24 Nobel Laureates Urge: Vote NO on S.507!

Franco Modigliani
Institute Professor Emeritus
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sloan School of Management
Cambridge, Massachusetts

An Open Letter To The U.S. Senate:

We urge the Senate to oppose the passage of the pending US. Senate Bill S. 507. We hold that Congress, before embarking on a revision of our time tested patent system, should hold extensive hearings on whether there are serious flaws in the present system that need to be addressed and if so, how best to deal with them. This is especially important considering that a delicate structure such as the patent system with all its ramifications should not be subject to frequent modifications. We believe that S.507 could result in lasting harm to the United States and the world.

First, it will prove damaging to American small inventors and thereby discourage the flow of new inventions that have contributed so much to America's superior performance in the advancement of Science and Technology. It will do so by curtailing the protection they obtain thorough patents relative to the large multi-national corporations.

Second, the principle of prior user rights saps the very spirit of that wonderful institution that is represented by the American patent system established in the Constitution since 1787, which is based on the principle that the inventor is given complete protection but for a limited length of time, after which the patent, fully disclosed in the application and published at the time of issue, becomes in the public domain, and can be used by anyone, under competitive conditions for the benefit of all final users. It will do so by giving further protection to trade secrets which can be kept secret forever, while reducing the incentive to rely on limited life patents.

~The Signers


  • Franco Modigliani (1985 Economics) MIT
  • Robert Solow (1987 Economics) MIT
  • Milton Friedman (1976 Economics) University of Chicago
  • John C. Harsanyi (1994 Economics) University of California
  • Berkeley Merton Miller (1990 Economics) University of Chicago
  • Douglass North (1993 Economics) Washington University
  • Paul Samuelson (1970 Economics) MIT
  • William Sharpe (1990 Economics) Stanford
  • Herbert A. Simon (1978 Economics) Carnegie-Mellon
  • James Tobin (1981 Economics) Yale
  • Chemistry

  • Sidney Altman (1989 Chemistry) Yale
  • Herbert C. Brown (1979 Chemistry) Purdue
  • Robert F. Curl (1996 Chemistry) Rice
  • Herbert Hauptman (1985 Chemistry) Stanford
  • Dudley Herschbach (1986 Chemistry) Harvard
  • Roald Hoffman (1981 Chemistry) Cornell
  • Mario Molina (1995 Chemistry) MIT
  • Richard Smalley (1996 Chemistry) Rice
  • Physics

  • Jerome Friedman (1990 Physics) MIT
  • Henry Kendall (1990 Physics) MIT
  • Davie M. Lee (1996 Physics) Cornell
  • Clifford Shull (1994 Physics) MIT
  • Medicine

  • Har Gobind Khorana (1968 Medicine) MIT
  • Daniel Nathans (1978 Medicine) John Hopkins
  • (Is it safe to say that these individuals probably wouldn't qualify as members of PTO Commissioner Bruce Lehman's "lunatic fringe"?)

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    Originally posted 9/12/97