Can patents have a negative effect on chemical research?

A Historically, academic researchers not having an interest in financial gain simply used or adopted the patented advances or compounds, which were often provided freely by industry. A recent judicial ruling (Madey vs Duke University) restricts the unauthorised use of patented materials or processes, even if financial gain is not sought. The patentee, industrial or not, certainly has a right and need to protect its intellectual estate. The academic scientist, pursuing knowledge for its own sake, often feels thwarted by these restrictions.  

George Gokel, Molecular Biology & Pharmacology, Washington University Medical School, US

A The main problem with patents, and the process of acquiring them, is that scientists are put into the position of withholding their results for a period of time while the patents are written and filed. To some extent, this counters the traditional exchange of ideas in academia that fosters collaboration and pushes science forward.  

Don Tilley, department of chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, US

Patents have a positive effect on industrial research, but there are four situations where I see potential negative effects:

  1. patenting requires secrecy until the application is published;
  2. patenting a technology without proper commercialisation guarantees the technology is never used;
  3. if an academic group concentrates too much on patents, its scientific standard is likely to suffer; and
  4. patenting can discourage other academic researches from working in the area even if it might be scientifically interesting.  

Hans-Ulrich Blaser, Solvias, Basel, Switzerland