Bridge Span 15-7: What Lincoln (Labs) Says About Patents

When it comes to being in touch with innovators, small businesses and individuals with a creation, looking to make it big in technology, few can compete with Lincoln Labs. The organization combines tech start-ups, politics and policy in a great mix of forward thinking. So when they roll out an “Innovation platform” within a paper entitled “Lobbying for the Future” ( it is worth taking note if one cares about innovation. The outline is simple: opening the government sector to competition, fixing IP laws and eliminating ridiculous regulations and laws. All are important, but Congress could accomplish major work on one of the planks immediately – fixing IP laws, specifically patent reform.

As the Lincoln Labs paper appropriately notes, “Patent policy is increasingly failing in its constitutionally enumerated purpose of “promoting the progress of the sciences and useful arts” as a result of patent trolling and an epidemic of granting low-quality patents.” That erodes trust in the patent system, and the confidence that patents really serve the purpose of advancing technological progress. Left unresolved, the patent system will be seen as less valuable, and the value of intellectual property protections forever damaged.

Property rights form the very foundation of a market economy, and are a critical tool in facilitating economic mobility, providing opportunity to the lesser advantaged to live a better life. Property rights empower the poor and the weak. But a market economy fails without property rights, in large measure because contracts are undercut; the right to free speech as expressed in contracts falters when it is unclear what is owned and protected.

That very uncertainty, as created by the patent trolls opportunistically preying on a system that has delivered a great number of low quality patents, directly harms the free market. Addressing the problems is good work for those on Capitol Hill who are believers in property rights and the free market.

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