Opinions and Editorials

Apr. 17, 2020

IEEE-USA: The Steady Separation Of Patents And Private Property Rights by James Edwards

By the time Texas Instruments’ Jack Kilby and Fairchild Semiconductor’s Robert Noyce invented the integrated chip in the late 1950s, the U.S. patent system had become firmly established.  Alas, the world’s patent “gold standard” has lately suffered vigorous attack.

America’s patent system was intended to secure the private property rights of inventors — including those of Edison, Bell, Morse, Westinghouse, McCormick, the Wright Brothers, Roebling, Fulton, Lemelson and many others. This private property right in one’s inventions, coupled with democratically issuing patents to the “first and true inventor” and affording intellectual property (IP) the same treatment as physical property under the law, distinguished the U.S. patent system from those of other nations. There, patents served as means of largesse, political favoritism and crony capitalism.

But recently, other nations have strengthened their patent systems, while America’s has steadily lost ground. The following briefly reviews some of the lowlights of this sustained assault.