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 @ 7:18am

    Patents.

    IP laws essentially kills the innovation incubator, sterilizes the environment and nothing new is able to grow or develop.

    Companies are moving their R&D and workforce away from those markets and at the same time asking for more protections is a vicious cycle.

    That forces society to find alternatives that are cheaper and can be sustainable that is why people start to cooperate and create "open" alternatives that tries to go around those extreme limitations.

    The push for more limitations will increase the adoption of open alternatives even if their are not as good as something else but given time everything matures but there are limitations to this approach.

    Patented seeds are going out with explicit clauses saying "it is prohibited to be used in research"

    http://www.regulations.gov/search/Regs/home.html#documentDetail?R=090000648084de39

    C ompanies stopping research through patents
    http://freepage.twoday.net/stories/5633269/
    http://www.grain.org/bio-ipr/?id=560

    Maybe the best outcome from open initiatives would be transparency, where GE scandals would not be able to happen.
    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GM_Food_Nightmare_Unfolding.php

    Maybe it is not in the best interest of society to have people have the ability to "own" life or research.

    I'm very certain that society is best served not owning any IP.

    Culture and sciences flourish for thousands of years and nobody owned ideas or expressions, maybe the best owner is society if corporations can be a person in the eyes of law maybe is time to make society a citizen and start making it own things.

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