An exclusive right, as the name suggests, is the legal power to prohibit, or exclude, all others from taking a certain action. In some cases, such a right must be granted to persons by the state, while in others it may be automatically assumed.
Exclusive rights are found in both property law, as well as the various intellectual property laws, which include copyright law, patent law, trademark law, trade secret law, and public utilities. Many scholars argue that such rights form the basis for the institution of private property.
Types of exclusive rights
A property right begins with the acquisition of something tangible. Upon its acquisition, one may exclude others from it. For instance, you can prohibit others from entering or using your land, or from taking your possessions.
There are multiple types of intellectual property, the most common being a copyright, or the exclusive right to produce copies of a work. In some cases an intellectual property right may be automatically assumed, but in others it must first be granted.
Unlike a property right, an intellectual property right applies to all copies of the particular subject it covers, regardless of whether the respective intellectual property holder actually owns them all. Thus, if someone owns a copy of a particular copyrighted work, but does not hold the copyright to it, he is even prohibited from making copies of his own copy; the right to make any copies is exclusively that of the copyright holder.
History and arguments
In property law, exclusive rights have often been the codification of pre-existing social norms with regard to land or chattels .
In addition, some scholars (particularly in continental Europe) argue that those exclusive rights sometimes referred to as intellectual property are the codification of some kind of moral right, natural right, or personality right. However, such arguments can only be consistently justified through instrumentalism or consequentialism , as exemplified by the reasoning evident in Article One of the United States Constitution that copyrights and patents exist solely "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts."
Privately granted rights, created by contract, may occasionally appear very similar to exclusive rights, but are only enforceable against the grantee, and not the world at large.
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