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Innovation is the creative lifeblood of every country. One of my proudest accomplishments as a United States Senator was to help promote innovation in my country by bringing about the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. The Bayh-Dole Act gave universities ownership and control of government-funded inventions that are balanced by restrictions to ensure that the public would benefit from the research. The resulting system has borne fruit beyond my dreams over the past 25 years. The law tapped into a basic truth – that society can benefit from creativity only if a properly balanced legal and institutional framework is in place to drive innovation forward. In particular, a special framework is required to bring publicly funded innovations out into the commercial marketplace so they are broadly accessible. Without such a framework, government-owned inventions gathered dust. With the right system, the benefits of academic creativity have washed across the globe in the form of new medicines, foods, materials, and information technology.
In this book, Michael Gollin explores the same fundamental concept – the process by which individual creativity leads to social progress is one that requires careful balancing of private control with public access, within an elaborate infrastructure of intellectual property. The intellectual property system has grown and changed over the centuries through legal reforms as well as business and technical innovation. Moreover, globalization has brought us to a time when creativity and innovation have an impact on everyone, rich and poor, in every nation.