IP Watchdog: What ‘The Economist’ Doesn’t Get About Patents, by Greg Quinn
This post originally appeared in IP Watchdog on August 13, 2015.
In what can only be characterized as a bizarre, rambling, and intellectually dishonest article, The Economist has inexplicably taken the position that patents are not necessary for innovation. This anti-patent hit piece is full of inaccuracies and outright falsehoods, masquerading as thoughtful commentary on an issue where the authors are quite clearly ignorant.
In an article titled A question of utility, which published on August 8, 2015, the author argues that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that patents are unnecessary and simply do not promote innovation. A lofty claim no doubt, but by the time you finish reading the article you are wondering exactly how any sane, rational person could conclude there is “plenty of evidence” to support the conclusion. If there is so much evidence to support the proposition, then why wasn’t any objective evidence provided in the article?
The article takes the reader on a journey through history, discussing how patents were not necessary for innovation at various times during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, as if the world as it existed 150+ years ago offers useful clues for business and innovation today. The complexity of innovation today and the required investment necessary to innovate, as well as the highly speculative nature of innovation, seems lost on the author. It is surprising, and disappointing, that a publication like The Economist would turn a blind-eye to the underlying financial realities of innovation. One would expect the editors of The Economist to have a better sense of the business realities and not pretend that the state of innovation and how it occurred prior to or even during the Industrial Revolution sheds any light on how innovators and investors operate during the Information Age of today.