Patent News

Nov. 12, 2014

IP Watchdog: $200 Billion Could Be Added to Economic Output Annually by Unlocking Patents, by Robert Litan and Hal Singer

This post originally appeared in IP Watchdog on November 12, 2014.

Americans have long celebrated many things, but one of them has been our incredible ability to continue innovating. Much of what it means to be a modern society is due to innovations made or commercialized most successfully first in this country. The telephone, the automobile, the airplane, computers (mainframe and personal) and software to operate them, air conditioning, and the Internet (with retailing and search) were all commercialized by entrepreneurs in the United States.

Patents have been and remain critical to incentivizing innovation, which in turn is key to sustaining economic growth and increasing living standards. Public officials, academic scholars and other commentators continue to debate whether and how to improve the legal standards and procedures for granting patents and challenging them. As important as these subjects are, they do not address the central economic problem with the current patent system in the United States.

The real challenge is that today the legally oriented patent system imposes significant transactions costs on licensing inventions: Most patent owners and users cannot bear the costs or risks associated with enforcing and licensing their patents. As a result, a substantial portion of the two million-plus patents granted, and thus the knowledge and technology they embody, is not commercialized or used to benefit others. The potential cost of this waste to the American economy has been estimated to be as large as $1 trillion annually, representing a five percent reduction in potential GDP.