A new study published in The Columbia Science and Technology Law Review challenges the traditional view that patents foster innovation, suggesting instead that patents may harm new technology, economic activity, and societal wealth. These results may have important policy implications because many countries count on patent systems to spur new technology and promote economic growth.The study is: Patents and the Regress of Useful Arts, by Dr. Andrew W. Torrance & Dr. Bill Tomlinson, Colum. Sci. & Tech. L. Rev. 10 (2009): 130 (Published May 15, 2009).
As those familiar with my libertarian and IP views know, I'm not a utilitarian (see my There's No Such Thing As A Free Patent; Against Intellectual Property); but almost all IP proponents are, and claim that IP is "worth it" because it generates additional innovation the value of which is implicitly presumed to be obviously much greater than the relatively trivial cost of having an IP system. So it is striking that there seems to be no empirical studies or analyses providing conclusive evidence that an IP system is indeed worth the cost. Every study I have ever seen is either neutral or ambivalent, or ends up condemning part or all of IP systems. Utilitarian IP advocates remind of the welfarist liberals skewered by Thomas Sowell in his The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy--liberals continue to advocate policies long after there is overwhelming evidence these policies do not work, even by the naive, socialistic standards of their proponents; likewise, utilitarians keep repeating the mantra that we need patent and copyright to stimulate innovation and creativity, even though every study continues to find the opposite.