Pethokoukis

Is the the US patent system hindering economic growth?

Over at Forbes, Bret Swanson nails it:

Slow economic growth since the Great Recession has been devastating for employment, middle class incomes, and federal and state budgets. Worse, many economists are predicting slow growth for the next generation. A number of policies — from tax and immigration reform to more innovation friendly regulatory treatment of the health, energy, finance, education, and communications sectors — could help launch a much needed new boom.

But another often-overlooked but persistent drain on the economy also needs attention. Intellectual property (IP) was written into the Constitution and ever since has been a key to U.S. inventiveness and entrepreneurship. Over the years, however, the system has broken down in a number of ways. An overworked Patent and Trademark Office issued too many patents of questionable quality and in markets (software is the prime example) where the very idea of patentability is questionable. An explosion of low quality patents ignited an explosion of litigation, and today the legitimacy of IP itself is under assault

Real intellectual property embodied in true inventions and innovations is crucial to our economy. But faux IP, embodied in obvious and overly broad claims and backed by fierce litigation, is triply bad. It discourages small innovators and new market entrants. It artificially boosts prices and thus harms consumers. And it gives true IP a bad name, undermining a foundation of our knowledge economy.

Follow James Pethokoukis on Twitter at @JimPethokoukis, and AEIdeas at @AEIdeas.

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