Rebecca S. Thirty years ago in Science, Garrett Hardin introduced the metaphor "tragedy of the commons" to help explain overpopulation, air pollution, and species extinction. People often overuse resources they own in common because they have no incentive to conserve. Today, Hardin's metaphor is central to debates in economics, law, and science and powerful justification for privatizing commons property. While the metaphor highlights the cost of overuse when governments allow too many people to use a scarce resource, it misses the possibility of underuse when governments give too many people rights to exclude others. Privatization can solve one tragedy, but cause another.

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The "tragedy of the commons" metaphor helps explain why people overuse shared resources. However, the recent proliferation of intellectual property rights in biomedical research suggests a different tragedy, an "anticommons" in which people underuse scarce resources because too many owners can block each other. Privatization of biomedical research must be more carefully deployed to sustain both upstream research and downstream product development.

Otherwise, more intellectual property rights may lead paradoxically to fewer useful products for improving human health. This site needs JavaScript to work properly. Please enable it to take advantage of the complete set of features!

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Comment in Patenting genes. Fried AH, et al. PMID: No abstract available. Patenting genomic technologies. Block DS, et al. Similar articles Patents, innovation, and privatization: Commentary on: "Data management in academic settings: an intellectual property perspective".

Albin RC. Sci Eng Ethics. Epub Oct 1. PMID: Patent and license pearls and pitfalls for taking an idea to the marketplace. Mukharji I. J Investig Med. Intellectual property rights. Public sector collaboration for agricultural IP management. Atkinson RC, et al. Genes and patent policy: rethinking intellectual property rights. Andrews LB.

Nat Rev Genet. PMID: Review. An intellectual property sharing initiative in agricultural biotechnology: development of broadly accessible technologies for plant transformation. Chi-Ham CL, et al. Plant Biotechnol J. Epub Jan 6.

Show more similar articles See all similar articles. Cited by articles The science commons in life science research: structure, function, and value of access to genetic diversity. Cook-Deegan R, Dedeurwaerdere T. Cook-Deegan R, et al. Int Soc Sci J. Epub Mar 5. Scientific Realism and the Patent System.

Resnik DB. J Gen Philos Sci. Epub Apr 6. Importance of the intellectual property system in attempting compulsory licensing of pharmaceuticals: a cross-sectional analysis. Son KB. Global Health. McGuire AL, et al. J Law Med Ethics. Show more "Cited by" articles See all "Cited by" articles. Publication types Research Support, Non-U.

Gov't Actions. Research Support, U. Gov't, Non-P. Review Actions. MeSH terms Animals Actions. Genes Actions. Humans Actions. Intellectual Property Actions. Licensure Actions. Privatization Actions. Public Sector Actions. Technology Transfer Actions. United States Actions.

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Can Patents Deter Innovation? The Anticommons in Biomedical Research

Citation: Michael A. Eisenberg Can patents deter innovation? The anticommons in biomedical research. Science RSS. Published in Science in , Heller and Eisenberg frame their argument explicitly in terms of Hardin's classic piece of The tragedy of the commons and applied to biomedical research although it has been used and cited as relevant more broadly.


Can patents deter innovation? The anticommons in biomedical research






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