Intellectual property both leads and lags the development of new technology. It lags in the sense that developments usually precede the law. Today science is accelerating so rapidly that the lawyers and policy analysts can barely grasp what the new questions are, much less supply answers. How are we to adapt the historic forms of protection to deal with new things like patents for genetically modified life forms, or for the Internet? Yet, this process of adaptation is not new. There was a time when maps were all the rage in Europe and judges puzzled over how much difference was needed to distinguish one map from the next. In the early years of this country, nails were at the leading edge of our technology. Several hundred patent applications for assorted types of nails put a strain on out patent system. All nails are not alike, as it turned out. At any event, intellectual property rules often lag behind the advent of new kinds of technology.
Sherwood, Robert M.
"Human Creativity for Economic Development: Patents Propel Technology,"
Akron Law Review: Vol. 33
, Article 1.
Available at: http://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/akronlawreview/vol33/iss3/1