首页 > 热点观察 > 正文

经济学人:是时候修整一下专利制度了
2015-08-26 08:25:40   来源:   评论:0 点击:

  英国杂志经济学人发表了一篇题为“Time to fix patents"的文章,讨论专利制度目前所存在的问题,文中所指出的问题,值得反思,反观中国的专利制度,有一定借鉴意义。为了便于阅读,编辑对本文进行了翻译配在原文之后,译文有不当之处敬请指出。

TIME TO FIX PATENTS

 

In 1970 the United States recognized thepotential of crop science by broadening the scope of patents in agriculture.Patent are supposed to reward inventioness, so that should have galvanizedprogress. Yet, despite providing extra protection, that change and a further broadeningof the regime in the 1980s led neither to more private research into wheat norto an increase in yields. Overall, the productivity of American agriculturecontinued its gentle upward climb, much as it had before.

 

In other industries, too, stronger patentsystems seem not to lead to more innovation. That alone would be disappointing,but the evidence suggests something far worse.

 

Patents are supposed to spread knowledge,by obliging holders to lay out their innovation for all to see; they oftenfail, because patent-lawyers are masters of obfuscation. Instead, the systemhas created a parasitic ecology of trolls and defensive patent-holders, who aimto block innovation, or at least to stand in its way unless they can grab ashare of the spoils. A early study found that newcomers to the semiconductor businesshad to buy licences from incumbents for as much as $200m. Patents should spurbursts of innovation; Instead, they are used to lock in incumbents’ advantages.

 

The patent system is expensive. Adecade-old study reckons that in 2005, without the temporary monopoly patentbestow, America might have saved three-quarters of its $210billion bill forprescription drugs. The expense would be worth it if patents brought innovationand prosperity. They don’t.

 

Innovation fuels the abundance of modernlife. From Google’s algorithms to a new treatment for cystic fibrosis, itunderpins the knowledge in the “knowledge economy”. The cost of the innovationthat never takes place because of the flawed patent system is incalculable.Patent protection is spreading, through deals such as planned Trans-PacificPartnership, which promises to cover one-third of world trade. The aim shouldbe to fix the system, not make it more pervasive.

 

The English patent

 

One radical answer would be to abolishpatents altogether-indeed, in 19th-century Britain, that was thisnewspaper’s preference. But abolition flies in the face of the intuition thatif you create a drug or invent a machine, you have a claim on your work just asyou would if you had build a house. Should someone move into your living roomuninvited, you would feel justifiably aggrieved. So do those who have theirideas stolen.

 

Yet no property rights are absolute. Whenthe benefits are large enough, governments routinely override them—by seizingmoney through taxation, demolishing house to make way for roads and controllingwhat you can do with your land. Strikingly the balance between the claim of theindividual and the interests of society is hard. But with ideas, the argumentthat the government should force the owners of intellectual property to shareis especially strong.

 

One reason is that sharing ideas will notcause as much harm to the property owner as sharing physical property does. Twofarmers cannot harvest the same crops, but an imitator can reproduce an ideawithout depriving its owner of the original. The other reason is that sharingbrings huge benefits to society. These spring partly from the wider use of theidea itself. If only a few can afford a treatment, the diseased will suffer,despite the trivially small cost of actually manufacturing the pills to curethem. Sharing also leads to extra innovation. Ideas overlap. Inventions dependon earlier creative advances. There would be no Jazz without blues; no iPhonewithout touchscreens. The signs are that innovation today is less about entirelynovel breakthroughs, and more about the clever combination and extension ofexisting ideas.

 

Governments have long recognized that thesearguments justify limits on patents. Still, despite repeated attempts to reformit, the system fails. Can it be made to work better?

 

Light-bulb moment

 

Reformers should be guided by an awarenessof their own limitations. Because ideas are intangible and innovation iscomplex, Solomon himself would find it hard to adjudicate between competingclaims. Under-resourced patent-officers will always struggle againstwell-heeled patent lawyers. Over the years, the regime is likely to fall victimto lobbying and special pleading. Hence a clear, rough-and-ready patent systemis better than an elegant but complex one. In government as in invention,simplicity is a strength.

 

One aim should be to rout the trolls andthe blockers. Studies have found that 40-90% of patents are never exploited orlicensed out by their owners. Patents should come with a blunt “use it or loseit” rule, so that they expire if the invention is not brought to market.Patents should also be easier to challenge without the expense of a full-blowncourt case. The burden of proof for overturning a patent in court should belowered.

 

Patents should reward those who work hardon big, fresh ideas, rather than those who file the paperwork on a tiddler. Therequirement for ideas to be “non-obvious” must be strengthened. Apple shouldnot be granted patent on rectangular tablets with rounded corners; Twitter doesnot deserve a patent on its pull-to-refresh feed.

 

Patents also last too long. Protection for20 years might make sense in the pharmaceutical industry, because to test adrug and bring it to market can take more than a decade. But in industries likeinformation technology, the time from brain wave to production line, or line ofcode, is much shorter. When patents lag behind the pace of innovation, firmsend up with monopolies on the building-blocks of an industry. Google, forinstance, has a patent from 1998 on ranking websites in search results by thenumber of the other sites linking to them. Here some additional complexity isinevitable: in fast-moving industries, governments should gradually reduce thelength of patents. Even pharmaceutical firms could live with shorter patents ifthe regulatory regime allowed them to bring treatments to market sooner and forless upfront cost.

 

Today’s patent regime operates in the name of progress. Instead, it sets innovation back. Time to fix it.
 

