Social and policy interest in intellectual property, and patents, in particular, is growing. This is reflected in the rise of scholarly inquiry on the topic beyond the legal community, including among social scientists and humanists. In this article, I advocate for expanding qualitative research on patents and intellectual property related to innovation, arguing that it is essential for political and policy discussion. I review existing work and suggest avenues forward along four lines of inquiry: the political economy of intellectual property, the relationship between patents and innovation, the broader implications of intellectual property for social and political orders, and public participation in intellectual property law and policy. Throughout, I use the emerging field of precision medicine—and specifically, efforts to create intellectual property policies that promote open science and innovation—to explore how qualitative methodologies can help us understand the context and consequences of intellectual property law and policy and, ultimately, make better decisions to govern innovation.