BU Law School Research Initiative to Focus on Technology’s Impact on Society’s Well Being

The newly launched initiative will research the effects of new technology on the workforce, intellectual property policies that can encourage innovation, and more.

Technological innovation has transformed the workplace and driven economic growth in many sectors, but it has also disrupted existing industries and numerous occupations. New technologies are being created and introduced into the marketplace so rapidly that their pervasive influence on society occurs long before policymakers can adapt laws and regulations.

The newly launched Technology & Policy Research Initiative (TPRI) at Boston University School of Law has begun conducting research on how new technology impacts society and on the policies that can best shape that impact.

Research focuses on the effects of new technology on the workforce, intellectual property policies that can encourage innovation, and how government policies affect employee incentives, startup creation, market competition, and economic dynamism generally. On July 25, TPRI hosted an Intellectual Property Day at BU Law, where IP scholars from across the country presented new research in many of these areas.

“At a time when the threat of new artificial intelligence technologies is creating widespread concern, the general public needs to understand the actual economic effects of these changes and policymakers need evidence to develop better policy. Well-developed empirical research is critical,” says TPRI Executive Director James Bessen, a School of Law lecturer who studies technology and innovation policy.

Bessen and TPRI Faculty Director Michael Meurer, a BU Law professor who teaches courses in patents, intellectual property, and policy toward high-tech industries, are leading the new research initiative. Together, they wrote the 2008 book, Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk, in which they argue that patents can provide incentives to invest in research, development, and commercialization, but when property rights are not clearly defined, patents can, instead, lead to costly disputes and excessive litigation that undermine innovation.

Bessen and Meurer are joined by scholars with deep expertise in a range of critical areas: MIT Professors David Autor (labor economics, automation) and Catherine Tucker (data and privacy), Brookings Institution researcher Ian Hathaway (startups), Case Western Reserve University Professor of Economics Susan Helper (supply chains), NYU Stern School of Business Associate Professor Rob Seamans (entrepreneurship), and BU Questrom School of Business Associate Professor Timothy Simcoe (standards and patents). The initiative also supports the research of law students, graduate students, and post-docs.

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