Can Patents Deter Innovation? The Anticommons in Biomedical Research

4 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 1998 Last revised: 17 Nov 2017

Michael Heller

Columbia University - Columbia Law School

Rebecca S. Eisenberg

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: May 1, 1998

Abstract

The "tragedy of the commons" metaphor helps explain why people overuse shared resources. However, the recent proliferation of intellectual property rights in biomedical research suggests a different tragedy, an "anticommons" in which people underuse scarce resources because too many owners can block each other. Privatization of biomedical research must be more carefully deployed to sustain both upstream research and downstream product development. Otherwise, more intellectual property rights may lead paradoxically to fewer useful products for improving human health.

JEL Classification: C7, D2, D6, K0

Suggested Citation

Heller, Michael and Eisenberg, Rebecca S., Can Patents Deter Innovation? The Anticommons in Biomedical Research (May 1, 1998). Science, Vol. 280, May 1, 1998. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=121288

Michael Heller (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

Rebecca S. Eisenberg

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

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