The Wealth of Networks Chapter Reviews – Chapter 2

@Kevin | Social

I think that chapter 2 and the additional sources that Benkler cited raised some interesting questions about where we are going in regards to patent protection and innovation. Our patent system looks at the information economy from the lens of the industrial age. The federal government and industry need to take steps to reform the patent process, without this reform innovation and discovery that can help society is restrained to the determent of everyone.

One of the major problems is how restrictive companies are with their intellectual property and patents. Most major companies will hold onto the patents and intellectual property of discoveries they have made even though they aren’t developing a product around that work. For some companies this comes in the form of discovering
technology as a bi-product while doing applied research. Companies sit on their patented technology in a way that slows down people improving current products or using that base research to build upon. While some companies will paint this as being protective of something that they discovered, in reality all they are doing is slowing down the inevitable (the reverse engineering of their product) and the progress of applied and basic research.

How do we reform this process so that it helps out society, allows innovation, decreases costs for consumers, and streamlines the process for business, all while still creating a profitable market for the original creators of the products involved?

Until we can get answers for these questions the patent process that we have and the restriction of intellectual property being shared will remain. Some corporations have loosened their licensing a bit on products or processes, not for the sake of innovation but because it is looked as a another revenue stream for the company.

One suggestion put forth by Suzanne Scotchmer, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley is that we have government assess and regulate the research and development process creating benchmarks and assessing value of what these companies are doing. The government will be able to see the data from all these companies and then begin to assign value for the work that has been done, creating a baseline to monitor the value of intellectual property.

While I believe the system needs to be reformed I don’t know if a central government agency is the correct way to go about the changes that need to be made.