Patents For University Research No Help In Increasing University Research
from the so-much-for-that-theory dept
If you’ve read David Levine and Michele Boldrin’s excellent book Against Intellectual Monopoly (there’s a new version available), you’ll see study after study after study showing the same thing: despite the idea that patents are supposed to encourage more research, there’s simply no data that stronger patent protections increases the rate of research. In fact, if anything, the evidence suggests the opposite: that stronger patent laws allow researchers to rest on their laurels and use monopoly control to slow down any additional research. Much of this research is available in chapter 8 of their book.
Based on that, it should come as little surprise to see a new study coming out, suggesting that the infamous Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, that tweaked patent law to push universities to patent their research, did not actually cause greater research in the academic space. This is important, because many patent supporters point to the Bayh-Dole Act as being a key point in increasing the commercialization of research coming out of universities, thanks to the various patents. That now appears to be untrue. In the blog post linked above that discusses this, Institute for the Future blogger Anthony Townsend notes at the end “To their [Bayh and Dole’s] credit, at least they didn’t make things worse.” Unfortunately, that’s not true. They made things a lot worse. As we noted over two years ago, the Bayh-Dole Act has resulted in universities actively stifling research, using the monopoly powers granted to them under patents to prevent important basic research, driving up costs and slowing down innovation. Researchers are now less likely to share information, which has always been an important part in moving important research forward and figuring out how to build on each other’s research for practical applications.
So, despite the common claims by some that Bayh-Dole’s tweaks to the patent system helped drive better commercialization of basic research from universities into the market, we now have more evidence that it’s done the exact opposite. It didn’t increase the amount of research being done at the university level, and rather than encouraging greater innovation, the monopolies granted have helped to stifle innovative research, decrease information sharing and generally drive up the price of research and the commercial applications of that research. That’s exactly the opposite of what the patent system was intended to do.