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Innovation and Its Discontents: How Our Broken Patent System is Endangering Innovation and Progress, and What to Do About It Hardcover – October 17, 2004

3.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


One of Economist's Best Books , Economics and Business Category for 2004

"A lucid, entertaining and sobering look at the American patent system."--Hal R. Varian, New York Times

"A disturbing analysis of how the patent system, the heart of the knowledge economy, is rotten. With plenty of examples, the authors explain how America's patent system has become slow and bureaucratic, awarding too many patents for the wrong sorts of things. As a result, it is a threat to this most innovative economy."--Economist

"This book sounds an alarm bell that is hard to ignore since this is a policy area, which is very important for the national interests of the United States. The authors maintain that the present patent system in this country is profoundly flawed."--Giuseppe Ammendola, American Foreign Policy Interests

"This is a timely and concise book that presents a comprehensive and convincing argument about the not-so-explicit changes in U.S. patent law beginning in 1982, changes that the authors argue have broken a patent system that worked previously."--Zainub Verjee, Leonardo Reviews

"Adam Jaffe and Josh Lerner have given us a wonderfully timely book--and also one that is beautifully executed. If Congress is to reform the system, the public ought to understand its current failings."--Rochelle Dreyfuss, Michigan Law Review

"The authors should be applauded for their straight-forward approach and their focus on definite practices such as the patent application process. With elucidating, often entertaining examples this book would be appropriate as supplemental text for students and scholars of intellectual property rights."--Erik N. Dean, Journal of Economic Issues

From the Publisher

One of the Economist's Best Books of 2004, Economics and Business Category --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069111725X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691117256
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,969,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter McCluskey on December 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book presents a clear, concise and convincing argument that subtle changes in U.S. laws starting in 1982 have broken a patent system that was working reasonably well until then. It will be more effective at convincing the average person than most other attempts have been, both because of its style and because it shows that the changes which broke the system shouldn't have been expected to help anyone other than patent lawyers. Their analysis will be useful in helping to avoid the takeover of other agencies by special interests.

Their description of how the system should be fixed is less impressive. Their summary of proposed changes strangely fails to include undoing the change in appeals court jurisdiction which they suggest was a primary cause of the problems. Their argument in favor of patenting software, business practices, etc. is more radical than they seem to realize, as it appears to imply that patents should also be extended to mathematical theorems, yet they act as if the burden of proof should be on their critics.

Their confidence that a traditional patent system is better than no patents is unconvincing (but they do a good job of explaining why it is hard to know what the best system is). They support their position by a few examples such as Xerox, whose copier wouldn't have been invented as it was without patent protection. But it's much harder than they imply to determine that a copier wouldn't have been invented some other way a few years later.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Since the authors are economists I was hoping for an economic analysis of our current patent system like Schiff in his "Industrialization without National Patents" does for the international patent system of the 1800s. Instead it is a work of persuasion meant to sell the author's policy suggestions.

This means that the authors spend a lot of time talking about silly granted patents even though the authors later admit such patents are pretty unavoidable. No patent office has the resources to avoid granting some bad patents.

The author's policy suggestions include a revised reexamination system where patent owners would have to post $50,000 bond to defend a reexamination. I am no phyllis schlafly, but such a system would really favor big companies.

The authors are right that the creation of the CAFC in 1982 has resulted in a strengthening of patents. A lot of this is just a result of a new post-1982 uniformity in the case law.

Some signs of the waning of patents are showing. The CAFC, and now the supreme court, are ruling more for defendants in patent lawsuits. Additionally, in the patent office, the allowance rate of patents has declined from a peak of 71% in 2000 to 54% in 2006.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Length: 9:59 Mins
Adam Van deWalle's review was made as part of a critical review assignment for the Spring 2013 Economics of Technology seminar at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, taught by Art Diamond. (The course syllabus stated that part of the critical review assignment consisted of the making of a video recording of the review, and the posting of the review to Amazon.)
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