On Patent “Monopolies”: An Economic Re-Appraisal

By David J. Teece & Edward F. Sherry

In exchange for public disclosure, the patent system gives a successful patent applicant the right to exclude others from using the patented technology without permission for a period of time (in the U.S., currently 20 years from application). A series of older cases refer to this exclusivity as a “patent monopoly.” The questions we address in the current article are: to what extent is the “patent monopoly” language useful? To what extent is it misleading? What are its virtues and limitations?

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