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Rembrandts in the Rear View Mirror: The Demise of Intellectual Capital 1

By Joseph E. Root 2

For all our otherwise stellar attributes, we patent lawyers are not a very charismatic lot. The author speaks from within the fraternity, so that statement is a rueful admission, not an accusation. The fact is, while our college classmates were doing pharmaceuticals, close interpersonal contact and loud, rhythmic music, we spent weekends with differential equations, biochemistry and number theory. In truth, we interact better with machines and molecules than we do with people, as our long-suffering significant others often remind us.

For a moment in the recent past, however, patent lawyers had their fifteen minutes in the spotlight, thanks to Intellectual Capital, an idea developed in the late ‘80’s. IC caught on in the early to mid-‘90’s and made the transition to a full-fledged movement in mid-decade. The association with the information economy and the Internet is not coincidental, as IC stems from the notion that the shift from bricks to clicks makes information the currency that matters. Intellectual property (patents, trademarks, copyrights, know-how) will replace tangible property as the measure of success, the Movement said. As the engineers on this locomotive of progress, patent lawyers would lead the way to the future. Overnight, patent lawyers started appearing on the covers of trade magazines – indeed, suddenly there were entire magazines devoted to patent lawyers al...

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