Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur
jducoeur

Patents: A Question of Utility

I occasionally rant about the way the Patent system devastates the software industry, and that we'd be better off without it. That sometimes gets countered by folks parroting the usual arguments in favor of patents, that have been used for hundreds of years.

Which is why this article illustrates why I love The Economist so. It's a fairly long and in-depth look at patents, asking the simple question, "Are they worth it?" The information they adduce is damning -- the evidence is *extremely* weak that patents do much good at all, and it's unambiguously clear that they suck tons of money out of the rest of the economy, skewing industries along the way. Even the usual example that people cite as requiring patents -- the pharmaceutical industry -- turns out to be a strikingly weak argument when you compare the amount of excess profit Big Pharma pulls in compared to how much they actually spend on research; the article argues, compellingly, that we'd be far better off removing patents and using some of the colossal savings (possibly hundreds of billions of dollars) to expand government-sponsored research instead.

It's not short, but well worth reading: this is one of the most broken aspects of the law, which blights the software industry and is a significant component of why healthcare is so insanely expensive. It's well beyond time to do something about it...
Tags: patents
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