Intellectual property research needs to take a broader view of how patents affect the public interest

April 17, 2020

Intellectual property, and patents, in particular, affect every level of society. Research interest in the area has expanded beyond just the legal community and now involves social scientists and humanists as well. In an article published on February 27, 2020, in the journal Science and Public Policy, Ford School professor Shobita Parthasarathy advocates for “expanding qualitative research on patents and intellectual property related to innovation, arguing that it is essential for political and policy discussion.”

She recently told the Ford School, “We tend to focus on patents as markers of innovation, but they both shape and are shaped by politics and society in profound ways. This article identifies how qualitative social scientists and historians can help us better understand these broad dimensions of patents, so that we can develop better intellectual laws and policies that are truly in the public interest.”

Parthasarathy’s research looks at four lines of inquiry relevant to multiple areas of innovation, from artificial intelligence to energy: the political economy of intellectual property, the relationship between patents and innovation, the social and political implications of patents, and public participation in intellectual property law and policy.

Using the emerging field of precision medicine as her focus, Parthasarathy explores how qualitative methodologies can help understand the consequences of intellectual property law and policy. Ultimately, the goal is to “make better decisions to govern innovation.”

You can see the full article here.

Shobita Parthasarathy is a professor of public policy and faculty lead of the Ford School’s Science Technology and Public Policy research center. Her research focuses on the comparative and international politics and policy related to science and technology. She is interested in how to develop innovation, and innovation policy, to better achieve public interest and social justice goals. Much of her previous work has focused on the governance of emerging science and technology, particularly those that have uncertain environmental, social, ethical, political, and health implications. She is the author of multiple articles and two books: Building Genetic Medicine: Breast Cancer, Technology, and the Comparative Politics of Health Care (MIT Press 2007; paperback 2012); and Patent Politics: Life Forms, Markets, and the Public Interest in the United States and Europe (University of Chicago Press, 2017).

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