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), 6 Feb 2010 @ 9:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Patents.

    Actually, it isn't the big end of china where you can see the biggest difference, as much as the small end. The number of "mom and pop" stores is increasing rapidly, small independent workers running their own companies is increasing, and so on. That brings in a bigger network of suppliers, transport, distribution, production... it's all the ways that China is moving forward (and where places like Cuba fall behind).

    Even at the big end, the government doesn't own everything. Rather, rules in place assure that Chinese companies are the significant partner in any operation that an outside company might want to be part of. Investments into China are at an all time high and growing, such that the government is actually taking steps to cool the economy.

    You don't need a bigger carrot you only need a small one to entice companies, they will be fighting for it even for tinny little scraps and that is the beauty of greed it turns intelligent people into idiots

    yup, but it you remove the entire profit motive (or make the profits risky, see Cuba or Venezuela), people will tend to stay out of the business. If the only advancements in science and technology are made because some individual inventor felt like tinkering, progress would effectively stop. Money is the lube, profit motive is what makes that money available to lube, which pays scientists and inventors to actually do the work.

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