Fostering Innovation and Development
Edited by Christopher Arup and William van Caenegem
Chapter 12: Pervasive Incentives, Disparate Innovation and Intellectual Property Law
William van Caenegem I. INTRODUCTION Current interest in patent policy reaches beyond the academic community, as two recent newspaper articles demonstrate: one concerned how ‘a new technique for creating embryo-free human stem cells sidesteps a controversial US patent that has slowed the pace of scientific discovery worldwide’.1 James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin generated the patent but also the breakthrough which circumvents it. Since another group simultaneously reported the technique no ‘one team can control it’, according to the author. The other article related to the Australian National University (ANU), which was told by the Australian Universities Quality Audit (AUQA) to, ‘better promote the intellectual property attached to its research to raise its profile’.2 AUQA stressed that even if the ANU was not set to make much money from exploiting intellectual property (IP), at least exploitation ‘could raise ANU’s standing in the global community’.3 The first story illustrates that diverse and unpredictable events affect the value of patents. Patenting has created a dense web of rights within which interactions and exchanges occur in a highly complex and contingent manner. Single invention, single patent, single product linear innovation is not the norm. The second story has a now familiar ring to it: patents can play a significant (but unintentional) role in enhancing the value of goodwill or reputation attached to an innovator’s brand. Below the surface, however, lies a meta-tale about patent policy’s constant adaptation and mutation in response to theoretical critiques or uncomfortable empirical data: that patents do not...
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