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Gary Thornock's Weblog » Patents and Innovation
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9th Jul, 2005

Patents and Innovation


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Whenever I hear someone argue in favor of the patent system, the argument is always that patents encourage innovation. But then we get articles like this one at Business Week that seem to demonstrate just the opposite: the real innovation starts when the patent expires.

Then, there's the computer industry. In many instances, especially in software, the technology covered by the patent is obsolete to the point of irrelevance by the time the patent reaches the end of a 17-year term. Of course, that's not always the case: for instance, RSA cryptography is still very relevant, even a few years after the end of the patent. But RSA becomes another example like iris scanning (in the Business Week article): innovation was hindered until the patent expired (or, more accurately, until RSA Data Security released the patent into the public domain, shortly before its scheduled expiration).

It's heartening to see the E.U. Parliament soundly reject a software patent proposal. Now, if only our own Congress would do likewise…

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