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