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
    :), 6 Feb 2010 @ 6:27am

    Patents.

    Patent troll aka NPE(Non-practicing entity), non-manufacturing patentee, patent marketer, patent dealer.

    Created new costs on the market.

    - Designing around: companies/individuals can go around if possible and that could be a low cost solution or used as leverage to obtain some license deal, but is very limited.

    - Patent Watch: companies/individuals have to watch the patent system to determine any risks to their business.

    - Clearance Search: companies/individuals

    - Patent infringement insurance.

    - Patent aggregation aka patent clusters, patent hoarding

    All those cost are helps a "gridlock economy"
    http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-gridlock-economy.htm

    Does it benefit creator?

    No it doesn't, individual creators are to fragile to contest anything and will depend in larger bodies that become larger and stop caring about the little guy, with the obvious consequence that is better to sell those rights to someone else who then exploits and gain all the protections and with time only a few players remain in the field creating a de facto monopoly.

    Another thing that happens is that companies especially big ones patent everything they can including competing technologies and lock the competing ones away so no one can use them to threat their main product is lawfull anti competitive behaviour and it is harmful to society and the economy which in turn with time affects the jobs of everyone as other players that are not constraint by those rules move in and take the markets and jobs of the locals.

    This is not a problem only for patents is much worst in copyright and is somewhat abused in trademarks.

    Another name of this phenomenon is the Tragedy of the anticommons

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