Forty years ago, nearly no one cared about patents or patent law. Now, almost everyone does. The reason for the revisionism: the evolution of the economy. Splicing DNA became possible in the late 1970s. It started to become profitable in the Reagan-era 1980s. Personal computers were nearly unheard of when Ronald Reagan was elected President. By the end of his term, Apple Computer was one of the world’s most important corporations. A combination of neo-liberal politics and economics shifted society’s relationship with science. Biotechnology, and computing, and capitalism formed a lucrative, new relationship with America that lasts to this day.
The rate of patenting new inventions in the U.S. has been increasing in recent decades and stands at “historically high levels,” according to research by the Brookings Institution. While the growth in patent applications slowed a bit after the IT bubble and the Great Recession, the rate of patenting by U.S. inventors is at its highest point since the Industrial Revolution.