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
    :), 7 Feb 2010 @ 4:28pm

    Re: Re: investments

    Well there is also the internet, microwave, regenerative medical research, robotic prosthetics, bio engineering that all came about by public grants.

    But I don't like the goverment either so lets see another alternative, where people colaborate on a commom knowledge pool and build business around it would that work?

    Who would be interested? Medical professionals, researchers and individuals perhaps?

    Where would the resources come from? From a pool of 6 billion people interested in their own health maybe?

    Why do we need the companies any way?

    To do the research? nope, that can be done and always was done independently of financial resources.

    To do development? We have the means to create a giant network of clinics, research labs, universities, individuals all over the world this can't be it.

    So why exactly do we need companies to do it for us?

    If they collect money from sales this can not be done by hospitals and clinics? or by specialized medical manufacturing factories that could also provide feedback into the common knowledge pool that would service a region?

    I can't remember the last time something new came out of private research, can anyone remember something really new?

    But what I'm seeing is people jumping in other directions and making things happen, things that not only reduce cost, but are truly innovative, now why do we need companies again?

    And why they need to profit for anything if they don't do nothing.

    J&J bought the patents for stents from others it did not develop those things and it fell behind the competition why?

    Which is better? One big company that owns everything and don't let others in that outsources production to cheaper labour or 1000 small little companies that cooperate globally with other little companies around the world for a common knowledge pool and make things locally cheaper?

    Someday there could be a machine in each house that would store only basic compounds and people would pay Dr. for prescriptions so they can download the recipes and the machine does all the medicine.

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