Accepted Paper:

Turning Inventions into Assets: Double Immateriality and Speculation in Patents as Securities  

Author:

Hyo Yoon Kang (University of Kent)

Paper short abstract:

This paper identifies and problematises the increasing financialisation of patents from legal conceptual and STS perspectives. It argues that patents as securities effect a doubling of immateriality and speculation: namely that of an invention’s potential and the patent’s financial value.

Paper long abstract:

This paper identifies and problematises the increasing financialisation of patents from legal conceptual and STS perspectives. A patent, as a legal intellectual property right, enables and configures different modes by which the potential of a patented invention is weaved into social relations: via appropriation, possession, commodification, and financialisation or securitisation. Differently from the critiques of patents that have examined the ways in which scientific knowledge have become proprietary, or that have analysed the effects of monopoly rights on innovation and pointed to the ethical issues of access to knowledge, I suggest that the financialisation of patents is driven by different modes of rationality and temporality than those of commodification. The rationality that drives financialisation is probability (as opposed to monopoly), and its temporal mode is one of speculation (rather than of a reward or promise). These modes reconstitute patents' values as interests, securities and assets: for example as collaterals for capitalization, assets in balance sheet and as investment vehicles. I propose that the value of the patents as financial assets is neither measured by primary reference to the inventive thing itself nor by its surplus value as a commodity. I show how the value of patents as assets arises by the very valuation practices themselves, which vary in their techniques and settings, for example, in patent funds and court litigations.

The paper raises further questions about this intricate entanglement and doubling of inventive and financial futures in patent law, both of which share the characteristics of immateriality and speculation.

Panel T005
Turning Things into Assets