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Patent nonsense

Feb 08, 2010, 17:03 (0 Talkback[s])

"DO PATENTS help or hinder innovation? Instinctively, they would seem a blessing, especially for backroom tinkerers. Patenting an idea gives its inventor a 20-year monopoly to exploit the fruit of his labour in the marketplace, in exchange for publishing a full account of how the new product, process or material works for all and sundry to see. For the inventor, that may be a reasonable trade-off. For society, however, the loss of competition through the granting sole rights to an individual or organisation is justified only if it stimulates the economy and delivers goods that change people's lives for the better.

"Invention, though, is not innovation. It may take a couple of enthusiasts working evenings and weekends for a year or two—not to mention tens of thousands of dollars of their savings—to get a pet idea to the patenting stage. But that is just the beginning. Innovations based on patented inventions or discoveries can take teams of researchers, engineers and marketing experts a decade or more, and tens of millions of dollars, to transfer to the marketplace. And for every bright idea that goes on to become a commercial winner, literally thousands fall by the wayside."

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