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Expediting Innovation

By Sarah Tran

Private incentives to innovate and commercialize many technologies are often inadequate in terms of their social benefits. With America’s economic leadership position at risk of slipping, it becomes increasingly important to consider what measures public entities can take to promote the innovation and commercialization of those technologies that are essential to American welfare. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO” or “Patent Office”) has the potential to reduce the divergence between social needs and private incentives for technological progress. By expediting the review of more socially valuable patent applications, the PTO could respond to critical public needs and better satisfy the constitutional justification for the existence of the patent system. The PTO’s recent implementation of a program that purports to fast track the review of applications pertaining to environmentally beneficial technologies provides a useful, albeit imperfect, model for such beneficial reform.

This Article brings key insights to a variety of weighty issues including: the proper role of the Patent Office and other regulatory bodies in promoting the innovation and commercialization of high-priority technologies; the appropriate measurement of the “value” of technological progress; the interrelationship between the Constitution and the patent review process; and the relevance of fairness and economic objections to the grant of preferential treatment in a monopoly system.

Cite as: Sarah Tran, Expediting Innovation, 36 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 123 (2012).

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