Who is in Charge Here? The Internet of Things, Governance and the Global Intellectual Property Regime

Dec 30, 2020

Andrew Rens


No one entity is in charge of the Internet, yet it works. The functioning of the Internet is maintained by an amalgamation of technological architectures, standards (and standards bodies) and task specific institutions, that are referred to as the Internet governance regime. But this mode of organization faces new challenges. Increasingly everyday objects, from cat feeders to traffic lights, are being fitted with sensors and controls and then connected to the Internet. The resulting Internet of Things is beset with problems of security, safety and privacy which demand public policy solutions. Yet the range of potential solutions is constrained by the global intellectual property regime. Development of technical standards is menaced by patent hold up and royalty stacking. Anti-circumvention laws threaten security research and remediation and prohibit owners and users from fixing their own property. The incompatible paradigms of Internet governance and the global intellectual property regime collide on the policy frontier of the Internet of Things.