THE PROBLEM WITH PATENTS

mdowd at gems.vcu.edu mdowd at gems.vcu.edu
Sun Jan 7 17:04:31 EST 1996


In article <4chr2v$1pka at itssrv1.ucsf.edu>, bgold at itsa.ucsf.edu (Bert Gold) writes:
> 
> When the founding fathers included a mandate to award patents
> in the Constitution, they did so in the recognition that rewarding
> inventors with a 'goverment sanctioned' monopoly would spur
> invention AND promote economic well being in our nascent nation.
> 
> Unfortunately (IMHO), in the late portion of the 19th century and early
> portion of this century, when it became no longer possible to study for
> the bar exam in the states on an 'at home' basis and corporations became
> 'persons' under the law, patents began being awarded to Corporations,
> rather than individual inventors.
> 
> No individual, it was suggested (and indeed true after the era of
> Ford, Edison and Firestone) would have the wherewithal to defend
> a patent in the marketplace of America after the first world war.
> 
> But the original concept of the patent, as a REWARD to the inventor
> became somehow deeply lost in the process.
> 
> As a result, individuals like Carruthers, who invented NYLON for
> DuPont, gained little recognition, and perhaps have often become exasperated
> and depressed with their lives:  Carruthers, for instance, committed
> suicide.
> 
> Anecdotally, I would confess that I have a friend with 12 Biotech.
> patents to his credit, who is currently looking for a job, can't
> find one, and reaps not one cent profit from any of his inventions.
> 
> So, what hath we wrought:  A world in which, occasionally, largely through
> a toss of the dice, individuals may reap enormous benefits from their
> inventions (Wozniak and Jobs, Boyer and Cohen and Stanford and U.Cal.
> come to mind) and others, largely through no fault of their own,
> do not.  We don't know their names; but there are thousands of
> patents granted each year, to corporations, largely to PREVENT
> PRODUCTS AND PROCESSES OF COMPETITORS FROM COMING TO MARKET
> whose inventors, unlike the intentions of the founding fathers,
> go penniless into that good night.
> 
> Bert Gold, Ph.D.
> San Francisco
> 
I believe you have  a valid point in saying that the inventor of a product or 
process, by in large, is no longer recognized publicly.  Think of the 
thousands of medicinal agents we have available for our ailments.  These are 
products which are lifesavers.  However, the researchers who develpoed these 
drugs are certainly not famous.  The pharmaceutical industry is merely one 
example.  This situation is prevelant throughout many industries.

     To say that the inventor or researcher is no longer rewarded is 
completely inaccurate.  Science and technology has advaanced to such a dregree 
that it is rare to be in a situation where one can perform research outside an 
ininstitutional setting, i.e., in one's "basement laboratory." The researcher 
now has treded some personal, intelectual freedom for a place to work and a 
steady salary.  This security is the reward for working for a company.

    To keep this brief, ithe scenario boils down to an adage which a friend, 
who has a sharp finacial acumen, taught me: risk vs. reward.  If there is no 
risk, there is no reward.  If you look at a large number of famous scientists 
and researchers, their fame is a result of them taking a risk.  The inventors 
in the days of the founding fathers risked their financial well-being.  No one 
was paying them to think of different products.  However, if they did produce 
something useful, they recieved the financial reward.  

Those are some brief thiughts on the subject.

Matt Dowd
\g o y> 
> 



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