Property in Law: Government Rights in Legal Innovations

57 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2010 Last revised: 28 Jun 2014

See all articles by Stephen Clowney

Stephen Clowney

University of Arkansas - School of Law

Date Written: August 16, 2010


This Article makes the case that local governments should have intellectual property rights over the text of the laws they create. I argue that just as patents promote risky but ultimately valuable scientific experimentation, granting some form of IP protection to cities and states could result in a socially beneficial upsurge in legal experimentation.

This piece begins by presenting evidence that local legislatures currently have little incentive to pass bold, imaginative statutes. The problem, in a nutshell, is that while legal experimentation creates many risks, the benefits of innovation remain largely externalized. The Article then contends that intellectual property protection for legal experimentation can raise social welfare by increasing incentives to produce reform. For example, a municipality that enacts a new and effective zoning scheme - and has IP rights in its work - would not only stand to attract new residents and businesses, but it would also have the power to license its innovations to neighboring jurisdictions. Part III answers potential criticisms of the idea, focusing on the complaint that intellectual property would slow the spread of successful legal advances. The final section of the manuscript explores which available IP paradigm - copyright or patent - would better regulate property-in-law claims.

Keywords: Legal innovation, intellectual property, local government, copyright, incentives

Suggested Citation

Clowney, Stephen, Property in Law: Government Rights in Legal Innovations (August 16, 2010). Ohio State Law Journal, Vol. 71, p. 1, 2011, Available at SSRN:

Stephen Clowney (Contact Author)

University of Arkansas - School of Law ( email )

260 Waterman Hall
Fayetteville, AR 72701
United States

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