it underlines the material benefits everyone deserves as Kantian persons and the need for an egalitarian approach for the distribution of society''s essential commodities such as health care. This concern for distributive justice should be a critical factor in the equation of variables used to set prices for pharmaceuticals.