Connect the Dots: Patents and Interdisciplinarity
44 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2017
Date Written: Septmeber 2016
This article unravels a troubling paradox in the ecosystem of innovation. Interdisciplinarity is widely recognized as a source of valuable innovation and a trigger for technological breakthroughs. Yet, patent law, a principal legal tool for promoting innovation, fails to acknowledge it in an explicit, consistent manner. Moreover, while the scientific understanding of the significance of interdisciplinarity for innovation increasingly relies on big data analyses of patent databases, patent law practically ignores patent data as a source of information about interdisciplinary innovation. This article argues that patent law should connect the dots: explicitly recognize interdisciplinarity as a positive indication in the decision whether an invention deserves patent protection, and use information derived from patent databases to evaluate the interdisciplinarity of inventions. Relying on cutting edge research in economics and network-science, the article explores nuanced manners for implementing these proposals, calling, ultimately, for the development of an algorithmic “recombination metrics” that would allow courts and patent offices to identify interdisciplinary inventions in an accessible, standardized, manner.
The adoption of this article’s proposals would align patent doctrine with its ultimate goal of promoting high-risk, socially valuable, innovation; would inject an objective and measurable criterion into various patent doctrines famously criticized for their ambiguity and unpredictability; and would also allow patent law to realize some of the enormous potential of patent data — a treasure that current patent doctrine leaves untapped.
Keywords: Patents, Interdisciplinarity, Recombinations, Patent Citations, Patent Classifications, Big Data, Algorithms, Law and Policy, Nonobviousness, Analogous Art
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