Friday, November 25, 2005

The game IS worth the candle ...

Last night, as part of the UCL Current Legal Problems Series, Professor Jeremy Phillips gave an engaging presentation on the application of game theory to strategic planning in intellectual property enterprises. From fast food restaurants to toy shops, from sporting goods to medicines, Jeremy demonstrated with increasing persuasion the practical and constructive results that could be achieved if more strategic decision-making is put into action to minimise losses and maximise returns. The novel twist to what might sound like common sense is that in certain situations this could lead to some surprising and yet potentially extremely rewarding actions in a corporate environment. For instance, manufacturing your own "fakes" ... why buy the counterfeit fake when you can buy the original? In other words, imitating yourself may prove the most effective means of consolidating your position as the original.

In the context of patents and life forms, game theory may provide a means to similar returns - not only (or perhaps merely) from an economic perspective, but also from a cultural and ethical view. A more strategic and innovative understanding of the interactions between ethical issues, cultural concerns, and commercial interests would broaden the way in which these questions are conceptualised - beyond the possibly limiting economic models that are mediated through sometimes over-simplified intellectual property equations. Indeed, more strategic planning when it comes to policy and legal developments, that might seem to "twist" the economic model, may prove to deliver greater commercial benefit in the process. Why proceed from a particular model as the starting point when it might be far more effective to imagine a whole new set of moves? Why play a game of repetition when you can win a game of strategy? For intellectual property applications, and for life patents in particular, perhaps the game is worth the candle.


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