Connecticut Law Review Volume 44 - Issue 2

Inventing Norms

Patent law strives to promote the progress of technology by encouraging invention. Traditionally, scholars contend that patent law achieves this goal by creating financial incentives to invent in the form of exclusive rights to new technology. This traditional view of invention, however, fails to recognize that inventors are motivated by more than money. Like most people, inventors are also motivated by social norms, that is, shared normative beliefs favoring certain actions while disfavoring others. This Article argues that many Americans embrace social norms that favor and encourage successful invention. Because of these “inventing norms” inventors enjoy enhanced personal satisfaction and are esteemed by their friends, family, and peers. Importantly, patent law can strengthen and shape inventing norms by, for example, identifying and validating successful inventions. Patent scholars, however, have largely ignored social norms that motivate people to invent and the effect of patent law on these norms. This Article remedies this oversight by developing a framework for incorporating inventing norms into traditional patent law analysis.

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