Study Finds Patent Systems May Not Be an Effective Incentive to Encourage Invention of New Technologies[University of California, Irvine]

July 01, 2009 07:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Study Finds Patent Systems May Not Be an Effective Incentive to Encourage
Invention of New Technologies
IRVINE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A new study published in The Columbia
Science and Technology Law Review challenges the traditional view that
patents foster innovation, suggesting instead that patents may harm new
technology, economic activity, and societal wealth. These results may have
important policy implications because many countries count on patent systems
to spur new technology and promote economic growth.

To test the hypothesis that patent systems promote technological innovation,
Bill Tomlinson of the University of California, and Andrew Torrance of the
University of Kansas School of Law, developed an online simulation game of
the patent system, PatentSim. Their results suggest that a patent system
underperforms a "commons," in which no patent protection is available, on
several important measures. Although these surprising results call into
question traditional justifications for patent systems, they do align with
the increasingly well-supported notion that user and open innovation can
succeed where patents may fail.

PatentSim uses an abstract model of the innovation process, a database of
potential innovations, and a network over which users may interact with one
another to license, assign, buy, infringe and enforce patents. PatentSim
allows users to simulate the innovation process in one of three scenarios: a
patent system, a "commons" system with no patents, or a system with both
patents and open source protection.

"In PatentSim, we found that the patent system did not work to spur
innovation," says Tomlinson. "In fact, participants were more likely to
innovate when there was no intellectual property protection at all, or when
they could open source their innovations and share them with other people."

The researchers measured the efficacy of the patent system based on 1)
innovation - the number of unique inventions; 2) productivity - a measure of
economic activity; and 3) societal wealth - the ability to generate money.

"Current patent laws are based on assumptions that patents spur
technological progress that were considered settled more than a century ago,
and that few have questioned since then," says Torrance. "If it turns out
that our laws are based upon misinformation and bad assumptions, society may
be failing to promote beneficial new technologies that could improve
potential quality of life."

More at:

The University of California, Irvine
Sherry Main, 949-824-1562

Michael - Interesting... I'm surprised they were basing the study on the assumption that patents generate innovation. I never thought of it like that. I always thought the value of patents was that they justified investment and product development of a particular innovation.

So hypothetically, if they did dump the patent system, i wonder how industrial espionage and employment contracts would change if secrecy was the only way of protecting investment in an innovation. Would companies have to setup remote compounds like the Los Alamos for security? I suppose there would be less sharing of ideas between companies as well. Hmm



Dear David and Dr. Mike,

Jeffrey Tucker at Lew Rockwell wrote a series of articles about patents and copyrights and what was wrong with having such things. Some of the questions asked by David are answered. There are somehting like 15 - 20 articles covering both patents and copyrights so you will have to go through them one by one but it is really worth the time.

His articles can be found here: [www_google_com]

I also forwarded the article about the study to Jeffrey.

Ron Getty - SF Libertarian
Hostis res Publica
Morte ai Tiranni
Dum Spiro, Pugno

Ron - Glad to hear Mr. Tucker has everything figured out for us, especially on alternative futures. :wink:

However, this being a discussion list and all, I'd be more interested in hearing what _you_ think about it. Do you think patents should be scrapped in one go? or phased out incrementally and grandfathered?


Dear David;
After reading what Jeff Tucker had to say about both patents and copyrights I say scrap all patent and copyright laws. As a prime example of the bloated excess look at what Disney did a few years ago when it went hat in hand to Congress to get the copyright laws extended because Mickey Mouse had run out of copyright time.
Prime example of Big Business ( Private Enterprise ) working mutually with Big Government to enact protectionists laws or in this case to extend protectionist laws.
Ron Getty - SF Libertarian
Hostis res Publica
Morte ai Tiranni
Dum Spiro, Pugno


In Against Intellectual Monopoly, I believe the case is made there would be
more sharing. Open-source software is given as a case in point. I can't
vouch for this, since I know little about software.

I highly recommend the book.

Warm regards, Michael

Thank you for the post Michael. Very interesting. I am wondering - can anyone think of an invention (a product, a system, a medicine) that was developed "openly", such as is the case of open source software, and is used widely today? Anyone is free to invent or develop anything, by himself or with the collaboration of whoever wants to join in; and assuming the product or system does not fall into a category that requires government approval (medicine needing approval of the FDA, for example), the inventor/developer could theoretically just place the product in the market.