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Economic News, Data and Analysis

Patent System Reform

I think I am coming to the conclusion that the US patent systems, as currently constructed, is harming innovation.
The Blackberry case (see below) illustrates one way that patents law is more about money than about protecting inventors’ rights or about dynamic economic efficiency. (The same might be said about copyright as well).
I don’t know the ultimate solution, but I think it is time to take a another look. In particular, we need to address the problem of how to preserve incentives to innovate while also benefiting consumers and the broader economy. Right now, the balance is too much shifted in favor of preserving monopoly rents for businesses, and the system has largely forgotton that the goal of patent (and copyright) protection is to increase the amount new techonolgy in the hands of consumers.
As the blackberry case shows, over aggressive patent protection can also dampen inventives to innovate and market new technologies.

Levy: The BlackBerry Deal Is Patently Absurd – Newsweek Technology – MSNBC.com
March 13, 2006 issue – What is the value of a bunch of discredited patents? We found out last week when Research in Motion (RIM), the company that makes the beloved BlackBerry, paid a company called NTP $612.5 million to settle a claim that it infringed on patents NTP was granted in 1991. That’s a lot of money to pay for any technology, but if NTP really invented the magic that made the BlackBerry so addictive, it was certainly entitled to a big payout. It’s doubtful, though, that NTP had any hand in that magic—because when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office re-examined the patents in question, it found evidence to reject them.

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