View from the Bench: Patents and Material Transfers
Scholars have argued that the growing number of patents on research inputs may now impede upstream, noncommercial research by creating an “anticommons” in which rights holders may impose excessive transaction costs or make the acquisition of licenses and other rights too burdensome to permit the pursuit of scientifically and socially worthwhile research. Alternatively, owners of the rights over key upstream discoveries may restrict follow-on research through the exercise of exclusivity. The prospect of financial gain from upstream research has raised the further concern that academics are becoming more reluctant to share information, findings, or research materials. In 2003, a small-sample interview study suggested that, despite numerous patents on upstream discoveries, academic researchers have accessed knowledge without the anticipated frictions. Receiving material requested from other researchers could, however, prove problematic.