Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk

Princeton University Press
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In recent years, business leaders, policymakers, and inventors have complained to the media and to Congress that today's patent system stifles innovation instead of fostering it. But like the infamous patent on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, much of the cited evidence about the patent system is pure anecdote--making realistic policy formation difficult. Is the patent system fundamentally broken, or can it be fixed with a few modest reforms? Moving beyond rhetoric, Patent Failure provides the first authoritative and comprehensive look at the economic performance of patents in forty years. James Bessen and Michael Meurer ask whether patents work well as property rights, and, if not, what institutional and legal reforms are necessary to make the patent system more effective.

Patent Failure presents a wide range of empirical evidence from history, law, and economics. The book's findings are stark and conclusive. While patents do provide incentives to invest in research, development, and commercialization, for most businesses today, patents fail to provide predictable property rights. Instead, they produce costly disputes and excessive litigation that outweigh positive incentives. Only in some sectors, such as the pharmaceutical industry, do patents act as advertised, with their benefits outweighing the related costs.

By showing how the patent system has fallen short in providing predictable legal boundaries, Patent Failure serves as a call for change in institutions and laws. There are no simple solutions, but Bessen and Meurer's reform proposals need to be heard. The health and competitiveness of the nation's economy depend on it.

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About the author

James Bessen, a former software developer and CEO, is lecturer at Boston University School of Law. Michael J. Meurer is the Michaels Faculty Research Scholar and professor of law at Boston University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 3, 2009
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9781400828692
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / General
Business & Economics / Investments & Securities / General
Law / Intellectual Property / General
Law / Intellectual Property / Patent
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The United States patent system has become sand rather than lubricant in the wheels of American progress. Such is the premise behind this provocative and timely book by two of the nation's leading experts on patents and economic innovation.

Innovation and Its Discontents tells the story of how recent changes in patenting--an institutional process that was created to nurture innovation--have wreaked havoc on innovators, businesses, and economic productivity. Jaffe and Lerner, who have spent the past two decades studying the patent system, show how legal changes initiated in the 1980s converted the system from a stimulator of innovation to a creator of litigation and uncertainty that threatens the innovation process itself.

In one telling vignette, Jaffe and Lerner cite a patent litigation campaign brought by a a semi-conductor chip designer that claims control of an entire category of computer memory chips. The firm's claims are based on a modest 15-year old invention, whose scope and influenced were broadened by secretly manipulating an industry-wide cooperative standard-setting body.

Such cases are largely the result of two changes in the patent climate, Jaffe and Lerner contend. First, new laws have made it easier for businesses and inventors to secure patents on products of all kinds, and second, the laws have tilted the table to favor patent holders, no matter how tenuous their claims.

After analyzing the economic incentives created by the current policies, Jaffe and Lerner suggest a three-pronged solution for restoring the patent system: create incentives to motivate parties who have information about the novelty of a patent; provide multiple levels of patent review; and replace juries with judges and special masters to preside over certain aspects of infringement cases.

Well-argued and engagingly written, Innovation and Its Discontents offers a fresh approach for enhancing both the nation's creativity and its economic growth.

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