The patent system, by its very nature, prompts debates over the proper balance of freedoms and restrictions with respect to the use of new technology. On the one hand, in industries where competitive pressures force companies to launch new and improved products on a twelve-year, six-year, or even faster cycle, twenty-year patent exclusivity can seem perhaps an anachronism, especially when it takes three to five years to secure rights. On the other hand, patent exclusivity is crucially important for certain products-namely, those requiring tremendous up-front investments and years of effort to develop and launch, but which are easy and inexpensive to copy. For more than 220 years, Congress has tilted in favor of retaining the patent system, with its simple principle that a grant of exclusive rights over an invention best serves the public interest of promoting the "[pirogress of [s]cience and useful [a]rts."

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