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Intellectual Property laws are ruining the golden age of invention.

Stashed in: Intellectual Property

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Writes Adam Davidson in the New York Times:

Since he took over the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2009, David Kappos says, he has thought every day about a man he met from northern Vermont (“He was dressed, literally, in overalls with a red-and-white checkered shirt”) who had invented a brilliant, transformative two-cycle engine for a snow blower. “If you don’t protect your invention with intellectual property,” Kappos says, “it will be copied almost immediately if it’s good.” So Kappos has initiated a host of initiatives to help the small inventor with cheaper patent filing fees, pro bono legal help and a more responsive patent office.

It probably won’t matter, though, says Paul Romer, an economist at N.Y.U. and perhaps the leading thinker of our time on economic growth. It costs around $1 million to defend a patent-infringement lawsuit, Romer says. So even if a lone inventor has a legitimate patent claim, a large company can sue and force the person into bankruptcy. Romer says that our patent-law system is one of the key barriers to progress, because wealth typically wins out, which would set Adam Smith spinning in his grave. The problem, Romer says, is not simply that the amateur snowblower tinkerer is cheated out of some profit; it’s that people with real world-improving ideas may ignore them because they think the system is stacked against them.

Ah, The Golden Rule strikes again.

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