Written by attorney Charles Edwin Runyan

Why does the Government Grant patents?

The government grants patents to inventors, which gives them a right to exclude others from practicing the patented technology. In return, the inventors must disclose the technology to the public instead of keeping it secret.

Federal law outlines to what extent an inventor must disclose the invention's technology to receive a valid patent. It’s not a question of whether the invention qualifies for a patent or not, but rather how much the inventor must reveal when preparing the application.

But this law ensures that the government’s getting a fair deal. Granting the ability to exclude competitors is by its very nature anti-competitive or monopolistic. Thus, it hurts the economy because it allows the patent holder (owner) to either charge a higher price for its patented product or it allows the owners to gather a greater share of the market or market share because the product contains superior features that the patent prevents competitors from adding to their product.

But the government grants this right despite the negative effect on competition. It does this because, in return for the right to exclude, the owner must fully reveal or report all of their knowledge about the invention (that people don't already know). This report increases what the public knows. (The patent holder can’t get a patent while keeping the recipe for the secret sauce secret).

Also, the new invention solves a problem that someone hasn’t already solved or that someone has solved in a different way. Once the patent expires, everyone will be able to use the new information. And, if the invention makes the product superior, other competitors will have to create a different solution to the problem, but they’ll have the inventor’s disclosures to assist them in their efforts. And when they go for their patent, the cycle repeats.

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