Publication | ThinkSet, issue 5

Applying "A Beautiful Mind" to High-Stakes Negotiations and IP Disputes

Jeffrey Klenk

Summer 2018

Consider this scene from the film A Beautiful Mind.

It is the late 1940s. Mathematician John Nash is in a bar with friends. Several women walk in, including a blonde woman who immediately provokes competitive banter among the friends.

“Every man for himself, gentlemen,” says one of them.

In Nash, this eruption of competition inspires a revelation: If all of the men compete to talk to the blonde woman, the likely outcome is that she turns them all down. But if none of them talks to the blonde women, and they instead talk with her friends, then they avoid competing with each other and potentially insulting the other women.

This is clearly a Hollywood concoction. But it illustrates a core Nash principal of governing dynamics: In the ideal bargaining solution, no one has an incentive to deviate. Or, as the Hollywood Nash concludes, “The best result comes when everyone in the group does what’s best for himself and the group.”

Nash’s work on bargaining theory, once the purview of academia, is being applied more broadly. Its core principles can provide a formidable advantage to business negotiators, and, in recent years, federal courts have considered the tenets of bargaining theory as a possible element in calculating damages in intellectual property litigation.

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Jeffrey Klenk

Managing Director

Washington, DC