Ignoring Patents

Intellectual Property and Patents

Article Snapshot


Mark Lemley


Working Paper, 2007


This paper asks what would happen if patents were just like real property.

Policy Relevance

Policy makers should not take the argument that intellectual property is "property" too far.

Main Points

  • Software is very complex, and hundreds of patents potentially relate to every piece of software.


  • Most software researchers, developers and firms ignore software patents, hoping that litigation does not arise.


  • If we treated patents exactly like real property, one could not ignore patents.
    • Developers would have to look up their ideas in a registry before starting.
    • This would interfere with desirable economic activity.


  • The pharmaceutical sector is very different. Few patents are related to each new product, and those patents are taken seriously.

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