Patents are not natural property rights. They are government created and enforced monopoly rights. It is debatable whether patents encourage or hinder innovation and inventiveness. Even if patents promote inventiveness, there is no specific optimal number of years of protection. In many instances, there is a good case to be made that no patent right,s or very limited patent rights, might spur more invention. The case of pharmaceuticals and medical devices is more complicated because of government regulations that require much greater spending before a product is allowed on the market. Even in those cases, we should err on the side of more limited monopoly rights and less use of government force and protection. Humankind has made tremendous progress by being free to copy the ideas of one another. What if fire, or the wheel, had been allowed to be patented? Would that have spurred invention? Our elected representatives should support shorter periods of time for monopoly patent protection.
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