Connect the Dots: Patents and Interdisciplinarity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This Article unravels a troubling paradox in the ecosystem of innovation. Interdisciplinarity is widely recognized as a source of valuable innovation and a trigger for technological breakthroughs. Yet, patent law, a principal legal tool for promoting innovation, fails to acknowledge it in an explicit, consistent manner. Moreover, although the scientific understanding of the significance of interdisciplinarity for innovation increasingly relies on big data analyses of patent databases, patent law practically ignores patent data as a source of information about interdisciplinary innovation. This Article argues that patent law should connect the dots—explicitly recognize interdisciplinarity as a positive indication when deciding whether an invention deserves patent protection and use information derived from patent databases to evaluate the interdisciplinarity of inventions. Relying on cutting edge research in economics and network-science, this Article explores nuanced manners for implementing these proposals, calling, ultimately, for the development of an algorithmic “recombination metric” that would allow courts and patent offices to identify interdisciplinary inventions in an accessible, standardized manner.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-96
JournalUniversity of Michigan Journal of Law Reform
StatePublished - 2017


  • Intellectual Property Law
  • Social Sciences
  • Health Law and Policy


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