The Case Against Patents – Journal of Economic Perspective

Source: The Case Against Patents – Journal of Economic Perspective [Volume 27, Number 1—Winter 2013—Pages 3–22], by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine

The case against patents can be summarized briefly: there is no empirical evidence that they serve to increase innovation and productivity, unless productivity is identified with the number of patents awarded—which, as evidence shows, has no correlation with measured productivity. This disconnect is at the root of what is called the “patent puzzle”: in spite of the enormous increase in the number of patents and in the strength of their legal protection, the US economy has seen neither a dramatic acceleration in the rate of technological progress nor a major increase in the levels of research and development expenditure.

Unfortunately, the political economy of government-operated patent systems indicates that such systems are susceptible to pressures that cause the ill effects of patents to grow over time. The political economy pressures tend to benefit those who own patents and are in a good position to lobby for stronger patent protection, but disadvantage current and future innovators as well as ultimate consumers.