Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Marc Massoud

Reader 2

James D. Taylor

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© 2012 Andy Segal


Property rights are the backbone of Western Civilization. Capitalism can only be successful if individuals feel secure about the ownership of their assets. Patents are the property rights granted to the inventor by the government. Without these rights, inventors will find it extremely difficult monetizing their contributions to society. Thus, in an effort to incentivize innovation and commit society to human progress, our Founding Fathers built our country on a strong set of intellectual property rights.

At the same time, nothing impedes innovation like a monopoly and, in essence, all a patent amounts to is a monopoly, the right to exclude others from monetizing a specific innovation over an extended period of time. Hence, at the margin, patents increase the incentive to create new patentable knowledge, while simultaneously also stifling the dissemination of that knowledge. A good patent system strikes the right balance between innovation and a government-granted, anti-competitive monopoly.

After a 20-year period of an unprecedentedly pro-patent environment in the United States, the value of patents has never been higher. Patents, as opposed to their intended use of incentivizing innovation, are now seen as a form of protection against litigation, and also a weapon to litigate patent infringements to extract license fees and royalty payments from companies who are supposedly in violation of these patents. The pendulum has swung, and patents are now stifling innovation to an extent not conceived of by our Founding Fathers. This thesis will explore the reasons for the extreme increase in the value of patents over the years and will attempt to propose a plan of action to swing the pendulum back where our Founding Fathers originally intended it to be.