It is a problem that mainstream theory, which has informed the belief systems regarding the operation as well as the predicted social and economic effects of IPR systems, cannot explain why the IPR system generates different performance results and varying potential for growth across the firms, sectors and nations participating in the IPR system.
This paper sketches a theory of the ‘Productive Potential of Intellectual Property Rights’ which is able to do just that. Focusing on the ‘rules of the game’ embedded in the institutional IPR environment and the ‘play of the game’ within the alternative institutions of IPR governance, the paper emphasizes the importance of the nature or quality of the relationships among IPR stakeholders and the contribution of such relationships to the processes of financial and non-financial value creation and distribution from IPRs. The central role of cooperation, asymmetric relationships, and the effective resolution of conflicting interests amongst stakeholders is addressed. It is suggested that the proposed framework provides a better starting point for the design of IPR policy and management.