Can Patents Deter Innovation? The Anticommons in Biomedical Research

Science  01 May 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5364, pp. 698-701
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5364.698

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The “tragedy of the commons” metaphor helps explain why people overuse shared resources. However, the recent proliferation of intellectual property rights in biomedical research suggests a different tragedy, an “anticommons” in which people underuse scarce resources because too many owners can block each other. Privatization of biomedical research must be more carefully deployed to sustain both upstream research and downstream product development. Otherwise, more intellectual property rights may lead paradoxically to fewer useful products for improving human health.

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