World Intellectual Property Day

Apparently today is "World Intellectual Property Day". From what I can see around the net, the idea is noble, the naming not so much. The day was organised by WIPO in 1999 to help promote IP rights around the world and the impact that they have on invention and innovation.

From my limited understanding of IP law (copyrights, patents, trademarks), they have this backwards. The day is named after a means of correcting a perceived market failure - why should that be celebrated? Intellectual property creates monopolies, causing inefficiency, in the belief that this is balanced by the creation of non-rival goods - goods that can be used by many people simultaneously, and so appear to require incentives other than money for their creation.

This trade-off has come to be more and more skewed towards rights holders, leaving the general public (who are the intended beneficiaries of the original law) behind in the search for any way, however small, of monetising these rights. The aim no longer seems to be about promoting science and the arts, but creating restrictions in order to promote profits. Innovation is not a "sit and think in a vacuum" task - it builds on previous works and ideas. Enforcing restrictions must then have a negative effect due to the increased difficulty and cost of accessing those works and ideas.

So, how about World Innovation Day instead? Or World Creativity and Innovation Week (April 15 - 21)? A "celebration of our ability to get new ideas, use imagination and make new decisions to make the world a better place". That sounds much more like it. That's something I'd celebrate.