Subject: Re: The term "intellectual property" considered useful
From: "Ben Tilly" <>
Date: Wed, 3 May 2006 07:45:04 -0700

 Wed, 3 May 2006 07:45:04 -0700
On 5/3/06, Stephen J. Turnbull <> wrote:
> >>>>> "A" == A Pagaltzis <> writes:
> "Property", however, is.  "Property" (in economics, and I believe in
> law) denotes a transferable asset.  A "lump of property" is often
> decomposable into subsidiary rights, each of which becomes property in
> its own right.  And this is precisely what happens with intellectual
> property.  The optimal use of the various subsidiary rights (either in
> a profit-maximizing sense or a social welfare-maximizing sense) is a
> crucial point in economic or business analysis.

When nontechnical people hear a technical term, they often
misunderstand.  Even if the term technically fits, if it causes
general misunderstanding (which this does) then a different term would
be better.  When people hear the word "property" they don't think
"transferable bundle", they think "land" and bring along a mental
model about what owning property should apply.  (For instance that
ownership should last forever.)

Unfortunately changing the term isn't very feasible at this point.

> It is precisely this ability to refer to a bundle of partitionable,
> transferable, and licensable rights in one simple phrase that makes
> "intellectual property" a useful idea.  Those three properties are
> equally applicable to copyright, trademark, and patent, though the
> intangible entities protected and the content of the rights involved
> are very different.

Then why are trade secrets lumped in there?