译文
 
 
 

1970年,美国认识到扩大农业领域专利范围可以激发谷物科学的研究潜力。专利是对发明创新的奖励,因此需要实施的过程。然而,尽管对专利提供额外的保护,并且在1980年代对专利保护领域进行拓宽,却并没有引起更多个人对小麦进行研究,也没有促进产量增长。总体上来说,美国农业的生产率上升缓慢的趋势并没有因为专利范围而有所改变。

 

在其他行业,更严格的专利体系也没有促进创新。仅仅这一点就已经很令人失望了,但是有证据显示,更严格的专利体系还有比这一点更糟糕的影响。

 

专利的本意是通过要求专利权持有者(专利权人)向公众公开他们的创新成果来传播知识;而这一点经常无法实现,因为专利律师们擅长把专利弄得令人费解。专利体系创造出了一个恶性生态圈,滋生了专利流氓和防御性专利权持有者,他们目标是通过阻碍创新,或者至少是妨碍创新从中获利。有一个较早期的研究发现,半导体行业的新参与者想要经营这个生意必须花费高达200万美元从“前辈”那里获得许可。专利应该推动创新,但现在却主要维护先入场者的优势。

 

专利制度非常昂贵。一个十年前的研究显示,在2005年,如果去掉专利带来的垄断成本,美国2100亿美元的处方药花费将会减少3/4。如果造成这么大成本的专利制度能够换来创新和繁荣,那么也是值得的,然而并没有实现促进创新和繁荣。

 

现代生活物质极大丰富就得益于创新。从谷歌的算法到囊肿性纤维化的新治疗方法,创新支撑了知识经济。但由于不完善的专利制度对创新产生的代价也是不可估量的。专利保护通过筹划中的跨太平洋伙伴关系扩大影响,该伙伴关系预计将影响到全球1/3的贸易。其目标应该是完善专利制度,而不是让它扩大影响。

 

英国专利
 

 

一个比较激进的解决方案就是全面的废除专利——的确,如果在19世纪的英国,本报也会倾向于这种观点。但是废除专利制度存在一个问题,就是如果你创造出一种药品,或者发明了一种机器,你就对它有所有权,这和建造一座房屋即对他产生所有权一样。如果有人不经邀请就住到你家的客厅来,你会感到愤怒也很正常,那些想法被盗走的人的感觉也是这样。

 

但是产权都不是绝对的。当收益足够大的时候,政府通常就对它有优先权——通过税收收取利益,拆掉房子修路,控制你对自己的土地的处分方式。平衡个人所有权和社会利益异常困难。但是说到创意,支持政府迫使所有者共享创意的观点异常强烈。

 

其中一个理由就是分享创意不会对所有权人造成像分享有型资产那样的损失。两个农民不能收个个同一份粮食。但模仿复制一个想法却不会剥夺原所有者的所有权。另一个理由就是分享会给社会带来很大的好处。这些好处来源于让想法得到更广泛的实践。如果治疗花费极高,只有很小一部分人能够花得起钱治疗,那么尽管制药成本可能很低,大部分病患也只有忍受病痛。分享还可以带来更多创新。想法可以叠加。发明都是建立在早年的创新优势上的。如果没有布鲁斯就不会有爵士;没有触屏就不会有iPhone。这都显示出现在的创新主要是对已有创意的叠加,而主要不是完全的独立突破。

 

政府很早就认识到·这些论点指出了专利的局限性。尽管反复尝试进行改革,专利系统还是存在问题。是否能让它变得更完善?

 

灯泡时刻
 

 

改革者们必须意识到自己的局限。因为创意是无形的,创新很复杂,所罗门自己都很难在各方面利益中找到平衡。过去多年,专利制度可能沦为院外活动和特殊请求的牺牲品。因此一个清晰、粗糙的专利制度比精细但复杂的更好。政府和发明一样,简洁是一种力量。

 

 

一个目标就是消灭专利流氓和恶意专利持有者。研究发现40%-90%的专利其专利权人从来没有运用或者许可。应该形成“或用或弃”的制度,这样不投入市场的专利就要失效。专利还应该更容易被挑战,而不必要通过复杂的法庭程序。在法庭对专利进行无效的证据责任应该更低一些。

 

专利应该奖励研究全新的重大问题作出成就的人,而不是仅仅提交专利申请进行小修小补的人。对于技术的非显而易见性要求应该加强。苹果不应该因为圆形边角的长方形设计获得专利,Twitter(推特)也不应该因为下拉刷新的设计获得专利。

 

目前专利期过长。保护期长达20年对于制药行业或许合理,因为从测试到推向市场可能需要10年以上。但在类似于信息技术这样的行业,从脑中构思到产品,或者代码,时间要短得多。当专利的周期落后于创新的脚步,公司可以通过建构防御性专利形成垄断。例如谷歌在1998年就获得关于网页排序专利,排序依据是搜索结果与该网页链接的数量。一些复杂因素是不可避免的:在快速变化的行业里,政府应该逐步减少专利保护期。即使是在制药公司也可以承受专利保护期更短,只要允许他们可以更快并且前期成本更少的将药品推入市场。

 

今天的专利制度是以推动进步的名义存在,然而它却阻碍了创新。是时候整修一下了。

 

来源:选文转载自The Economist 《中国发明与专利》翻译

相关热词搜索:学人 专利 时候

上一篇:您的企业是否需要海外专利布局?考虑这几点
下一篇:知识产权监管封堵"真空区" 云盘不能随意分享美剧了

分享到: 收藏

发明与专利-腾讯 点击或扫描关注 发明与专利-新浪 点击或扫描关注