Monday 22 April 2013

Business Innovation and the Law: a new book

Business Innovation and the Law: Perspectives from Intellectual Property, Labour, Competition and Corporate Law, edited by Marilyn Pittard , Ann L. Monotti and John Duns (Faculty of Law, Monash University, Australia), is a curiously restless book. While the concept of business innovation is a fixed target, the authors of the various chapters approach it from a large number of different perspective: different academic disciplines, different jurisdictions -- even different periods in time.  If its function is to probe the complacent mind and force the reader to ask questions, it works well. However, this approach arguably makes it less able to answer the questions it asks, perhaps also because the laws are relatively easy to identify and explain but, in contrast, the reality of business innovation occurs in so many different industrial and commercial contexts.  There is also the danger of projecting the impact of the law, particularly case law, into business innovation. Much case law, especially at appellate level, is pathological, reflecting an individual conflict that requires judicial resolution, while similar conflicts are often resolved without recourse to the law because they are perceived as commercial issues rather than legal ones.

But what does the publisher say about this work?
"Business Innovation and the Law analyses the topical issue of protecting and promoting business research and development. It does so by examining business innovation through the lens of different legal disciplines – intellectual property, labour and employment laws, competition and corporate laws.

Evaluating the impact of each of these areas using discipline-specific and industry perspectives, the book also explores questions about whether a more harmonized approach is necessary to provide appropriate protection. Approaches of the common law and civil jurisdictions, particularly the European Union, inform and provide guidance to the analysis of emerging issues in this field. This book provides insights into various approaches taken by both common law and civil law jurisdictions regarding the increasingly blurred line of ownership rights in innovative industries. It traverses various disciplines of law as well as jurisdictions.

Using interdisciplinary perspectives to business innovation and inter-jurisdictional comparisons and analysis, this book will appeal to university administrators responsible for intellectual property policy, managers of technology transfer offices in universities, intellectual property lawyers, labour and employment lawyers and competition lawyers".
This seems on the whole an accurate and helpful description, and many of the chapters are very well equipped to deliver on the book's promise, being acknowledged experts in their fields. Sadly the book cannot remedy the obvious but inevitable fact that business innovation races ahead of both the law that governs it, the applications of economics that measure it and the principles of industrial relations that certainly used to govern it in the days of Big Employment -- and which in some sectors still do. Most of the law is designed for the days of one-inventor-one-invention-one-product, but look at the technology inside the hand-held device of your choice and you will see that this is now generally a myth.

Bibliographic data: published March 2013. xvi + 497 pages. Hardback ISBN 978 1 78100 161 5 ebook ISBN 978 1 78100 162 2. Hardback £100 (online from the publisher £90). Book's web page here.

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