Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Buddhism and Intellectual Property Rights

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Buddhism and Intellectual Property Rights: The Role of Compassion

Soraj Hongladarom
Chulalongkorn University

I offer the outline of a theory that justifies the concept of intellectual property (IP). IP is usually justified by a utilitarian claim that such rights provide incentives for further discovery and protect the innovator through a monopoly. I propose to broaden the protection offered by the IP regime. My argument is based on the concept of compassion (karuṇā), the aim of relieving suffering in all others. An analysis of how patented products originate shows that they typically depend not only on scientists in the laboratory, but on numerous factors and elements, many of which do not belong to the corporation in which the experiments are conducted. Because these elements have a necessary role in the discovery of inventions, they also deserve fair treatment. In practice, this could mean that the resulting patented product would be made more accessible to the general population and that the corporation would be more actively involved in society. In the long run, this could prove beneficial for all parties, including the patent holders themselves.

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Intellectual Property in Early Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 19, 2012

Intellectual Property in Early Buddhism: A Legal and Cultural Perspective

Ven. Pandita (Burma)
University of Kelaniya

In this paper, I examine the modern concepts of intellectual property and account for their significance in monastic law and culture of early Buddhism. As a result, I have come to the following conclusions: (1) the infringement of copyrights, patents, and trademarks does not amount to theft as far as Theravādin Vinaya is concerned; (2) because a trademark infringement involves telling a deliberate lie, it entails an offense of expiation (pācittiya), but I cannot find any Vinaya rule which is transgressed by copyright and patent infringements; and (3) although the Buddha recognized the right to intellectual credit, commentarial interpretations have led some traditional circles to maintain that intellectual credit can be transferred to someone else.

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