Adam Mossoff on “patent trolls” in Slate

What’s the most amazing innovation in the history of capitalism? The light bulb? The internal combustion engine? The computer chip? Candy Crush? There are a lot to choose from, but I’d go with the division of labor and specialization. Maybe its cheating to call that an innovation, but when you consider the many ways intelligent, productive people have found to make more money by focusing their creative energies on what they do best and farming out everything else, you begin to realize just how incredible capitalism is. From assembly lines and complex manufacturing processes, to the separation of ownership and control in the modern corporation, to Uber’s insight that creating an app to hail cabs saves both the drivers and passengers the hassle of wasting time on tasks they’d rather not do, specialization and the division of labor lead to innovation and enormous productivity.

Writing in Slate, George Mason University Law School professor Adam Mossoff shows how so-called patent trolls, a pejorative term for people and businesses who license patented technology instead of producing it themselves, are simply taking advantage of the division of labor. In recent years, they have been subjected to increasing criticism, with some critics going as far as to advocate laws that require patent holders to manufacture and sell their own inventions. (What’s next? Laws preventing property owners from “licensing” their property via rental agreements?) Mossoff sets the record straight, pointing out that it makes good sense for some people to invent things and other people to manufacture and sell them — Edison sold many of his own patents to others, as did Goodyear and many other innovators.

The “patent troll” debate, like many debates about capitalism and innovation, is nothing new. All the more reason to be happy that smart people like Adam Mossoff are on the case.

Go read the whole thing here.