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News & Press: Public Policy Statements

LES Responds to Column in Wall Street Journal

Thursday, September 15, 2011  
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In Why Technologists Want Fewer Patents, (op-ed, WSJ, June 15), Gordon Crovitz distorts the form and function of our patent system and grossly exaggerates the level of patent activity. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last year received 464,000 patent applications, a far cry from the 500 million that Mr. Crovitz cited. (Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Performance and Accountability Report Fiscal Year 2008.) The U.S. Patent system rests upon a solid foundation over 200 years in the making. It is largely responsible for one of the most inventive and productive markets in the world today.

Contrary to Mr. Crovitz's contention, the patent system does not restrict the disclosure of information, it promotes it. Abraham Lincoln said the patent system adds the "fuel of interest to the fire of genius." By rewarding inventors, we create a powerful economic engine driven by market forces but held in check by a Constitutional restriction granting only limited exclusive rights to inventions.

Patent systems were first created to promote the exchange of information by rewarding disclosure as an alternative to secrecy, where the invention might die with the inventor, thereby depriving society of its benefits. Disclosure benefits us all by providing not only free exploitation of the invention upon termination of the patent, but a jumping off point for further invention during the term. Patent systems promote the progress of the useful arts by encouraging, rather than hindering, the exchange of information.

Read the Letter to the Editor.