James Bessen

  • Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Director and Founder, Research on Innovation
Lecturer in Law

School of Law

Boston University

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215


Website: BU School of Law faculty page

Issues: Open Source, Patents, Innovation and Economic Growth and Intellectual Property

About James Bessen

James Bessen is a scholar who studies the economics of innovation and patents. As he has also been a successful innovator and CEO of a software company, he brings a unique perspective to the study of innovation. Currently, Mr. Bessen is Lecturer in Law at the Boston University School of Law and Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Mr. Bessen has done research on whether patents promote innovation, how and why innovators share new knowledge, and on how firms developed new skills and technical knowledge during the Industrial Revolution. His research on software patents with Eric Maskin (Nobel Laureate in Economics) and Robert Hunt has influenced policymakers in the U.S., Europe, Australia and elsewhere. His book, Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk (Princeton 2008) with Michael J. Meurer, highlights the problems caused by poorly defined property rights ("patent notice"). This work has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court, by judges at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and in a report by the Federal Trade Commission on patent notice.

In 1983, Mr. Bessen developed the first commercially successful "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" PC publishing program, founding a company that delivered PC-based publishing systems to high-end commercial publishers. Intergraph Corporation acquired the company in 1993.


Jim Bessen provided TAP with insights into his current work. Read the interview:
Learning-By-Doing: A Q&A with Jim Bessen


A.B., Harvard College, 1972

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