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It’s Official: Patents Stifle Innovation

Posted in Deception, Patents at 9:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“IP is often compared to physical property rights but knowledge is fundamentally different.”

Professor Joseph Stiglitz

Summary: Scientific study supports what everyone already knows — that intellectual monopolies reduce pace of progress

From Glyn Moody comes the following valuable pointer:

i. Patents Don’t Promote Innovation: Study

It’s extraordinary how the myth that patents somehow promote innovation is still propagated and widely accepted; and yet there is practically *no* empirical evidence that it’s true. All the studies that have looked at this area rigorously come to quite a different conclusion.

Moody adds the following:

ii. G8 on Intellectual Monopolies: Not so Great

Alongside the main show of the G8 circus, there are a number of supporting acts that run in parallel with it. One of these is the “G8 Intellectual Property Experts Group” (IPEG).


As you might expect, IPEG gets terribly excited by the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), but there’s something else it is also in favour of, that is new to me…


This kind of confusion is typical of a document that has a distinct air of desperation about it. It suggests that the fans of intellectual monopolies are beginning to flail around for a handhold – any handhold – in an attempt to defy the pull of history, and to lock down knowledge through the use of overlong copyright and overbroad patents while they can. It is a further sign of increasing irrelevance of the G8 meeting as power begins to shift to the developing world, which has quite different ideas and priorities when it comes to enforcing Western monopolies on their internal markets.

And in other news, Mike Masnick uses the following story to show how patents can damage the environment by impeding competition.

iii. Toyota Builds Thicket of Patents Around Hybrid To Block Competitors

The Japanese company is betting the rules will give an advantage to its expanding lineup of hybrid vehicles, and it also aims to boost revenue by licensing to other car makers the patents that protect its fuel-saving technologies.

This all sounds wonderful for Toyota, but what about society as a whole? There have been other notable examples recently of patents that harm global climate and then there’s Bill Gates’ latest anti-philanthropy and promotion of US drug patents. How are hostage situations beneficial?

“The current “patent thicket,” in which anyone who writes a successful software programme is sued for alleged patent infringement, highlights the current IP system’s failure to encourage innovation” —Pr Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel Laureate in Economics), IP-Watch

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  1. Dale B. Halling said,

    July 11, 2009 at 9:36 am


    The so called “scientific study” does not seem to comport with the empirical evidence. Those countries with the strongest patent system have had the most innovation and technology diffusion. Those countries without patent systems or weak patent system have had little or no technology innovation and little technology diffusions. Unless, this “scientific study” can explain this, it is clearly flawed.

    The lack of innovation in this decade is due in part to the US weakening its patent system. http://hallingblog.com/2009/05/26/innovation-regulatory-road-kill/

    aeshna23 Reply:

    What Dale says doesn’t reflect history. What has happened is that countries become wealthy and then powerful interests convince the government that patents are useful. It’s quite doubtful that Europe would gotten prosperous if it had respected patents before a high standard of living.

    Also, patents are becoming extreme now in that basic silly things are being patented. That the Tom-Tom case would have been laughed out of the court in the 19th century is a symptom of how legal fundamentalism about patents has increased. This makes claims about the historical benefits of dubious relevance now.

    It strikes me that the current fascist patent regime versus no patents is a false dilemma. We could look when patents make sense and when they don’t. Pharmaceutical patents make the most sense among patents, because the cost of the research so exceeds the cost of the manufacturing. Thus, it could be argued that pharmaceutical patents increase research. However, there’s really no economic argument for software patents, as the “research” expense for the software patent is the research checking out that no one else has patented the idea.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    A lot of so-called research is done through development (trial and error, intuition, and aggregation of public domain stuff we all learn from).

    Read http://slated.org/the_right_to_own_knowledge

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