The Washington Post Opinion: Abraham Lincoln loved our patent system. Let’s not tear it down, by Joseph Allen
This post originally appeared in the The Washington Post on November 16, 2015.
Abraham Lincoln once called the patent system one of the three greatest advances in human history, surpassed only by the discovery of America and the printing press. The United States was the first nation to allow commoners to own patents. Having a patent allowed the Wright brothers (two humble bicycle mechanics from Ohio) to beat Samuel Langley, their government-backed rival, to become the first to fly — and land — a machine heavier than air.
Patents give inventors the right to control how their discoveries are used in exchange for telling the public how they work. This bargain increases knowledge and drives modern economies. Patents are supposed to shield entrepreneurs from having their inventions stolen by powerful competitors, but modern inventors now face a system that has broken its pledge. Rather than addressing the underlying problems, the pending patent reform legislation tilts the system even further against inventors.