Patents and the Commons


The idea that the results of publicly funded research should be returned to the Commons rings true. However a lot of publicly funded research is done by companies who want to invent new products that they can sell. Typically this research is partially self-funded by these companies. New products make a profit typically as long as competitors cannot make the same product, or cannot make it at the same cost.

If research results had to be placed in the public domain, the company carrying out the research would have less of an edge towards its competitors.

That may not be a bad thing, because a lot of waste happens because everyone needs the newest gadget as soon as it’s out, even if the old gadget is still doing its job (think smartphones).

Long story short: What’s the business model for companies who place their publicly funded research results in the common and thereby gain less of a competitive edge than if they continued to keep their results either completely secret, or public but protected by patents?


Some relevant questions here that I found over in another topic (how do I cross-quote?); answers wanted!


Dean Baker, co-founder and senior economist at The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), has a seminar series on the site at the following address:

The tenth of these seminars covers is titled Intellectual Property: Patents, Copyrights and Other Protectionist Barriers. The link is available on the page or go directly to the youtube video:


Thanks - still have to watch the video; in the meantime, here’s the direct youtube link: