Thursday, January 8, 2015

Patent Law and Progress

This is Joseph.

This post on Google+ got me thinking about the relation between patent law and technological progress.  Consider:
But 3D printing is an extremely simple concept. Why was 2014 the year it rose to prominence? 
The short answer is that patents are expiring. Many major patents on 3D printing, especially laser-sintering, an inexpensive yet accurate method, expired last year, leaving the concept open to development by any willful person. 
So I can't necessarily vouch for the full accuracy of the statement, but it creates an intriguing explanation for why this technology languished for so long.  Ironically, instead of spurring innovation, patents seemed to completely stymie it in this case.

Episodes like this definitely weaken the "public good" argument behind patent law.  

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