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
    Oliver K, 28 Jan 2009 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re:

    Mike,

    Very interesting articles. It would seem I stand corrected on the scope of damage to academia (I'll have to read "Against Intellectual Monopoly".)

    I am curious though, what alternatives you know of that are out there. What system might work better.

    As I am involved in commercializing patents, I am curious how unprotected discoveries might affect small business growth, and how to solve something like the following scenario:

    A group of entrepreneurs and technologists comes up with a new water filter system. They decide to market it and find it is highly lucrative. Coca-Cola comes along with a much larger marketing infrastructure and budget and decides to sell a competing product. The small company, because of a lack of IPP, cannot possibly match the marketing success of the larger company and folds.

    As an advocate of small business I know that small businesses love patents because they protect expensive research from well funded larger competition (who has not spent time doing research).

    Is there a reasonable solution that saves academia without punishing start-up investments? Otherwise to remove patents would mean that all research would have to be done by Universities and developed/produced by established businesses; definitely not a viable solution.

    Oliver

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