A means to protect Orphan Works?
September 3, 2009 8:46 PM   Subscribe

Are there any documented instances where the U.S. Government has used the power of eminent domain to take intellectual property?
posted by cinemafiend to Law & Government (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My understanding is no. There has been some talk of it recently. Maryland threatened to use eminent domain to seize the Preakness. Basically, this is just something for law review articles right now, where it has been brought up a few times.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:59 PM on September 3, 2009

If you take a loose interpretation of intellectual property and eminent domain, you can wander into territory where the government designates IP as classified in one way or another. For example, the breaking of the Japanese MAGIC codes in WWII was deliberately withheld from some civilian agencies, such as the FBI, that could have also used that intelligence to prosecute some crimes prior to WWII.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:13 PM on September 3, 2009

Well, according to one point of view, INSLAW would fit -- although whatever was done in that confusing affair was not done under a claim of eminent domain, exactly.
Knowing something of complex integration projects I could never believe that a) a code base could be that flexible, particularly in 1983, b) that it was worth stealing a core when most of the work is done in the integration anyway, c) that any particular part of the food chain of feeding off the government contract teat would need to be turned on or that there was value in doing so, because they provide double-dipping employment when the GS-10-and-ups retire. *baffled*
posted by dhartung at 10:56 PM on September 3, 2009

There were cases during WWII when the US government ignored patents held by certain companies and authorized other companies to produce products based on those patents, for the war effort.

But there wasn't any court action involved, in the sense of a formal eminent domain proceedings. They just did it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:56 PM on September 3, 2009

Allegedly the Department of Justice sought an order seizing the Mongols Motorcycle Club’s trademark though it's unclear if there is a real trademark to seize.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:21 PM on September 3, 2009

In WW1, two companies had conflicting aircraft patents which stifled production, and wikipedia tells me the US government pressured them into forming a 'patent pool' with a 'comparatively small blanket fee'.

Also, it's not the US, but in the UK the government a perpetual right to royalties to Peter Pan to the childrens' hospital to which the copyright was bequeathed. All it took was a clause in a copyright law that was being passed at the time.
posted by Mike1024 at 12:20 AM on September 4, 2009

State governments have threatened/tried it to prevent sports teams from leaving (Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Colts). It didn't amount to anything, in the end.
posted by sinfony at 2:10 AM on September 4, 2009

If you take a loose interpretation, almost all the Native American cultural patrimony in government museums fits the bill.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:28 AM on September 4, 2009

I'm not sure they've used eminent domain, but surely if they can RICO your car and house, they can RICO any intellectual works you produced.
posted by gjc at 6:08 AM on September 4, 2009

If you take a loose interpretation, almost all the [former] Native American cultural patrimony in government museums fits the bill [prior to the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 and the restructuring of Native American artifact collections under the National Museum of the American Indian Act of 1989].
posted by Pollomacho at 6:37 AM on September 4, 2009

Copyrights and patents are routinely subject to "compulsory license" by the government, which is a close cousin to eminent domain.
posted by MattD at 6:44 AM on September 4, 2009

The WWI Airplane Patent War is close; basically, the government forced the patent holders to form a patent pool organization and allow anyone who wanted to sell airplanes to the US government to join.
posted by fings at 8:40 AM on September 4, 2009

Duplicate, sorry. I missed that Mike1024 had hit that one already. :-(
posted by fings at 8:41 AM on September 4, 2009

"The trademark "Nivea" was expropriated in many countries following World War II. Beiersdorf completed buying back the confiscated trademark rights in 1997. (...)
1945-1949: Most of the affiliates and the international trademarks in almost all countries, in particular in the USA, UK and the Commonwealth, and France, are lost. The company Beiersdorf has to start again virtually from scratch."

"As part of the reparations after World War I, Bayer had its assets, including the rights to its name and trademarks confiscated in the United States, Canada, and several other countries. In the United States and Canada, Bayer's assets and trademarks were acquired by Sterling Drug, a predecessor of Sterling Winthrop. (...) In 1994, Bayer AG purchased Sterling Winthrop's over the counter drug business from SmithKline Beecham and merged it with Miles Laboratories, thereby reacquiring the U.S. and Canadian trademark rights to "Bayer" and the Bayer cross, as well as the ownership of the Aspirin trademark in Canada."
posted by iviken at 8:53 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

The governments of many countries can prevent the filing of patents for national security reasons with security orders.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 9:00 AM on September 4, 2009

Not eminent domain, and but maybe David Bohm during WWII?

"Without security clearance, Bohm was denied access to his own work; not only would he be barred from defending his thesis, he was not even allowed to write his own thesis in the first place!"

Losing not only reproduction rights to your own work but being disallowed from continuting to produce any further IP in the same vein seems to fit.
posted by yohko at 11:43 AM on September 4, 2009

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