Theories Supporting Existence of IPR

Intellectual property rights are based on the idea that they protect human invention and innovation in the same way that physical properties are protected. The arguments about intellectual property rights are crucial because they help us comprehend their justification and the many rights they grant. Three justifications for intellectual property rights have emerged over time, typically combined to support intellectual property rights.

In this article, you will learn about the three theories about intellectual property rights given by different philosophers, explaining their purpose and objective.

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John Locke’s Labour Theory

According to labour theorists, the creators or innovators expend much effort producing the work. As a result, individuals are entitled to ownership of any inventions or creative works. This theory’s fundamental tenet is that “everyone has an inalienable right to his labour” and that individuals have a right to the benefits of their efforts. 

According to the Lockean (Locke’s) idea, all resources belong to the commons. Still, if a person expands his labour on those resources and creates something new while leaving enough for others and without wasting the resources that person used, that person does not violate the commons. As a result, the new product that was developed using a person’s knowledge, abilities, and resources is now considered the personal or private property of the person.

Pros of Locke’s Labour Theory in Justifying IPR

1. Provides a sense of justice and recognition for one’s efforts by recognizing the individual’s labour and effort as the foundation for producing intellectual works.

2. Promotes innovation and creativity by encouraging people to invest their time, effort, and resources in producing valuable intellectual property.

3. Adheres to the idea of property rights by arguing that those who create things ought to be in charge of them and allowed to profit from the value that results from their labour.

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Cons of Locke’s Labour Theory in Justifying IPR

1. Strict ownership rights may obstruct the free exchange of ideas and information by limiting who may access, utilize, and build upon preexisting works.

2. It is attacked for being appropriate for finite resources, like land, but not for endless resources, like IPRs.

3. It can lead to excessive concentration of rights and resources, limiting entry for new creators and impeding innovation and competition.

4. Overlooks creativity’s collaborative and iterative nature, failing to acknowledge the influence of collective knowledge and cultural heritage on creating intellectual works.

Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarian Theory

Jeremy Bentham’s Utilitarian Theory is centred around the concept of maximizing the overall well-being of society, often known as the “greatest good for the greatest number.” This theory, also built upon by John Stuart Mill, forms the basis of utilitarianism. It suggests that enhancing industrial and cultural products can lead to a more prosperous economy and significantly impact society. The name “utilitarian” itself reflects the focus on promoting social welfare.

This idea contends that intellectual property rights’ monopoly and exclusive rights encourage innovators to spend more money creating new items. Additionally, it states that there would have been little motivation to develop new things if a product could be copied without incurring any penalty. According to this argument, intellectual property rights are justified since they foster innovation and advance society.

Pros of Bentham’s Utilitarian Theory in Justifying IPR

1. Promotes creativity and innovation by offering incentives through exclusive rights and financial rewards.

2. Encourages investment in research and development, which fosters economic growth.

3. Gives authors authority over how their works are distributed and commercialized, which promotes the spread of information.

Cons of Bentham’s Utilitarian Theory in Justifying IPR

1. Ignores all factors influencing creativity besides incentives.

2. Other motivations for inventing, such as interest, passion, desire, pleasure, curiosity, expression, reputation, or meeting social requirements, may also exist.

3. Monopoly stifles innovation and the free exchange of ideas.

GWF Hegel’s Personality Theory

This theory contends that all intellectual creations are extensions of their authors’ personalities, reflecting their personalities in what they produce. And for this reason, the authors or inventors ought to be the owners of their creations. Additionally, this guarantees that their honour and reputation are upheld. Hegel claims that respecting people as autonomous creatures requires acknowledging their property rights over their creations.

Pros of Hegel’s Personality Theory in Justifying IPR

1. Highlights the link between creativity and individual identity and acknowledges the significance of a person’s emotional and personal engagement in their creative output.

2. By granting them control over the use and alteration of their works, copyright protection ensures that creators’ reputations and integrity are safeguarded.

3. By conserving the authenticity and uniqueness of artistic expressions, it supports communities’ cultural and artistic legacy.

Cons of Hegel’s Personality Theory in Justifying IPR

1. It may be challenging to balance the rights of creators, consumers, and the public interest, particularly regarding transformative works or fair use.

2. The idea of personality rights can be ill-defined and ambiguous, which could result in disagreements and legal problems.

3. It is best suited for artistic and creative works covered by copyrights rather than scientific advancements protected by industrial property. Technology is typically created to address a specific need rather than to showcase the creator’s personality. For example, it would be challenging to describe Thomas Edison’s light bulb as an extension of him.


Overall, by emphasizing both individual natural rights and the more significant welfare of society, these three theories offer diverse reasons for intellectual property rights. All three approaches present various angles and emphasize the value of encouraging creativity and innovation. Each hypothesis has advantages and disadvantages. Because of this, there has always been disagreement about which theory best supports the case for intellectual property rights.

Gayatri Singh
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