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Written by : Garrett Becenti
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do patents promote innovation or hold it back this question has been debated for a hundred and fifty years so let's start with the basics what causes innovation in the first place historians have found that the great inventors of the American industrial revolution people like Matthias Baldwin Samuel Morris Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison were all driven primarily by the expectation of profiting from their discoveries those discoveries in turn transformed human society in the 19th century but that was then what about now over the last 50 years economists have repeatedly demonstrated that patents continue to foster innovation by incentivizing inventors to invent but given the old joke about how economist open a can of soup answer they assume a can opener you may want to check and see if their findings match life out in the real world but here two patents stimulate innovation in fact they stimulated the formation of the biggest new industries of the last 60 years semiconductors personal computers the software business biotech mobile telephony and internet e-commerce all were midwifed by patented inventions take it from hans bishop the head of the breakthrough cancer treatment company Juno therapeutics let us be clear investments in the biotech industry are based entirely on patents without strong patents we cannot raise money to find cures for disease now the curious thing about patents is that they not only stimulate innovation they also promote knowledge sharing afterwards this seems to go against the fact that patents give their owners a temporary monopoly over the invention but it's actually true patents are one of the most effective tools for knowledge sharing ever invented a simple thought experiment suggests why this is so imagine a world in which there were no patents to guarantee inventors the rights to their discoveries in such a world inventors would need to be very secretive since competitors could copy their discoveries with impunity that's the world of trade secrets but in a world of patents the situation is just the opposite inventors now feel free to promote their discoveries as widely as possible in order to maximize the profits from commercializing them secure in the knowledge their rights are protected moreover to get a patent the law requires that the inventor disclose the details of his or her invention this also promotes knowledge sharing in fact the u.s. patent database is the greatest library of technical knowledge on the planet and it's open to anyone who wants to study it Thomas Edison for one used to hang out at the Patent Office to study other inventors patents and hopefully spark ideas of his own the same is true of many inventors today in fact one recent survey found that 88% of US and European companies say they rely on the information disclosed in patents to keep up with technology advances in their industries take the smartphone industry in particular this industry brings together in one amazing device the combined technical advances of four major industries mobile telephony electronics computing and software does anyone believe such technological collaboration could happen under a trade secret regime impossible only patents like companies feel secure in licensing and cross licensing their inventions to each other and as a result smartphone use has grown exponentially in only one decade from zero to over two billion users worldwide do patents stimulate innovation it's patently obvious
Thanks for your comment Marcela Mcelmarry, have a nice day.
- Garrett Becenti, Staff Member
Thanks for this interesting article
Thanks Dean your participation is very much appreciated
- Garrett Becenti
About the author
I've studied psychopathology at Sterling College in Sterling and I am an expert in special relativity. I usually feel mellow. My previous job was cosmetologist (hair stylist) I held this position for 10 years, I love talking about minimalism and stone skipping. Huge fan of Torrey Devitto I practice volleyball and collect bazooka joe comics.
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