George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

New White Paper Explores the Importance of Property Rights to National Wealth and Security

a hand reaching for a shining, hanging keyA new white paper, Property Rights: The Key to National Wealth and National Security, was published today by Dr. James Edwards, the Executive Director of Conservatives for Property Rights. In the white paper, Dr. Edwards explores how stable and effective property rights in both tangible and intangible property are critical to human flourishing and progress, and he notes that a renewed commitment to strengthening property rights will help to restore U.S. industrial competitiveness as a top national economic priority.

The white paper was launched at a briefing today on Capitol Hill that featured a speech by Congressman Thomas Massie, who noted the prescience of the Founders in formulating the Constitution’s IP Clause. Dr. Edwards discussed the new white paper and then joined a panel discussion that included Kimberly Chotkowski, CEO of Licensing Executives Society, Preston Noell, President of Tradition Family Property, and Robert Taylor, Founder and Owner of RPT Legal Strategies.

The prologue from the white paper is copied below:


Intellectual property is the basis of national economic development, wealth, power, and security. As our Founding Fathers recognized, the ideas represented in a patent form the basis for the advancement of science, technology, and industry. These advances are brought to fruition in the manufacturing process, which in turn provides useful products, including defense articles, as well as jobs, incomes, economic growth, and social stability. Manufacturing based on patents also creates opportunities for further research into and development of even better ideas and products — a continuous feedback loop that encourages more technological and thus societal advances. The loss of manufacturing in particular reduces opportunities for technological progress and economic growth.

Patents have developed historically, and the American system, embodied in the Constitution, is based on centuries of legal and philosophical developments. Perhaps the most central idea to emerge is the grounding of patents in property rights: The owner of the patent, whether the inventor or someone to whom he has sold or licensed the patent, has an exclusive right in the technology or processes or ideas contained in the patent. That right is in essence the ability for a limited time to employ the judicial system to stop others from using the patented matter and to enforce monetary damages for violation of the patent.

The ability to commercialize patents in a manufacturing enterprise requires investors who are willing to put up significant sums of money in the expectation of getting a decent return on their money. If the discovery contained in a patent is not recognized as a property right and protected for a sufficient period to allow the inventor and the investors to recoup their initial expenditures plus a reasonable profit, there will be fewer inventors and no investors, and much less progress.

The technological, economic, and social success of the United States has been built largely on the foundation of patents as property rights. Patent law and case law have evolved over the last two and a quarter centuries, but the concept of a patent as an exclusive right of an inventor for a limited period has remained at the center. However, in recent years, legislation and judicial decisions have moved away from the concept of an issued patent as securing a property right.

This paper analyzes the necessary foundation of private property rights for achieving citizens’ thriving, economic prosperity through both individual flourishing and industrial competitiveness, and national security that preserves independence. It considers property rights’ cornerstone role in attaining industrial competitiveness through the lens of President Reagan’s commission on U.S. industrial competitiveness. This approach provides the benefit of hindsight and several decades of perspective, giving a clearer view of what went right and what went wrong. This framework also gives a longer view for assessing our present challenges.

After an introduction comparing the Reagan era to the present time, the first section examines industrial competitiveness: What is this concept and what are its purposes? The second section delves into invention and patents, developing a case study from a pillar of a property rights-based, competitive in­dustrial backbone. The third section pulls back the lens from the case study to apply the lessons from the previous section to other aspects of property rights, forms of property, and industrial competitiveness more broadly. The final section makes concrete recommendations for reestablishing private property rights in pursuit of reinvigorated U.S. industrial competitiveness for the 21st century.

To read the white paper, please click here.