Present Thinking About the Future of IP: A Literature Review

This article presents the results of a systematic review and analysis of the way that “the future” is addressed in intellectual property literature.

Co-authored with two of my brightest students, it is available as an open access download in HTML or PDF format through its publisher, SCRIPTed, a high-quality, online, international, interdisciplinary and multi-lingual journal of peer-reviewed articles.

People have often mistaken the uncertain and non-predictive nature of the future as a reason to not consider it. However, those who insufficiently consider the future will find themselves reacting to it, rather than seamlessly adapting to, or possibly even shaping it.

Not only is the future relevant in its own right, but the way we think about the future influences how we think and behave in the present. Thus, truly informative work about the future must do more than predict. It must identify our pre-conceptions and assumptions about the present, and challenge our understanding of how the future may unfold.

Intellectual property (IP) researchers and practitioners seem concerned with what the future will bring. Nevertheless, despite the reviews of the growing body of empirical literature addressing historical and contemporary intellectual property issues, little is known about the extent and nature of literature considering the future of intellectual property.

To understand better the current thinking on the future of intellectual property, this paper undertakes a systematic literature review, and provides corresponding recommendations for future scholarship.

From the article’s abstract on the Social Sciences Research Network:

Iterative methodical searches in key databases of published materials and targeted reviews of grey literature revealed a limited number of relevant works pertaining to the future. These works were analysed and classified according to our original taxonomy, considering for example: whether the future was conceived as predictable or uncertain; whether the analysis was issue-specific, IP-categorical, or systemic; and whether the work considered legal, economic, technological, social, environmental, or ethical factors driving change. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of the literature demonstrates very few works that consider multiple factors driving systemic changes in an uncertain future. The article describes and recommends the use of distinct research tools, specifically foresight and scenarios methods, capable of addressing this gap in our present thinking about the future of intellectual property.

Cite the article as J de Beer, A Mogyoros and S Stidwill, “Present Thinking About the Future of Intellectual Property: A Literature Review”, (2014) 11:1 SCRIPTed 69

Read more about my projects and scholarship using the cutting-edge research method of foresight scenarios in Knowledge and Innovation in Africa: Scenarios for the Future, and The Future of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Development Agenda.