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Intellectual property clause

The intellectual property clause of the United States Constitution confers power on the United States Congress. The clause states that Congress shall have power:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries
The intellectual property clause actually confers two distinct powers. The power to secure for limited times to authors the exclusive right to their writings is the basis for U.S. copyright law. The power to secure for limited times to inventors the exclusive rights to their discoveries is the basis for the patent laws.

In Eldred v. Ashcroft, the United States Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Sony Bono Copyright Term Extension Act that was based in part on the Intellectual Property Clause. Petitioner's in that case argued that successive retroactive extensions of copyright were functionally unlimited and hence violated the limited times language in the clause. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the Court, rejected this argument, reasoning that the terms provided by the Act were limited in duration and noting that Congress had a long history of granting retroactive extensions.

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