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The Role of Intellectual Property Rights in Biotechnology Innovation

The Role of Intellectual Property Rights in Biotechnology Innovation

Edited by David Castle

Intellectual property rights (IPRs), particularly patents, occupy a prominent position in innovation systems, but to what extent they support or hinder innovation is widely disputed. Through the lens of biotechnology, this book delves deeply into the main issues at the crossroads of innovation and IPRs to evaluate claims of the positive and negative impacts of IPRs on innovation.


David Castle

Subjects: environment, biotechnology, innovation and technology, biotechnology, law - academic, biotechnology and pharmaceutical law, intellectual property law


David Castle WHY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS IN BIOTECHNOLOGY INNOVATION? Intellectual property rights feature prominently in all innovation systems, yet characterizing their role is a difficult task, one that always fosters debate. Intellectual property rights (IPRs), particularly in the form of patent rights, are widely viewed as catalysts for innovation in high-value, knowledge-intensive sectors like biotechnology because they reward risktaking innovative behaviour while providing public access to invention disclosures. Some challenge this incentive–access paradigm, claiming that IPRs’ principal function is to coordinate actors in innovation systems. Others are sceptical about IPRs’ capacity to stimulate innovation, and point to cases in which IPRs act as impediments to innovation by setting a high entry barrier to an innovation system, generating patent thickets, creating anti-commons or leading to defensive or blocking behaviour. Moreover, differences of opinion about the correct description of the role of IPRs in innovation systems are typically aggravated when the discussion migrates from descriptive to normative issues. Heated disagreement dominates discussions regarding the design and reform of intellectual property systems, the rules, institutions and practices they support, and the conditions under which regional and national innovation systems thrive. At least four problems stand in the way of having a complete understanding of the role of IPRs in innovation systems. The first is that ‘innovation system’ is a term of art the meaning of which is often derived from the context in which the term is being used. Freeman, who coined the term, described innovation systems as ‘the network of institutions...