Bipartisan Patent Reform and Competition Policy
- Author(s): Timothy Muris
- Date Posted: 2018
- Law & Economics #: 18-46
- Availability: Full text (most recent) on SSRN
The US patent system is a foundation of our nation's economy, encouraging innovation and growth. The exclusive right to use and license an invention provides numerous benefits to its inventor and to the broader economy. The patent system is not costless, however, and significant costs stem from the proliferation of low-qualify patents, including increased patent holdup and patent thickets. Industries relying on cumulative technology that computes and communicates are especially vulnerable to these problems. Bipartisan efforts to tackle the problems associated with the patent system have included reforms addressing the proliferation of dubious patents and an increased reliance on economic analysis. Significant progress has been made, first by the Federal Trade Commission and the National Academy of Sciences and later by the Supreme Court and the Congress, to improve the patent system, in part by recognizing that the patent system's costs and benefits differ by industry. Contemporaneously, private standard setting bodies have developed policies to avoid the problems associated with patent holdup. Moreover, the antitrust agencies under both the Bush and Obama administrations have scrutinized conduct involving patent holdup. This scrutiny should continue under the rigorous standards of traditional antitrust laws to continue the bipartisan focus on this important issue.