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Abstract

This Article approaches the research exemption, and related legal developments, as a case study in the political economy of patent law. Part I recounts the history of the research exemption, touching briefly on historical origins but emphasizing developments since the 1970s in legislative, executive, and judicial forums. It also examines changes during the same time frame in related areas of patent law, like the Bayh-Dole legislation and the attempted repeal of state immunity from patent infringement liability. These legal developments indirectly affected the research exemption, or implicated similar concerns about imbalance in the patent system and the use of patents to tax, control, or inhibit research activity. Part II analyzes this history to illustrate and expand upon two major themes in the political economy of patent law, namely the surprising persistence of faulty economic ideology in patent policymaking and the institutional bias exhibited by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in shaping modern patent law. One major conclusion is that together these forces have created an excessively complex and ill-designed policy environment that is placing a significant strain on the national research system, a strain that executive agencies and the courts have tried to alleviate through ad hoc agreements and modifications of other patent doctrines, like the doctrine of subject matter eligibility.

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