A Curious Collision: Innovation vs. Patent Protection in Health Care
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Patents serve the Constitutional directive of creating a playing field promoting science and technology. Inventors are rewarded for publicly disclosing their inventions with a grant of exclusivity in their invention for a limited term, now 20 years less the (reasonable) time it takes the Patent Office to process the patent application. As with other political systems, the patent system, in practice, suffers from the effects of being managed by the government, interpreted by judges and lawyers, and ignored by the general public except when they are compelled to serve on jury duty. Recent activities by the courts, Congress, and executive branch seek to level the playing field (or to skew it in the eyes of some). The Patent Reform Bill now in Congress may substantially change the ground rules. The final decision in the Myriad Genetics appeal, now pending, may alter what can be patented. There are no immediate plans to change the biggest unknown on the slope of the playing field: the right to trial by jury.