First, I think the article, many of those who are commenting and myself agree that the results of public funded University research a) is more powerful when shared and b) should not be patented. So we come to the same conclusion. But I prefer to get there w/o "throwing the baby out with the bathwater".
Patents, in the commercial world, are indeed highly correlated with R&D funding and, therefore are a viable metric for commercial innovation. A patent is, by definition, a mechanism for sharing. Many many patents are improvements on "existing art". Because enterprise is motivated by the opportunity for profit, the existence of "prior art" (patents) is not a deterrent but just another element in the businss equation. Companies recognize the likelhood of infringment while in robust pursuit of similar product development goals and decide to come to the table to reach agreement on the exchange value of a cross-license. They are then able to practice one anothers patents and move forward, competing and innovating.
The publicly funded (University) model for R&D should not even intersect with the Constitutional notion of patent protection. If we could see this, we could stop bashing the patent system an focus attention on improving models, metrics and incentives for colloboration among Universities that would elevate the practice to a more effective level.
We are all free to make whatever choices we decide. If giving away your works brings you satisfaction, have at it. There are plenty of hobbies, clubs, resume fillers, marketing feelers and other forms of hopeful reciprocity. No company ever invests without a business plan. Sometimes "goodwill", open source, open standards and the like become a less tangible component but they serve a purpose that supports the business.
I think patent bashing is misguided. I think the conversation is really about public vs private funding for innovation. I don't think there is any question, in the private sector, patents are a good tool for protecting and, therefore, a good metric for innovation. Segmenting the use of public funding for research vs aid programs vs infrastructure etc is a completely different topic. The two got crossed when Universities began filing patents, which was a slippery slope.
Still don't get it. Show me a commercial environment where R&D spending is not highly correlated with numbers of patents filed. Doubt you'll find one anywhere. If your point is that public University R&D is not (should not be) correlated with patents, again, no argument from me. Public institutions carving off such assets should be illegal in my opinion. Still sounds like your point is that a better model for innovation is public funding vs commercial. Why not encourage both? If you agree but feel we are lacking a good metric for innovation stemming from public funding... I think I finally see your point (and probably agree). I stand by my position that, in the commercial world, patent do encourage innovation and form a decent metric as well.
We probably all know that Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the US Constitution established patent and copyright …
“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
You have to at least ask “why?”.
I think it is a fairly obvious deterrent to innovation if you must pour your genius, time, energy and money into innovation with no way to protect from someone else simply waltzing in and replicating it, offering you no recognition (e.g. licensing revenue) in return.
Why, as you suggest, would any “research” be required to assert the above? And, if we had research on the topic, who would fund it, what answer would they be looking for and how would that influence the outcome? When responses ask for “proof” (that patents are a good measure of innovation) I think they are really trying to debate whether some alternative system might accelerate innovation or yield higher caliber results. That is a different question. As it stands, if I want to reap any reward from my innovation, I should protect it. I do this by filing a patent application. Thus (and I’m just using simple math here)… the number of patents is a good measure of the degree of innovation.
There are plausible concerns regarding the state of the patent system. Non-practicing owners (trolls) create an imbalance overlooked by Constitution. Large concentrations of patents by some companies are viewed as impenetrable by the garage inventor. The ability of the USPTO to keep up with technology and the notion of quotas which may result in inferior teachings or unwarranted grants can become a real problem.
It is always healthy to debate, progress, resolve and change. My critique was in response to the article which I (still) believe makes an inappropriate comparison, somewhat implies that public institutions are (or should be) more adept at innovation than individuals or commercial endeavors, glosses over the fact that patents are established in the Constitution to promote innovation, cross circuits the logic that Universities SHOULD share (but choose to patent) while companies are meant to COMPETE (so the patent system offers protection in exchange for teaching).
Perhaps I need to re-read the article more carefully but unless I can understand how opinions expressed on the topic relate to the basic facts it is hard to acknowledge in any credible fashion.
The fundamentals are flawed in this report and emotions run high in the responses. In the commercial world, patents ARE a good measure of innovation and serve as the sought after means of sharing. The stated purpose of a patent is to TEACH (the innovation). In exchange, a limited monopoly is afforded by the Constitution.
Bringing University behavior into the discussion is “mixing metaphors”. The article is correct in emphasizing that University research is meant to be shared. Unless the University is entirely privately funded they have no business treating their results as private property (e.g. registering a patent). Commercial funding toward public University research (via private grants) should be treated like any other form of donation. Expected returns relate to improved conditions, more robust economy, vibrant competition, and better educated participants.
So – bashing the patent system because Universities have turned back on their mandate to share, collaborate, and otherwise elevate the collective knowledge in favor of raising revenues via a mechanism intended to promote sharing in the commercial world would seem a rather misplaced argument.
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