Working Knowledge: Employee Innovation and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual Property, 1800-1930

Working Knowledge: Employee Innovation and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual Property, 1800-1930

by Catherine L. Fisk

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Skilled workers of the early nineteenth century enjoyed a degree of professional independence because workplace knowledge and technical skill were their "property," or at least their attribute. In most sectors of today's economy, however, it is a foundational and widely accepted truth that businesses retain legal ownership of employee-generated intellectual property.

In Working Knowledge, Catherine Fisk chronicles the legal and social transformations that led to the transfer of ownership of employee innovation from labor to management. This deeply contested development was won at the expense of workers' entrepreneurial independence and ultimately, Fisk argues, economic democracy.

By reviewing judicial decisions and legal scholarship on all aspects of employee-generated intellectual property and combing the archives of major nineteenth-century intellectual property-producing companies--including DuPont, Rand McNally, and the American Tobacco Company--Fisk makes a highly technical area of law accessible to general readers while also addressing scholarly deficiencies in the histories of labor, intellectual property, and the business of technology.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807899069
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 11/01/2009
Series: Studies in Legal History
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 376
File size: 531 KB

About the Author

Catherine L. Fisk is Chancellor's Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Working Knowledge is a tour de force. Fisk takes a series of subjects that individually are complex and multi-layered—labor relations, intellectual property rights, control over innovation—and weaves them together into a pattern that is both subtle and clear. Scholars of innovation, of labor relations, of intellectual property, and of legal history will all find something fascinating here. Highly recommended!—James Boyle, author of The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind

Fisk's important and gracefully written book pulls together insights from disparate fields to inform our understanding of the creation and dissemination of intellectual property. The legal ideas are given life through an impressive and judicious use of archival material to illustrate how legal doctrine had an impact on the way lawyers, entrepreneurs, inventors, and capitalists shaped their business practices as well as their legal strategies. An impressive accomplishment.—Alfred S. Konefsky, University at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York

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Working Knowledge: Employee Innovation and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual Property, 1800-1930 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
rivkat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good look at the change from individual to corporate control of innovation and creation, accomplished by changes in business practices and related changes in law. Most useful in demonstrating that the much-vaunted move from status to contract was not necessarily, as proponents often claimed, about expanding freedom; courts were entirely willing to imply terms in the contract that favored the employer and that were inconsistent with past practice. As employees often lacked bargaining power or even knowledge that they needed to bargain, this meant a substantial increase in vulnerability, connected to larger contradictions in the ideology of free labor.