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Institute for Law and Economics hosts lecture on emergence of intellectual property as global currency

November 14, 2018

By Joyee Au Yeung

On November 13, Penn Law’s Institute for Law and Economics hosted a Law and Entrepreneurship Lecture featuring Osagie Imasogie LLM’85, Senior Managing Partner at PIPV Capital. Imasogie spoke about how intellectual property is emerging as a global currency. Speaking from the perspective of a professional with extensive knowledge in multiple industries including private equity, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and more, he focused on the “intersections of finance, entrepreneurship, and technology” in intellectual property. He emphasized the effect intellectual property has on shaping and structuring our economy, and mentioned that intellectual property’s power as a currency is exactly where innovations and the economy merge.

Imasogie opened by describing the concept of a “shared myth,” an idea made famous by Yuval Harari. Shared myths refer to the spreading of grand ideas throughout the entire human society—Imasogie stated that both intellectual property and currency are simply shared myths. Both intellectual property and currency are societal and legal constructs, with intellectual property being intangible, and currency becoming more fluid and intangible as our society evolves. “The piece of paper in your pocket is nothing but an illusion,” he said, since currencies are becoming increasingly fluid, with intellectual property being the new wave.

Imasogie then discussed the history of intellectual property and its changing influence through time, focusing on its history in the United Kingdom and the United States. He said that intellectual property came into existence in the United Kingdom for “money, economics, and monopoly power,” to encourage technological development and increase productivity. However, the United States had a completely different business model, Imasogie explained, citing the 2013 Supreme Court case Bowman v. Monsanto Co., to highlight how intellectual property has developed into a more controlled “currency” in the United States.

“Everything you are thinking about, is in some form or another, protected by intellectual property laws,” said Imasogie. From Marvel Comics to tech firms like Google, intellectual property is all around us. Imasogie focused on two industries in which intellectual property has surprising sway and social effects: agriculture and healthcare. Intellectual property’s growth now determines what kind of investments are important for future prosperity, much like how we know what industries will rapidly develop when we see a flow of capital or currency in that direction. As an example, Imasogie pointed to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), an organization developing treatments designed to increase human life expectancy. Intellectual property thus now has the power to drive economic growth, he said, and the value it creates is the “new global currency.”

However, intellectual property’s future development remains indeterminate, as Imasogie described the the way many countries are racing one another to create an environment that encourages intellectual property development. Imasogie ended his remarks by reflecting upon intellectual property’s influence as a currency, and its major power as the value driver of national economies and public valuations.