On September 28, top scholars in patent law, economics, and policy gathered at the Law School for the First Annual Empirical Patent Law Conference. Jointly sponsored by Cornell’s Law and Economics Program and Illinois College of Law’s Program on Law, Behavior and Social Science, the conference featured presentations of working papers on the most current research projects in the field.
Speakers covered a diverse range of topics, starting with a session focused on the interplay of patent law and innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. Columbia University’s Bhaven Sampat presented his research on the practice of “evergreening,” in which companies establish portfolios of low quality patents in order to extend the patent term on new drugs and protect their positions in the marketplace. He was followed by MIT’s Heidi Williams, who is examining the relationship between fixed patent terms and the development of cancer treatments.
“Now, more than ever, patent law and policy face a need for sound empirical insights,” says Cornell Law assistant professor Michael Frakes, the Jia Jonathan Zhu and Ruyin Ruby Ye Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellow, who organized the conference with Melissa Wasserman, assistant professor at the University of Illinois. “Empirical analysis in this arena, however, is a highly challenging endeavor. Intending to make this an annual event, Melissa and I organized this conference in an effort to help confront these challenges and to advance the state of knowledge in empirical patent law scholarship.”
Adds Wasserman, “the conference fostered a rich inter-disciplinary discussion of a number of topics of significance to modern patent policy, such as the possible distortionary effect of patent term duration on biopharmaceutical innovation. The need for empirical insights in patent law has become even more pressing in light of the growing import of intellectual property to social welfare and the recent passage of major patent reform. Michael and I are delighted that this annual conference can help to further promote the development of empirical analysis in patent policy.”