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Abolish IP Law, Save the Economy

Two economists at Washington University in St. Louis say they know how to revive the economy -- and it doesn't involve a single bailout. Their proposal is to abolish patent and copyright law. These laws serve only to discourage innovation and prevent inventions from entering the marketplace, they contend.

The two economists, Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine, recently published a book, "Against Intellectual Monopoly," in which they make their case for eliminating patent and copyright laws. "So-called intellectual property is in fact an 'intellectual monopoly' that hinders rather than helps the competitive free market regime that has delivered wealth and innovation to our doorsteps," says the book's description. In a Washington University news item about the book, Levine says:

From a public policy view, we'd ideally like to eliminate patent and copyright laws altogether. There's plenty of protection for inventors and plenty of protection and opportunities to make money for creators. It's not that we see this as some sort of charitable act that people are going to invent and create things without earning money. Evidence shows very strongly there are lots of ways to make money without patents and copyright.

While the two professors -- who also contribute to the blog Against Monopoly -- would eliminate existing patent and copyright laws, they would not have us go without laws of any kind. Instead, they would urge Congress to grant patents only to those capable of proving that:

  • Their invention has social value
  • A patent is not likely to block even more valuable innovations
  • The innovation would not be cost-effective absent a patent

According to the news item from Washington University, the authors acknowledge that Congress is unlikely to adopt such drastic reform, so as a next-best option, they propose an incremental approach to gradually reduce the scope of patents, regulation and licensing.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 13, 2009 at 02:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

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