Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Are MBAs competent to analyze patent law?

In a post on April 20 titled A New Kind of Patent Boutique?, PatentHawk wrote about the possibility of business students (e.g., persons pursuing MBAs) analyzing patent law for law firms:

The benefits of cross-disciplinary work would more than outstrip the costs of less uniformity in our thinking about legal doctrine. I would love to try the experiment of teaching business students a single class on how to read case law and then sending them off to a firm as summer associates without telling the firm which students were business and which law school students. How many law firms would be able to tell the difference by the end of the summer?

Mike Masnick of TechDirt has an MBA from Cornell [The TechDirt website states: Mike has a bachelor's degree in Industrial and Labor Relations and an MBA -- both from Cornell University.] Indeed, the TechDirt website also states:

Techdirt’s core mission is to help people make better business decisions consistently, by getting the right information to the right people at the right time. We do this by combining the power of human experts, with the latest technologies, to turn raw data into valuable, relevant, accurate, reliable and (most importantly) useful information.

IPBiz invites PatentHawk to analyze the last four comments of Mike Masnick on IPBiz to determine

#1. If PatentHawk can tell the difference between Mike Masnick's analytical approach to answering a question and that of an average law student at an intellectual property firm.

#2. If PatentHawk thinks Mike Masnick's commentaries amount to valuable, relevant, accurate, reliable and (most importantly) useful information.

As a further point, IPBiz invites PatentHawk to investigate the impact of TechDirt on the legal literature of patents, as manifested, for example, in the LEXIS law review database.

See Mike Masnick, the "emperor" with no clothes

See Mike Masnick, unbundled


Blogger Michael F. Martin said...


Not every MBA is going to be able to analyze patents. I wonder whether Mr. Masnick ever got any on-the-job training in that area. On the other hand, a casual perusal of nearly any university tech transfer office website will reveal that there are plenty of non-lawyers analyzing patents and producing profits.

As an aside, the part of the post that focused on deregulation and business schools as a potential source of talent was meant to be more general. MBAs could easily slip into a transactional practice that focused on credit derivatives, for example. Do you think that maybe we wouldn't be in as big a mess as we are right now in our credit markets if the lawyers had understood more about what they were helping their clients to do?

I think both history and the market are on my side as to who's right about the question of whether it takes a bar certified lawyer to offer useful advice on patents.


7:25 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Actually, the real question should be why we leave it up to *lawyers* to determine the *economic* impact of patents, and try to determine the best laws for "promoting the progress" of the *economy*.

The problem is that we get folks with legal training trying to make economic decisions -- when that's usually a field they have no knowledge or expertise in.

Thinking that only those who make their money from the existing system are qualified to judge it seems like a severe bias problem to me. Doesn't it to you?

In the meantime, it does seem rather... simple... to assume everything based on one's degree, doesn't it? I would have expected better from you.

11:32 AM  

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