Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fisk's "Working Knowledge"

Just out in Studies in Legal History from the University of North Carolina Press is Working Knowledge: Employee Innovation and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual Property, 1800-1930, by Catherine L. Fisk, University of California, Irvine, School of Law. Here is the press's description:
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.
Here are the reviews:
"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