Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



In this Article, Professor Dreyfuss explores the field of collaborative research in the realm of intellectual property law. Traditionally, scientists, artists, and professors developed ideas alone, utilizing only their own knowledge and research to complete their works. Recently, however, due in part to an increasing need for specialization, the globalization of the marketplace, the rapid growth of the Internet, and an expansion in intellectual property law, collaborative production is replacing individual efforts.

Collaborative efforts have posed an array of new and challenging legal problems. Parties sometimes find themselves with- out a clear sense of who has rights to royalties, who can make binding decisions regarding publication or commercial exploits, or who has legal authority to build upon the work and make improvements. Additionally, collaborators may lose access to materials necessary to further future research, or discover that their contributions are not acknowledged when the work is published.

In dealing with these problems, two schools of thought have emerged. Economists, using a Coasian intuition, theorize that voluntary associations for the express purpose of producing output should lead to private allocations of accompanying intellectual property rights. Accordingly, advocates of this theory posit that legal intervention is undesirable, because parties are best positioned to make their own decisions regarding joint ventures. On the other hand, based upon their experiences watching intellectual property problems emerge over time, many attorneys believe that increasing legal intervention is necessary. This Article proposes a series of legal rules that utilize both intellectual property law's concepts of authorship and inventorship and Coasian ideas of transactional freedom. These rules provide a benchmark for collaborative parties, thereby assisting them in identifying issues and structuring workable arrangements. Professor Dreyfuss's proposal would also save collaborators' valuable time and resources by serving as a set of default rules. Finally, these rules, if adopted, would help courts interpret collaborative agreements in a way that best reflects the parties' intent.