Transforming IP policy debates: Economics into Intellectual Property

Dr Nicola Searle has provoked Intellectual Property (IP) policy makers and legal communities across the United Kingdom, United States, European Union, and United Nations to adopt a new shared understanding for the digital era.

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By encouraging policy-makers and legal practitioners to adopt economic analysis to deal with copyright law in the context of modern creative practice, Searle’s research has changed the nature of IP policy debate. Hence, it better upholds the interests of existing copyright holders and creators making new content, and ultimately those of consumers.

While the advent of the digital era saw a transformation in the creation, distribution and consumption of creative goods, the interpretation and application of copyright law struggled to keep up.

Searle argued that the rigid structure of copyright and the economic justification for it were at odds with motivating innovators. It highlighted the intrinsic tension between artistic integrity and the commercial market.

Searle’s work in shaping IP policy creating systems so that they are better aligned with socioeconomic structures and the creative industries' principles and practices have prompted self-reflection among legal practitioners.

Alienated by theory-heavy economics research, which bears little resemblance to the realities of copyright law in the digital era, the IP legal community had traditionally viewed IP's economic analysis with extreme scepticism. Searle’s interdisciplinary research approach drew together economics, management techniques, collaborations with sociologists and a deep understanding of IP law.

By sharing her research through the IPKat, the world’s largest and most popular English-language IP blog (with a subscriber list of 15,000 readers), Searle convinced legal practitioners and policy communities to go beyond a legal academic analysis and embed economic thinking into their practice and governance. As of July 2020, her IPKat articles have had 193,000 views and 370 comments.

Searle’s work with the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the UN’s Worldwide Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) and with communities of IP legal practitioners has influenced the fundamental nature of policy debate and improved the IP environment for creators and consumers around the world.

This research was submitted for REF 2021.