What to do with patents
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17th April 2018

Are patents vital for R&D and innovation? The answer is no. Time to overhaul patent law?
Patents are one of the most talked about instruments to protect and promote inventions and innovation. Patents give innovators a temporary monopoly over a new, potentially commercial product or process. Instead of leaving pioneers competing openly with their creations, rents stemming from the monopoly scheme are in place to make the whole activity – from R&D to market -, financially attractive. In exchange, patent holders must make technical information about the invention publicly available in the patent document.
MIT Economist Daron Acemoglu says that patents and patent enforcement were the bedrock of innovation of the past 100 years. He claims that patent enforcement to protect intellectual property was a major factor in Britain’s growth after the industrial revolution. Patents, he further argues, created a market for ideas, by giving individuals the incentive to put effort into developing new concepts.
But patents have partially lost their appeal, Acemoglu warns. In some industries like IT, they are not sufficiently agile to incentivize innovation. Approval processes are bureaucratic and slow.
Moreover, patent trolls have made it their business to sue product makers on patent rights they represent. This adds more risk and a layer of legal complexity and fees that make it hard for small players to enter this field.
Patent infringement lawsuits become a real threat …

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