November 23, 2009

Prizes and Patent Pools: Viable Alternatives to the Patent System?

At a time when new technological breakthroughs are needed to address urgent environmental and public health threats around the world, critics claim that the existing global patent system embodied in national laws and international agreements isn’t up to the challenge. These critics argue that patents are not only insufficient to drive innovation in key sectors, but they also fail to deliver new technologies at reasonable prices-particularly in the developing world. For these reasons, they say that patents should be replaced with government prizes, patent pools, or other incentive mechanisms that offer public ownership and access to new technologies and inventions. While prizes and patent pools have become useful supplements to patents in certain circumstances, limited incentives in stimulating innovation and technology diffusion make them risky alternatives for a proven intellectual property (IP) system.

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