A couple of professors from Washington University here in St. Louis are arguing that intellectual property should be abolished, or at least significantly reformed.

Abolishing patent and copyright law sounds radical, but two economists at Washington University in St. Louis say it's an idea whose time has come. Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine see innovation as a key to reviving the economy. They believe the current patent/copyright system discourages and prevents inventions from entering the marketplace. The two professors have published their views in a new book, Against Intellectual Monopoly, from Cambridge University Press.

"From a public policy view, we'd ideally like to eliminate patent and copyright laws altogether," says Levine, John H. Biggs Distinguished Professor of Economics. "There's plenty of protection for inventors and plenty of protection and opportunities to make money for creators. It's not that we see this as some sort of charitable act that people are going to invent and create things without earning money. Evidence shows very strongly there are lots of ways to make money without patents and copyright." ...

Boldrin and Levine promote a drastic reform of the patent system in their book. They propose the law should be restored to match the intent of the U.S. Constitution which states: Congress may "promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writing and discoveries."

They call on Congress to reverse the burden of the proof on patent seekers by granting patents only to those capable of proving that:

• their invention has social value

• a patent is not likely to block even more valuable innovations

• the innovation would not be cost-effective absent a patent

It's such a radical idea that I didn't think of abolishing intellectual property until 2003!

(HT: RD.)

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