The economic analysis of intellectual property rights (IPR) usually focuses on material goods. In addition, IPR laws were primarily developed in relation to industrial sectors. Today, the structural evolution of economies and technological progress impose to reconsider the role of the main forms of intellectual property, patents, trademarks and copyright, in services. Service companies rarely apply for patents, because official classifications do not include service classes. Besides, service firms have a particular perception of the innovation and imitation process. Many firms use copyrights to protect innovative services, but the copyright system is not evolved enough. Trademark applications are frequent, both for diffusing new knowledge and differentiating services on the market. Thus, service firms have to choose an appropriate combination of IPR. In this context, aggregate statistics provide a non-homogeneous picture about IPR in services. Empirical observations and theoretical considerations suggest to reflect on the general IPR system and the creation of formal tools explicitly devoted to services.
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