Why a Strong Patent System is Vital

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The Washington Times

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Last month was the 25th anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, marking the end of the Cold War. Just a few years earlier, it seemed unfathomable that a world superpower would simply disband. And yet, the USSR was destined to lose its confrontation with the U.S. despite having more nuclear weapons, being first in space, having a larger army, and sitting on a much bigger cache of natural resources. The reason was the insurmountable American lead in innovation.

But why was there such a lead? Were the American engineers, chemists, doctors and other professionals innately brighter than their Soviet counterparts? Obviously they weren’t. The Soviet Union, like every other country in the world had people with inventive and inquisitive minds. My father, who was an engineer in the USSR and remained a successful one after immigrating to the U.S, didn’t receive an extra dose of smarts upon landing at the JFK airport.

The reason we outinnovated the USSR is rooted in the American system that treats inventions as any other property, subject to the full protection of the law. In contrast, the Soviet legal system essentially made sure that the inventors’ creative capacities would not be directed towards improving lives of their fellow citizens. What made America win the Cold War, in large part, was our strong patent regime.