SAN JOSE, Calif. — How does the US patent system help or hinder innovation? That's the question Stanford's Hoover Institution hopes to answer with a report based on new research and a series of invitation-only conferences starting in January.
The economic and political think tank has not released a report on intellectual property for more than a decade. Nevertheless, some in the IP community say it could add clarity in an area where companies are under pressure from a rising tide of patent filings, infringement suits, court rulings, and legislation.
"Questions about whether the patent system is too restrictive or too liberal -- helping or holding back innovation -- have come to the fore in the past year or so," Richard Sousa, a senior associate director at the institution, told us. "From what we can tell, it doesn't seem anyone has done a good cross-walk between the economic and legal issues."
Sousa and Stephen Haber, a Hoover fellow and professor at Stanford's School of Humanities and Sciences, will convene the first conference in the series Jan. 31 at the Hoover Center. They will invite an eclectic mix of legal scholars, economic historians, political scientists, and innovators who create patents in biopharma and electronics. A handful of Hoover fellows are known for work in the field, including F. Scott Kieff, who directs the Project on Commercializing Innovation.
The Hoover Institution aims to host two conferences on the topic in 2014 -- and possibly most in subsequent years. The conferences will define areas of primary research. Group members will conduct the research, create a wider network with experts outside the event, and ultimately submit a report that will be posted to the Hoover website.
"We will be driven by evidence, reason, and legal materials," Sousa said. "A number of studies have been done in this area, but we think we can put together people who will provide a fresh perspective."
Calls for patent reform have emerged both from the industry and the White House, which released its own report on the topic in June. Congress spoke out on patent reform in the America Invents Act, its first IP legislation in decades.