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date: 31 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Users are important innovators in many fields. Often, they do not need socially costly patent incentives to invent, disclose, and disseminate their inventions. A patent-free user innovation (UI) paradigm is likely to be successful and socially desirable when an invention’s value to users has a substantial non-competitive component. If a user innovator values an invention primarily for providing a competitive edge, the patent-free UI paradigm is not viable. Most such inventions have little social value. Some, however, such as improved manufacturing processes, produce significant collateral value for non-users and should be encouraged. Patents may be important for these UIs. Socially beneficial policy interventions to buttress the patent-free UI paradigm might include tools and infrastructure to support user communities and changes to patent doctrine, such as accounting for UI in assessing nonobviousness, patentable subject matter exemptions, particularly for many types of processes, and user exemptions from infringement liability.

Keywords: User innovation, patentable subject matter, obviousness, nonobviousness, patent infringement exemption, patent fair use, innovation policy, patent law, patent doctrine

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