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Can a Computer Predict Innovation?

Check this out… Experts at some big name universities just finished up a study on the U.S. patent system.

The results: stifling.

Bill Tomlinson, of UC Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, and Andrew Torrance, of the University of Kansas School of Law, found that the patent system discourages innovation. This is counter to the traditional view that patent protection creates a creative framework for innovation. The two researchers created “PatentSim,” an online game that mimics the patent system; essentially, an abstract model.

I don’t want to muddy this so here’s the exact language from the the Columbia Science and Technology Law Review, who published the paper “Patents and the Regress of Useful Arts.”

One way to test the hypothesis that a patent system promotes innovation is experimentally to simulate the behavior of inventors and competitors under conditions approximating patent and non-patent systems. Employing a multi-user interactive simulation of patent and non-patent (commons and open source) systems ("The Patent Game"), this study compares rates of innovation, productivity, and societal utility. The Patent Game uses an abstracted and cumulative model of potential innovations, a database of potential innovations, an interactive interface that allows users to invent, make, and sell these innovations, and a network over which users may interact with one another to license, assign, infringe, and enforce patents. Initial data generated using The Patent Game suggest that a system combining patent and open source protection for inventions (that is, similar to modern patent systems) generates significantly lower rates of innovation (p

Basically, this software shows that the patent system is stifling innovation.

This obviously cannot take into account human factors, like creativity and genius, but in an all-things-equal scenario, it seems the largest set of innovations from the bell-shaped curve are being choked.

What do you think?

Can a computer simulation predict the odds of innovation?

Is this viable evidence?

Is the patent system oppressive to would-be inventors?

Are we too far gone to reform the U.S. patent system?

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