1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Egenis · Research

Co-operative Management of Intellectual Property Rights (2004-2006)

Jane Calvert

Start date


Affiliated staff

Principal investigators: Steve Hughes (Egenis), Xiaobai Shen (Innogen) Associated staff: Robin Williams, Joyce Tait


Xiaobai Shen

Funded by

The EU PRIME Network of Excellence


During the last twenty years, intellectual property has been strengthened and extended to basic research and new technologies like software or biotechnologies. Patents and copyrights have played a key role in the recent waves of innovation in these industries where numerous and scattered intellectual property rights (IPRs) may result in a tragedy of "anti-commons" so that hold ups, multiple margins and transaction costs impede innovation and competition. Furthermore, putting IPR at the core of innovative activities, as an economic target and a proxy for innovation performance, has modified the rationale for investing in research.

Innogen was involved in this project with partners from France and Italy and worked on `Patent Platforms in Agricultural Biotechnologies' with colleagues in Egenis and contributed to a transverse analytical framework with staff having also Open-source expertise in the Edinburgh Centre.


  • To understand how collective institutions based on intellectual property rights (CIPR) develop in response to blocking IPRs on cumulative and/or complementary innovations.
  • To evaluate the performances of these institutions.


This project applied a transversal approach to two different industries, Open Source Software and Patent Platforms in Agricultural Biotechnology, to develop a comparison between these two forms of CIPR.


The project analysed a diversity of tools for the collective management of IP rights (e.g. patent pools and clearing house mechanisms), and argued that these tools enable a decentralised yet coordinated management of R&D projects where cooperative R&D is commonplace.

It showed that CIPRs vary widely in the details of their functioning and implementation. This reflects the variety of technological fields in which they can take place. Communities of IP users frequently find ways to avoid or reduce the anticommons situation, and the collective handling of IP rights allows the creation of original forms of organisation. However, although collective institutions are improving, nothing guarantees that they can perfectly compensate for all the deficiencies of the IP system, so IP proliferation remains a problem.


O’Malley, M, Bostanci, A and Calvert, J (2005) Whole genome patenting, Nature Reviews Genetics, Vol. 6, No. 6, pp. 502-506.

Shen, X (2005) A dilemma for developing countries in IP strategy? Lessons from a case study of software piracy and Microsoft in China, Science and Public Policy, Volume 32, Number 3, pp. 187-198.

Calvert, J (2007) Patenting genomic objects: genes, genomes, function and information, Science as Culture Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 207-223

Hughes, S and Deibel, E, (2007), Plant Breeders Rights, Room for Manoeuvre? Tailoring Biotechnologies, 2, pp. 77-86.