How Patents Harm Biotech Innovation

from the scaring-people-off dept

Patent defenders often claim that patents are necessary because top venture capitalists would never invest without patents. And yet, we keep pointing to examples of some of the best venture capitalists in the business who are quite skeptical of patents. For the most part, those have been limited to software patents, but Brad Feld seems to have jumped the hurdle to recognizing it's not just software patents that are the problem, and is digging into the research on how much patents have held back innovation in lots of other fields as well (Brad: if you want a list of more such research, let us know...). He's written up a post about some upcoming research concerning patents in the biotech field, where he explains how patents are hindering innovation in that field as well by scaring off research into certain areas:
Regularly, patent advocates tell me how important patents are for the biotech and life science industries. However, there apparently is academic research in the works that shows that patents actually slow down innovation in biotech. The specific example we discussed was that there is increasing evidence that when a professor or company gets a patent in the field of genetics research, other researchers simply stop doing work in that specific area. As a result, the number of researchers on a particular topic decreases, especially if the patent is broad. It's not hard to theorize that this results in less innovation around this area over time.
I can't wait to see the final results of that study, as it would fit in well with a few other studies that have found similar results.

Filed Under: biotech, brad feld, innovation, patents, vcs


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  1. identicon
    Reed, 7 Feb 2010 @ 12:50pm

    Re: The Tam Jam

    "If a researcher is granted a patent in an area after spending time and money to get there, it is unlikely that they are just going to put something on the shelf and ignore it."

    You are confusing research with development. They do not go hand in hand for a number of obvious reason which I am not sure your are capable of understanding.

    Much of research is not applicable directly to any product that will enter the marketplace. The majority of this research is publicly or cooperatively funded.

    Science has always been and will continue to be socialistic in nature something else you seem incapable of wrapping your mind around.

    What you do seem to see is profit, but you do not understand the true cost in terms of externalities. Capitilism in its most modern form only exists in the realm of profitability due to massive externalities.

    What I think Mike as well as many other on this board are really arguing is the cost of the patent and copyright system goes far beyond those who they affect directly. For instance when a company patents obvious technology they prevent further innovation through litigation. Who knows how much more money could have been made by working off an existing concept. This is the true cost of the Intellectual Property system.

    So if one company controls a concept through IP and say makes 10 billion in a year, that is great for them. If they were not in control several companies could make a combined profit of over 100 billion. Which of these scenarios benefits the majority?

    Intellectual Property system will always be a tool or priviliedge that is designed around control. In the end you think your advocating for freedom, but in reality you have taken it away to benefit a minority.

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