Cultural Cognition of Patents

By Lisa Larrimore Ouellette, Stanford Law School

from Volume 4, Issue 1 (Summer, 2014)

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Abstract: Simply making empirical progress is not always enough to influence policy, as demonstrated by the polarized public discourse over issues ranging from climate change to gun control. The current discourse over patents appears to have a similar pathology, in which cultural values — such as respect for strong property rights or concern about limiting access to knowledge — shape priors and affect the weight given to new information, such that advocates and policymakers on both sides of the patent wars often fail to acknowledge the ambiguity of existing evidence. This Essay suggests that the “cultural cognition” framework might help scholars to understand this value-based division and to study ways to design and communicate patent experiments so that the resulting knowledge has the impact it should.