Die-hard advocates of strong intellectual property rights aren’t going to be happy. One of the recipients of the 2015 MacArthur Fellowship, known as the “genius award,” is best known for a study that concludes that intellectual property rights on existing technologies hinder innovation.
Heidi Williams, a 34-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, used data on the sequencing of the human genome by the public Human Genome Project and the private firm Celera to estimate the impact of Celera’s IP on subsequent innovation. She found that granting intellectual property rights to Celera for its discoveries reduced subsequent scientific research and product development by 20 to 30 percent, relative to the pace of research and development seen after the Human Genome Project’s later work put the same information in the public domain. Those findings were cited in arguments submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court when it considered Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics – a 2013 case that challenged the validity of gene patents.
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