View from the Bench: Patents, licensing and upstream biomedical innovation

JUNE 25, 2006

Another interesting paper I saw presented (by Marc Cohen) was a joint paper of Cohen, Walsh and Cho entitled View from the Bench: Patents, licensing and upstream biomedical innovation.


  • Patents aren’t having much impact in terms of holdup on R&D activity (at least where you don’t need access to the physical material)
  • Primarily because patents are ignored by those doing R&D
  • Other factors such as commercial interests seemed to be as, if not more, important than patents

Full Paper


This paper examines the impact of patents and licensing on access to research inputs for academic biomedical research through a survey of 1125 academic researchers (including university, non-profits and government labs) and 563 industry researchers (1688 total).Our results suggest that commercial activity is widespread among academic researchers. However, patenting does not seem to limit research activity significantly, particularly among those doing basic research. Access to tangible research inputs from others is somewhat more problematic. Yet, scientific competition and the costs and effort involved seemed to dominate as the main reasons for not fulfilling such requests. A key reason for the negligible impact of patents on the conduct of academic biomedical research is that researchers largely ignore them. While such disregard for IP may, for the time being, minimize the social costs that might otherwise emerge due to restricted access (Walsh, Arora, and Cohen 2003a), it is still important that the institutional environment maintain a free space for academic research. Furthermore, the importance of scientific competition, transaction costs and commercial interests for limiting access to material research inputs suggests that policymakers should devote their attention to alleviating these causes of friction in the flow of needed research materials.