Patents, copyrights, trademarks and related interests are known as intellectual property (IP). It has not been long since patents especially were regarded in U.S. courts, and the Supreme Court in particular, as tools of monopolists, and their owners often fared poorly. However, people have come increasingly to view privately funded innovation as critical to national economic well-being and to agree that such innovation cannot occur unless companies that succeed in the marketplace can recoup their research, development and marketing costs. That is a major function of IP, and, particularly within the past dozen years, IP has been seen, both here and abroad, as playing a key role in developing technologies for the next century.

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This is an updated version of an article originally published in volume 35, number 2 of IDEA: The Journal of Law and Technology (1994-95) at 79. The update was originally made available as Paper 32 of the Pierce Law Faculty Scholarship Series by NELLCO (nellco.org).