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 Corsale (profile), 6 Feb 2010 @ 9:16pm

    Re: Re: I am waiting for a rational explanation.

    Right, the whole problem with our approach to date is summed up in the first sentence. The word "pirate" is used to link the gross injustice of concept ownership, with the more moderate and globally understood act of Copyright infringement. Whats surprising to me is that guys like this are even taken seriously.

    To be clear, we should make every effort to remove this shelter from men like Mr. Riley. He is clearly out of touch with what's going on in the world today. If his position had to stand alone without the cover of "IP" they would have done away with process/idea/software patents ten years ago.

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