IP Lawyers Join the Priesthood

Are IP lawyers really just prelates? In an otherwise unenthusiastic review of Intellectual Property Rights and the Life Science Industries: A Twentieth Century History in the journal Nature, I ran across this intriguing snippet:

One interesting concept described in the book is that of the “patent community” of IP lawyers who have a vested interest in the IP system, and have “interpretive custody” of the system similar to that of the Catholic priesthood when the Bible was in Latin. [Emphasis added]

While the reviewer, a lawyer, goes on to make the point that academics have at least as much at stake in the wiser-than-thou writ-interpretation game, he rightly concedes the point. The transaction costs involved in any wholesale IP regime change — not to mention the corresponding power shift — are among the more significant quasi-economic obstacles to reforming intellectual property law, little different than the problems Pope John XXIII faced in pushing through his vernacular changes at Vatican II.