Dec 3, 2011

Patents facts of the day.

Patents are like fertilizer. Applied wisely and sparingly, they can increase growth. But if you apply too many chemicals, or make patents too strong, then you can leach the land, making growth more difficult. We definitely need some serious patent reform to prune back the thicket and make more growth possible. Let’s consider one of the most important and innovative firms today. This company has revolutionized its industry and done more than any other for the American consumer. No, it’s not Apple. The iPad is cool but over the last several decades the most important and productive firm has been Walmart. In fact, Walmart alone was responsible for a large share of the productivity improvements in the late 1990s. Walmart is a very innovative firm but it holds almost no patents—only about 60 in total, including one for a convertible shoe box. In fact, most innovations in most industries are not patented, and many industries are innovative with few or no patents; fashion and jazz for example. So patents aren’t necessary for innovation.
That is Alex Tabarrok who has a new book.

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