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
    Richard (profile), 6 Feb 2010 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re: Abuse of patents has set Biotech back

    Care to elaborate ? For example, why are the concerns of educated professionals in the field of genetics and biotech considered by you to be unfounded? Extra points for refuting published studies showing the potential harm.

    There have been many health scares

    See http://www.seedsofdeception.com/Public/GeneticRoulette/HealthRisksofGMFoodsSummaryDebate/index.cfm

    However the UK government commissioned a scientific review

    See http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/gm/crops/faq.htm

    which conclude (amongst other things) "that there is no evidence to suggest that GM foods pose a greater risk to human health than their conventional equivalents"

    Why do you equate genetically modified food to measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. These are two completely different issues.

    They are both health scares, both unfounded, however many people defend MMR but few (in Europe) defend GM. The difference seems to be down to the patent related bad behaviour of the companies involved. Do I have to spell everything out to you?

    I'm sure that if the well known UK food critic Jay Rayner says so then it must be true.

    No but it does show that this is his opinion. In the context of the argument that was the only point I needed to make.

    As far as labelling goes, the fact is that european consumers don't buy GM produce given the choice. (Otherwise why do so many supermarkets here make a point of sourcing GM free ingredients - which is not easy in a world market dominated by the US). The GM companies have been lobbying here to remove the labelling requirement - they obviously believe that it damages their interests.

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