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. icon
    The Anti-Mike (profile), 7 Feb 2010 @ 1:51pm

    Re: Re: Fringe studies funded by who?

    Mike has never stated inventors do not deserve to be compensated. Only that they do not need special privileges or rights to do so.

    Yet, he is unable to show this to be true. There is zero explanation of how the pharma companies would be able to continue to pay for research, development, and the ever more expensive approval process to get new drugs to market, nor any consideration for the legal ramifications of cutting any corners and getting it wrong.

    We just wouldn't have the same levels of research and development if the retail price of medicines was set only by marginal costs.

    In fact, this pretty much explains where Mike has a problem with real world business. Marginal costs are often the small end of the expenses in many fields. This is one of those blank spaces between the facts that he rarely addresses.

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