The Innovation Commons

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



This chapter on the “innovation commons” examines both the socially beneficial and the harmful explanations given for joint research, joint production, and standard setting. It argues that IP collaborations are often best understood as a way of compensating for IP systems that have divided rights into tiny pieces with uncertain boundaries. These rights cannot be gainfully used unless they are reassembled. Importantly, the arguments for both individual appropriation and commons management are economic. Exclusion by legal process has a cost, and in intellectual property regimes these costs are particularly high because the boundaries are so ambiguous. A firm invests in the creation and defense of individual boundaries only to the extent that the gains from exclusion are greater than those from cooperation. The line of equipoise between these two costs identifies the boundary between individual and community management.


joint research, joint production, standard setting, intellectual property collaborations

Publication Title

Creation without Restraint: Promoting Liberty and Rivalry in Innovation