When Intellectual Property Becomes Speculative: A Study of Patents as Financial Instruments
In this paper, I explore the entanglements of differing notions of credit in technology and science with patent law and the financialised economy. A patent is an intellectual property form which recognizes scientific or technological objects as legal subjects and transforms them into objects of property rights. It is hence a legal fictional creation by which technological and scientific inventions are converted into tradable commodities of varying commercial promise. Patents, in other words, imbue legal credibility to scientific credit.
Increasingly, however, patents act as generators of financial credits. They are not only understood as valuable assets, but also as indicators of creditworthiness, and as speculative financial instruments themselves. Patents are increasingly connected to the virtual capitalist market place of speculative exchange rather than to a commodities market based on the commodification of inventive scientific knowledge and the right to exclude. I examine how scientific credits are entwined with the financial credit economy through patents.
I present three various operative modes of patents: patents as property for inventive labour model; patents as currency of credence; and patents as investment assets or as securities. Intellectual property rights, as also 'real' property rights, are never absolute, and what makes their study so interesting is to see how they acquire their various values and what kind of links and associations can make property rights more or less solid or instable.