October 01, 1999
Why should the Federalist Society have an Intellectual Property Practice Group? Is there a "Federalist"-or at least a conservative or libertarian-position on intellectual property? Since we started this practice group a few years ago, we have heard such questions from time to time and considered them as we organized programs. Recently, the board asked me to set out what we have come to envision as the purpose of tills group.
Some of these questions have faded as technological innovation has taken center stage in our economy and culture. Many of us who knew intellectual property before intellectual property was cool are still cannot get used to hearing people exclaim "wow, that must be interesting!" when we tell them what we do. Intellectual property and technology do indeed give rise to some of the most intriguing current issues.
Such attention raises the stakes. Today's revolution in information and communications technology is reshaping the economy and society, and tomorrow promises to bring similarly important advances in biotechnology, materials science, and other fields. For good or ill, politicians, intellectuals, interest groups, bureaucrats, and ordinary voters have begun to care about intellectual property and technology. They recognize that what we do or do not do to the law in these areas will shape society for a long time.
When these issues are debated, we therefore must ensure that the principles of liberty, free markets, and limited government prevail. Although our practice area has long been graced with a number of thoughtful and effective organizations, they have never approached issues from this perspective. With its successful record and effective network of volunteers, the Federalist Society and its members can make that contribution. The Intellectual Property Practice Group is central to the Society's interests in intellectual property and technology.
Broadly speaking then, our practice group's mission is to examine the role of intellectual property and technological innovation in a free society. To answer the question posed in the first paragraph, there is no "Federalist Society" approach to intellectual property and technology issues. It would also be hard to find a consensus Libertarian or conservative position on these issues.
Whatever our differences over particulars and priorities, however, we all share the same goals: We believe that people should be free to innovate and to reap the rewards of their creativity, that technology should empower the individual rather than the state, and that intellectual property rights, properly balanced as the Founders intended, are essential to a free and prosperous society.
Just as important, albeit less lofty than its other goals, the Federalist Society Intellectual Property Practice Group exists to foster friendships and professional relationships among its membership. Our common interests and goals serve as a great starting point. As in so many other areas, the Federalist Society's network has proven to be both professionally and personally rewarding, as well as an effective force for good in the legal community.
With the increasing attention paid to our practice area, we face ever more new federal and state legislation, court decisions, and international treaties that affect our practice. Our Practice Group, with its highly praised e-mail bulletin and newsletter, serves as an excellent practical resource while providing the tools we need to advance the goals set forth above.
The launch of our subcommittees this summer promises to better serve our members and to involve them even more in our activities. Our new leaders and volunteers have many exciting ideas for programs that will advance our goals. We hope you will participate.