The main argument for government recognition of intellectual property—particularly patents—is that it enables inventors, developers, artists and so on to reap a reward for their efforts in creating intangible “goods.” But beyond anecdotes, this argument is backed by very little in the way of studies or other hard evidence. Thus, the U.S. patent system, which has spawned the so-called patent wars in the technology sector, rests on an argument lacking in an empirical foundation.
Stanford University’s Hoover Institution is planning a report that aims to determine whether patents are truly beneficial to innovation, either supporting or undermining the main argument supporting the system in the U.S. Given that nearly all (if not absolutely all) studies indicate that patents either have little effect or a negative effect on innovation, the report will likely make waves only if it concludes that the patent system is beneficial. Thus, the report could give ammunition to proponents of intellectual property, which is falling under greater scrutiny in the wake of major legal cases such as the ongoing dispute between Apple and Samsung.
But don’t expect the report too soon: the Hoover Institution will only begin conferences delving into this subject in January of 2014, potentially spreading into subsequent years. Whether the report—whatever its conclusion—will have any effect on the politics or business of patents, however, is uncertain.
Read more about the patent system