Intellectual property (IP) comprises a variegated array of distinct legal regimes: patent, copyright, trade secret, trademark, misappropriation, and several specialized modes of protection, such as mask work (semiconductor chips), design, and database. Although multiple IP regimes can protect different aspects of the same work—computer software being a prime example—each mode of IP protection has distinct characteristics and limitations. For purposes of exploring the economic dimensions of IP, it is important to distinguish between two distinct functions served by the various legal regimes. The principal objective of IP law is to promote the creation of new and improved works—whether technological or expressive. This purpose encompasses patent, copyright, and trade secret law, as well as several more-narrow protection systems. The other economic function of IP law is ...

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