View from the bench: Patents and material transfers

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Citation: John P. Walsh, Charlene Cho, Wesley M. Cohen (2005) View from the bench: Patents and material transfers. Science (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.1126/science.1115813
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.1126/science.1115813
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.1126/science.1115813
Internet Archive Scholar (search for fulltext): View from the bench: Patents and material transfers
Tagged: Biology (RSS) Economics (RSS), Patents (RSS), Intellectual Property (RSS), Science (RSS)


Walsh, Cho, and Cohen offer a very short two page report in Science on a survey of scientists they ran that aimed to measure or detect an anticommons effect as a way of providing an empirical test of the theory suggested by Heller and Eisenberg in Can patents deter innovation? The anticommons in biomedical research. In their survey, they ask about material transfers, if they are refused, and why.

The authors survey 414 biomedical researchers in universities, governments, and nonprofits with a 40% response rate. The survey shows that authors have been instructed by their institutions to pay more attention to patents but that very few do. They conclude that, "patents on knowledge inputs rarely impose a significant burden on biomedical research."

That said, they see reasonably frequent non-compliance with requests for shared material or knowledge. They probe this with two logistic regressions. Although they find that drugs and competitiveness are associated with reduced risks of sharing, they find no effect for patents. People who refuse most often tend to have a more commercial orientation, be more competitive, have a higher burden in term so the number of requests, and have published more.

They also discuss a case study of 93 academics that are working in a very patent-intensive sub-area and, again, find very little evidence for a negative effect of patents on the research.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

The paper has been cited more than 80 times in the last five years. It provides and important citation in research on the effects of patents on scientific innovation.