We've talked a lot about how patents actually hinder the rate of innovation in many research areas. That's because nearly all innovation does not work on "the one big breakthrough" theory, but on incremental improvements over time, that all add up to big changes. But when you put a tollbooth and a decades-long monopoly on each incremental change, you massively slow down the rate of innovation. And, it's even worse in scientific research areas. That's because a lot of successful scientific innovation comes about from researchers sharing data and information with each other to get the ideas and inspirations to make the next leap. But with the rise in patenting basic science, scientists have been holding back
information, slowing down their own breakthroughs.
Thankfully, more and more people are recognizing this issue. Scientists working on things involving embryonic stem cell research are complaining that patents are massively hindering their ability to advance their research
, and it may be holding back cures for paralysis, diabetes and blindness, among other things.
Lanza recalls bumping up against his company's main competitor, Geron Corporation, when it came to researching stem cells in reversing diabetes, a process he said he had been working on with animals for many years.
"When I came to ACT to try to do it with stem cells I couldn't because the rights to use embryonic stem cells for diabetes had been exclusively licensed to Geron," he said.
"Here I was, a scientist trying to cure diabetes and I couldn't use my entire lifetime of expertise to try and develop that technology," he said.
The article notes that if the US keeps this up, other countries are likely to leapfrog us in terms of the research that they do, creating huge commercial opportunities and life-saving treatments, while the US wastes away fighting each other in court. Yet another reason why President Obama's suggestion that we're more innovative because we get more patents
is completely off the mark.