Scientists Feel That Patents Cause Significant Harm To Research

from the anyone-other-than-lawyers-and-monopolists-like-these-things? dept

In the last few years, as more and more problems with the patent system have come out, we've seen some defenders of the patent system try to categorize and compartmentalize the problems. They'll say things like "well, maybe patents cause some problems with software" but they're important elsewhere. The problem is that in pretty much every area they claim patents "work" for, the actual evidence suggests otherwise. For example, there's been a belief among many that patents are hugely important to scientists. A few years back, we saw that this wasn't necessarily true, with many scientists complaining about the damage done by patents -- especially when it came to collaborating and sharing ideas -- a key and important element of creating useful and compelling research.

Michael Geist points us to a recent survey of scientists who say that IP protection has a negative impact on their research. It's greatly slowed down the ability to do research, as universities (thanks to the dreadful and damaging Bayh-Dole Act -- which has significantly hurt progress in scientific research) are trying to hoard anything that can be patented for the sake of profit, rather than scientific advancement. Of course, advancement doesn't work that way. It works through collaboration and sharing ideas -- and what patents do is add a huge bureaucracy to the process, encouraging secrecy, not sharing and hoarding, not collaboration. Once again, we're seeing that about the only folks who really truly benefit from patents are the lawyers.

Filed Under: bayh-dole, patents, scientists


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2009 @ 9:34am

    Did I read the same article as you? It seems to me you are taking some liberty by expanding a highly compartmentalized survey into a one of somewhat universal applicability.

    Per my reading of the survey, it is the practice of using MTAs by universities that is having a somewhat limiting effect, and not the patent regime itself.

    If anything, this is an article that may give pause to consider the presumptions underlying university activities under Bayh-Dole...a point about which I have previously expressed concern that some universities are viewing research results as a "cash cow", and not as educational tools.

    In all of years of dealing quite closely with scientists performing basic research, not once have I heard any of them decry that patents were stifling their research. To the contrary, not one has ever given the patent regime even a moment of thought. They perform their research as they see fit, publish their results in journals, and then move on to their next project. But, some might ask, "what if a patentee gets out of sorts?" The simple answer, I guess, is that in these circumstances a patentee would find it difficult, if not impossible, to prove financial damage, and that equitable relief in the form of an injunction under these circustances is but a pipe dream under the MercExchange v. eBay standard articulated a couple of years ago by the Supreme Court.

    Scientific research will go on. Patents will continue to issue. The two will live side by side in peaceful harmony and life will go on with business as usual.

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