Post by Shyam Balganesh
Christopher Columbus Langdell is best known as a Legal Formalist who sought to develop an autonomous and deductive approach to legal analysis. Some of his most prominent contributions were in trying to identify the structure of rights and wrongs. Hidden within his body of work is a short five-page paper entitled Patent Rights and Copy Rights (12 Harv. L. Rev. 553 (1899)) where he tries to understand the precise analytical structure of statutory patents and copyrights. Langdell makes a number of interesting points in the paper, but what I found most compelling was his effort to locate the patent and copyright systems (i.e., statutes) within the realm of private law, despite the obvious role of the state in generating and maintaining the system. Here are a few of his observations (p. 554):
Has an author, musical composer, artist, or inventor a property in his literary, musical, or artistic creation, or in his invention, regarded as an incorporeal thing? If he have, this will furnish him with another and effective means of preventing the use and enjoyment of his creation or invention by others without his consent. If such a property exist, it is not created by the State, but is deduced as a consequence of the creation or invention. If such a property does not exist otherwise, doubtless it might be created by the State; but it is believed that no State ever has created such a property.