Are patent and copyright laws hurting our economy? Two economists at Washington University in St. Louis certainly think so. Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine, in Against Intellectual Monopoly, argue that the current patent/copyright system discourages and prevents inventions from entering the marketplace. They call for abolishing the current patent and copyright system in order to unleash innovations necessary to reverse the current recession and rescue the economy.
It’s an interesting idea and worth thinking about. After all, most any system can be tweaked for better results. AND, sometimes a complete overhaul is needed. The patent and copyright laws aren’t sacred cows…why should we be afraid to reevaluate their usefulness from time to time?
But are they asking the right questions? After all, patent and copyright laws are meant “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” U.S. Const. Art. I, Sec. 8. New innovations are often responsible for salvaging our economy, but the Constitution doesn’t say “to boost the economy by securing for limited times to authors and inventors…” Patent and copyright laws may need to be revisited, but the emphasis should be on the progress of science and useful arts, not on saving the economy. Sometimes these go hand in hand, but it’s important not to be too quick to blame the current patent and copyright laws for all the woes of the economy.