According to Information Week Government, the White House is encouraging innovation prizes. Innovation prizes have always been the substitute for a patent system as a way of spurring inventions. Unfortunately, they tend to become politicized and are much more expensive than a patent system. For instance, see the excellent book Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. In that case, the brilliant clock maker was squeezed out of winning the prize for accurately determining longitude by the politically more connected astronomy community. The patent system is self funded and provides infinitely more return than innovation prizes, such as the NSF, NIH, etc. Unfortunately, Congress has stolen over $1Billion in user fees from the Patent Office over the last couple of decades. As a result, the Patent Office is understaffed and now takes around three years to provide an initial examination of a patent application. Instead of spending money on innovation prizes, the White House should return the $1Billion in user fees with interest back to the patent office.
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