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Expediting Innovation: The Quest for a New Sputnik Moment

May 19, 2011 Comments off

Expediting Innovation: The Quest for a New Sputnik Moment
Source: Harvard Environmental Law Review (via SSRN)

Private incentives to innovate and commercialize many technologies are often inadequate in terms of their social benefits. With this nation’s economic leadership position at risk of slipping, the issue of what measures public entities can take to promote the innovation and commercialization of those technologies that are essential to American competitiveness becomes increasingly important. The Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO” or “Patent Office”) has the potential to reduce the divergence between social needs and private incentives for technological progress. By expediting the review of socially-valuable patent applications, the agency could respond to critical public needs, better satisfy the constitutional justification for the existence of the patent system, and help the United States achieve a “Sputnik moment” – a moment in which American innovation propels it to global leadership. The agency’s recent implementation of a program that purports to fast track the review of applications pertaining to environmentally-beneficial technologies provides a useful, albeit imperfect, model for such beneficial reform.

This article brings key insights to a variety of weighty issues including: the proper role of the Patent Office and other regulatory bodies in promoting the innovation and commercialization of high-priority technologies, the appropriate measurement of the “value” of technological progress, the interrelationship between the Constitution and the patent review process, and the relevance of fairness and economic objections to the grant of preferential treatment in a monopoly system.

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