Tue Nov 13, 2012, 12:36 PM
phantom power (23,998 posts)
Should patents be abolished?
I'm skeptical that patents ever served their advertised purpose -- to "encourage innovation." It has a very similar feel to modern anti-taxation arguments. To wit: "Oh no, our Galtian Overlords would never bother to innovate if they thought for one second that somebody might threaten their monopoly on some invention." It smells like bullshit to me. It doesn't match my experience with what motivates human creativity. It's like conservatives who claim people would avoid working harder because it might put them in a higher tax bracket. Really? Show me somebody who ever turned down a promotion or raise because it would put them in a higher tax bracket.
However, if anybody is aware of any "natural economic experiments" that might lend support to the idea that a patent system actually increased innovation, I'd be very interested to see it.
The paper by two distinguished professors of economics, Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine, is titled The Case Against Patents. Boldrin and Levine review some of the lamentable realities of the U.S. patent system, including the dramatic increases in issuance of patents that block future innovation, and in the quantity and cost of patent litigation. They also point out that patents are often detrimental to consumer welfare, as once-but-no-longer innovative companies use patents to block competitors.
As Boldrin and Levine explain, patents are not really property rights, but rather monopoly rights. The grantees of a government monopoly have strong incentives to seek additional rents to expand their monopoly.
system that at one time served to limit the power of royalty to reward favored individuals with monopolies has become with the passage of time a system that serves primarily to encourage failing monopolists to inhibit competition by blocking innovation.
After reviewing the economic literature, Boldrin and Levine find almost no evidence that patents serve innovation, and conclude that "the patent system taken as a whole does not play an important role in spurring innovation." They acknowledge that in theory it is possible to create a patent system that would foster innovation. They also recognize that there are various possible ways of improving the existing patent system, including "properly interpreting obviousness, requiring genuine disclosure of working methods and an independent invention defense against patent infringement..." But, they ask, "why use a band-aid to staunch a major wound?"
They propose phasing out patents by shortening their duration and otherwise limiting their force. Some of their argument is phrased in the rather dry language of economics, but not this point: "If a well-designed patent system would serve the intended purpose, why recommend abolishing it? Why not, instead, reform it?... Our argument is that it cannot be otherwise: the 'optimal' patent system that a benevolent dictator would design and implement is not of this world and it is pointless to advocate it as, by doing so, one only offers an intellectual fig-leaf to the patent system we actually have, which is horribly broken. It is fine to recommend reform, but, if politics make it impossible to accomplish that reform, if they make it inevitable that we have a patent system it will fail, then abolition—preferably by constitutional means as was the case in Switzerland and the Netherlands prior to the late 19th century—is the proper solution..."
7 replies, 1224 views
Should patents be abolished? (Original post)
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|phantom power||Nov 2012||#2|
|sir pball||Nov 2012||#5|
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Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #1)
Tue Nov 13, 2012, 01:13 PM
phantom power (23,998 posts)
2. What is your opinion of the above argument that all patents should die?
Software patents are the popular target, but my take on the subject is, software patents just happen to throw into sharp relief the same problems that all patents are subject to.
Response to phantom power (Reply #2)
Wed Nov 14, 2012, 10:47 AM
ProgressiveProfessor (22,144 posts)
4. I think short term (as in no more than 5 years from market introduction) 10 years max
could be fair.
I also believe the FRAND systems needs to be formalized for the public good as well. The Apple vs Motorola patent fight over LTE is a good example. Typically Apple is behaving like a spoiled child, but they have a point. Motorola has licensed the tech to others for less than their publish 2.25% royalty rate if the company includes some patent sharing as OVC (other valuable consideration). That is a little too non-specific and capricious. For that kind of critical tech, there needs to be clear definitions of license costs up front.
Response to ProgressiveProfessor (Reply #4)
Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:28 PM
sir pball (1,911 posts)
5. Then sharing needs to be disallowed
Since "valuable consideration" is more or less impossible to formally pin down. Different patents are worth different amounts. I guess you COULD mandate a fixed (say 0.25%) decrease in payment per patent shared, but that's still kind of iffy.
Apple has absolutely no point, though - they're bitching that Googorola wants the published rate but aren't willing to exchange anything. Sorry, but if you aren't willing to provide SOME incentive it's entirely fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory to charge the base rate. Not just IMO, either - the judge in the US LTE case threw it out with prejudice when Apple said "we refuse to license anything, and will only accept your decision if it's $1 per unit or less".