U.S. R&D: A troubled enterprise worries about the bifurcation of U.S. government and corporate research and development spending (toward basic research and commercial development, respectively) and includes this sentence:
Increasingly, firms seem to value short-term and incremental innovations—reducible to patents—over the long-term benefits of in-house scientific capabilities.
It had not occurred to me before that the availability of patents could contribute to disinvestment in research by companies. Without the ability to prevent or extract licensing fees from competition, a firm has to compete on time to market and execution, both presumably fostered by deep and integrated in-house capabilities. With the availability of patents, it makes sense to prefer developing patents which can be used to extract revenues from other firms; ‘commercial development’ can be detached from product execution, ideally completely. The pro-patent argument would be that patents favor corporate investment in research, as research capability is what enables companies to develop valuable patents.
The trend highlighted in the linked article and quoted sentence above would seem to rebut the pro-patent argument and support “my” observation, no? (My observation because the article doesn’t directly assert a connection between patents and decreased corporate research, scare quotes because doubtless the observation has been made and debated many times elsewhere; I’ve probably read some previously and failed to “get it.” Pointers wanted!)
The linked article concludes:
Clearly it’s time to look at some new models, and perhaps to explore a different paradigm. Look here for a few ideas soon.
Looking forward to that. If there is a connection between patents and decreased corporate research, let’s hope those ideas include limitations on patents (preferably ones that grant commons-based production more freedom to operate, though I doubt such is on their radar, yet) and warnings against further incentives for more patents.
American Innovation Lies on Weak Foundation covers similar ground, citing one of the authors of the above piece:
The number of American patent applications keeps rising. Yet increasingly divorced from the scientific advances on which technological progress ultimately rests, the patenting rush looks less and less like fundamental innovation.
Linked paper to read: Killing the Golden Goose? The Decline of Science in Corporate R&D.
Finally, it should always be noted that knowledge (in this case particularly innovation) policy should never be evaluated solely on its impact on investment in the production of new knowledge, or even actual production, but also, even primarily, its impact on freedom, equality, and security.