Boldrin and Levine's new paper: The Case Against Patents (2012)
I have previously talked about their book from 2008 (i think), which is mighty interesting. Not the least for me being on the board of directors for the danish pirate party. This paper is a kind of follow-up general introduction, which also includes technical aspects. Perhaps it is written for economists not familiar with the patent debate? It was an interesting read nonetheless. - The Case Against Patents - mentioned here. First paragraf:
The case against patents can be summarized briefly: there is no empirical evidence that they serve to increase innovation and productivity, unless the latter is identified with the number of patents awarded – which, as evidence shows, has no correlation with measured productivity. This is at the root of the “patent puzzle”: in spite of the enormeous increase in the number of patents and in the strength of their legal protection we have neither seen a dramatic acceleration in the rate of technological progress nor a major increase in the levels of R&D expenditure – in addition to the discussion in this paper, see Lerner  and literature therein. As we shall see, there is strong evidence, instead, that patents have many negative consequences. Both of these observations, the evidence in support of which has grown steadily over time, are consistent with theories of innovation that emphasize competition and first-mover advantage as the main drivers of innovation and directly contradict “Schumpeterian” theories postulating that government granted monopolies are crucial in order to provide incentives for innovation. The differing predictive and explanatory powers of the two alternative classes of models persist when attention is shifted to the historical evidence on the life-cycle of industries. The initial eruption of small and large innovations leading to the creation of a new industry – from chemicals to cars, from radio and TV to personal computers and investment banking – is seldom, if ever, born out of patent protection and is, instead, the fruits of highly competitive-cooperative environments. It is only after the initial stages of explosive innovation and rampant growth end that mature industries turn toward the legal protection of patents, usually because their internal grow potential diminishes and the industry structure become concentrated.
The aim of policy, in general, should be that of slowly but surely decreasing the strength of intellectual property interventions but the final goal cannot be anything short of abolition. Once again, if at the times of Machlup one could still nurture doubts and wonder if the system could not be reformed in a credible and stable form, in 2012 one must ask: is not six decades of failure enough time? Is it not time to take seriously the idea of patent abolition and begin the discussion of these transitional issues?