More on the Feldman/Lemley argument about licensing
A paper by Vivek Wadhwa cheer leads work by Feldman and. Lemley.
A new paper, Does Patent Licensing Mean Innovation, by Robin Feldman, of the University of California-Hastings Law School, and my colleague Mark Lemley, of Stanford Law School, dispels what doubt there may have been about the innovation value of patents. They analyzed the experience of real companies to see how often patent licenses actually spur innovation or technology transfer when patent holders assert their patents against companies. They found that almost no new innovation resulted. When patents were licensed, regardless of whether they were licensed from companies, patent trolls, or universities, they were practically worthless in enabling innovation.
The study underscores the need to broaden the focus of patent-reform efforts.
Instead of looking at licensing revenue and patent filings, as most academic research papers do, Feldman and Lemley did something unusual: they surveyed 188 technology-development companies in 11 different industry sectors, including computers and electronics, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, biotechnology, communications and energy. They asked detailed questions about patent licensing, lawsuits and how often patent licenses spur innovation or technology transfer. In other words, the value provided by technology that was licensed.
As to the re-invention of the wheel problem, the tact is "what wheel"?
According to the authors, the paying-the-true-inventor hypothesis also assumes a level of quality in patents and adequacy of patent disclosure that is generally not attributed to the modern patent system by scholars and commentators. Engineers in the I.T. industry, for instance, rarely read patents to try to learn new technologies. Most important, prior evidence suggests that virtually no patent suits outside the life sciences industries are filed against people accused of copying the technology. Almost always, patent owners are suing other innovators who independently developed their own technology.
Generally, licensing of third party work is always going to face the "not invented here" syndrome. Yes, we licensed it but only because it was easier than fighting. Our work is the real innovation. The Feldman finding is not a big surprise and not an indictment of the patent system.