Patents have long been used to encourage innovation. However there are many that argue that patents stifle progress and competition, particularly in vital medical technologies, and so should be eliminated.

Patents are designed to stifle competition. The purpose of a patent is to give the inventor the right to exclude others from practicing her invention. Advanced economies all grant these non-competitive rights to encourage innovation. Innovating is hard and expensive, while copying is easy and cheap.

Without patent protection for inventions, there would be little incentive to innovate because copying is so much easier. Countries with weak patent protection have less innovation because copying is far more cost effective than innovating as stated in

If patents are doing what they are supposed to do, encourage innovation with the reward of reduced competition, why are they so unpopular? One source of discontent is that so much cutting edge medical technology was recently developed, and so is still protected by patents.

This is similar to the early years of the automotive industry. Then it was difficult to build a useable car, with steering wheel, clutch, and drive train, without infringing on someone else’s patents. Early auto pioneers were also frustrated that they couldn’t use core technology without getting a license.

medical technology

The significant amount of new medical technologies that are covered by patents is not a good reason for eliminating patents. This problem is quickly resolving itself as key energy technology patents expire. The early auto industry also got through its phase of limited competition because of core technology patents, and quickly became a hotbed of innovation.

A second reason for opposition to patents is that there are some bad patents. Bad patents are generally over broad, protecting far more than the inventor invented including rather obvious concepts. Bad patents were granted because the old law for determining if an invention was obvious set a very high hurdle for the patent examiner. It was difficult for an examiner to show that over broad claims were obvious. As a result, the patent office granted a number of bad, over broad patents.

However, this problem has also been corrected. The United States Supreme Court has made it much easier for a patent examiner to find patent application claims are obvious. As a result, the number of over broad patents has been sharply reduced.

While the sources of problems with patents have been diminishing, medical technology innovations are increasingly key to addressing growing health needs. We need the medical advances that patents encourage. For more information about patents and patenting process visit