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The United States patent system has become sand rather than lubricant in the wheels of American progress. Such is the premise behind this provocative and timely book by two of the nation's leading experts on patents and economic innovation.
Innovation and Its Discontents tells the story of how recent changes in patenting--an institutional process that was created to nurture innovation--have wreaked havoc on innovators, businesses, and economic productivity. Jaffe and Lerner, who have spent the past two decades studying the patent system, show how legal changes initiated in the 1980s converted the system from a stimulator of innovation to a creator of litigation and uncertainty that threatens the innovation process itself.
In one telling vignette, Jaffe and Lerner cite a patent litigation campaign brought by a a semi-conductor chip designer that claims control of an entire category of computer memory chips. The firm's claims are based on a modest 15-year old invention, whose scope and influenced were broadened by secretly manipulating an industry-wide cooperative standard-setting body.
Such cases are largely the result of two changes in the patent climate, Jaffe and Lerner contend. First, new laws have made it easier for businesses and inventors to secure patents on products of all kinds, and second, the laws have tilted the table to favor patent holders, no matter how tenuous their claims.
After analyzing the economic incentives created by the current policies, Jaffe and Lerner suggest a three-pronged solution for restoring the patent system: create incentives to motivate parties who have information about the novelty of a patent; provide multiple levels of patent review; and replace juries with judges and special masters to preside over certain aspects of infringement cases.
Well-argued and engagingly written, Innovation and Its Discontents offers a fresh approach for enhancing both the nation's creativity and its economic growth.
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One of the Economist's Best Books of 2004, Economics and Business CategoryFrom the Back Cover:
"An extraordinarily lucid and engaging exposition of our patent system: why we need it, where it came from, how it works, what is wrong with it, and how to fix it. Indispensable for anyone interested in the role of intellectual property rights and technological change in our economy. Whoever said economists cannot write well?"--Joel Mokyr, Northwestern University
"Jaffe and Lerner's arguments are persuasive and their recommendations sensible. The book makes a very significant contribution to the current debates on patent policy."--Bronwyn Hall, University of California, Berkeley
"This is a valuable and timely book by two highly regarded experts in the field. It is an extremely well-written and well argued work that shows how the patent system has evolved in disturbing ways over the past two decades."--Brian Kahin, University of Michigan
"Patents are at the heart of the process of economic growth, and the process is suffering from a powerful form of cardiac disease. This fascinating book provides an illuminating diagnosis as well as compelling therapy. Its findings have towering importance, not just for lawyers and economists, but for the future standard of living of us all."--Peter L. Bernstein, author ofAgainst the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk
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