Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Patent and Copyright Protection

A discussion from Posner and Becker.

Quick Summary, via Alex Tabarrok (at MR):

Slightly Longer Summary:

  • Metric: the higher the ratio of the cost of inventing to the cost of copying, the greater the optimal patent protection for the inventor.
  • Good use of patents: pharmaceutical drugs
  • Bad use of patents: most software
  • Problems with copyright law: length of copyright protection is too long (sometimes creation of the work to 70 years after the author’s death) and a narrow interpretation of "fair use."
  • Posner's general opinion: "patent protection is on the whole excessive and... major reforms are necessary.... [C]opyright protection seems on the whole too extensive."
  • There are costs and benefits to the patent system. Benefits include increased innovation. Costs include excessive litigation and monopoly power to patent holders.
  • Becker tends to think we have gone too far in issuing patents and protecting them.
  • But he admits: "[I]t is not clear where to draw the line between what should and should not be patentable. However, one can start by eliminating the ability to patent software, and go on from there...."

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