In the 19th century the Netherlands issued patent after patent that was neither novel nor practical, a situation that would be familiar to anyone in the contemporary U.S. patent community. The Dutch parliament back then adopted an unusual approach to the problem: in 1869 it voted 49 to eight to abolish patenting, a decision that was not rescinded until 1910, under heavy pressure from the country's trading partners. The U.S. has never gone ahead with such a radical step. But reformists continue to debate a multitude of ideas on how patent quality can be improved.
Later this year a book by Adam B. Jaffe of Brandeis University and Josh Lerner of Harvard Business School will describe what is wrong with the current system and then outline how it might be revamped. The book--Innovation and Its Discontents: How Our Broken Patent System Is Endangering Innovation and Progress, and What to Do about It (Princeton University Press)--is intended as an antidote to structural changes in the patent system made during the past two decades that have dramatically increased the rights of patent holders [see "The Silent Revolution," by Gary Stix; Staking Claims, June].
This article was originally published with the title If It's Broke, Fix It.