It's no surprise that we have trouble with the patent system and have seen all sorts of examples of why it often seems to lead to results that are the opposite of the system's intended purpose (to promote innovation). Over the past few years, the amount of research supporting the position that patents are harmful to innovation has been growing rapidly, and the latest addition looks to be quite useful. James Bessen and Michael Meurer have looked at the issue and have discovered that, especially recently, patents have become more costly than helpful. Studying the data on patents, they found that the value of patents is quickly being surpassed by the expense of patent litigation. In fact, they found that the more research a company did, the more likely they were to get sued for patent innovation. This probably isn't too surprising to many around here, but it clearly goes against the idea of what the patent system is supposed to encourage. Bessen and Meurer are working on a book discussing this very topic, which will probably end up on the big reading list.
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