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Do Patents Stimulate or Hinder Inventions? 专利之于创新,促进还是阻碍?

DSC02405专利之于创新,促进还是阻碍?Guest Post by:
Dr. Shmuel Ur, Shmuel Ur Innovations Ltd.

When we discuss the ethics of patents, and whether patents are justified, we need to realize that the goal of the patent system is to give inventors the incentive to publish their patents, to allow for patents that would otherwise stay a secret, to become widely known. and therefor bringing about  a faster advancement of technology.

However, there is a drawback. If patents are given on small incremental things (that would be discovered independently) and used to slow others, the system becomes impaired. This was beautifully explained in (Atlantic Works v. Brady, 107 U.S.192, 200 (1882)).

“It was never the object of those laws to grant a monopoly for every trifling device, every shadow of a shade of an idea, which would naturally and spontaneously occur to any skilled mechanic or operator in the ordinary progress of manufacturers. Such an indiscriminate creation of exclusive privileges tends rather to obstruct than to stimulate invention. It creates a class of speculative schemers who make it their business to watch the advancing wave of improvement, and gather its foam in the form of patented monopolies, which enable them to lay a heavy tax upon the industry of the country, without contributing anything to the real advancement of the arts. It embarrasses the honest pursuit of business with fears and apprehensions of concealed liens and unknown liabilities to lawsuits and vexatious accountings for profits made in good faith.”

When we discuss patents at the university, and whether universities should file patents, things are even more complicated.  The goal of the university is to generate knowledge and education.  Patenting creates a conflict, it slows down the publications, it causes problems with the contracts in which industry funds academics, and it is a burden on free co-operation between professors from different universities as IP rights have to be managed.   The upside of patents is that maybe a lot of revenue will be generated which will enable the financing of a lot of research.  Yet most universities are showing a net loss on patents, even without taking into account the academic time dedicated to it.

I think that universities should be very selective in deciding on patents to file.  They should file patents only where very high return is expected, and release the others to the professor to do with as he wishes.  This is very different than the current situation and the topic requires careful considerations.

Shmuel Ur will act as Team Leader in CIV’s upcoming Workshop Univenture2015, where he will lead a team of industry experts and academics in defining solutions and next steps for University Venture. To hear Shmuel Ur unveil his team’s findings join the Univenture2015 Insight Sharing Symposium and Cocktail Reception. 

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