The patent system can play a vital role in preparing for, mitigating, reacting to, and preventing disasters. In the far term, it ensures that society continually improves its technological capacity to deal with disasters. In the near term, the patent system includes a diversity of legal options for ensuring access to patented inventions needed in disasters. Foreseeable and surprise disasters require different legal approaches to ensure timely access to patented inventions while ensuring that society is able to continue enhancing both its general and specific technological capacities. Accomplishing optimal results requires careful balancing of far term and near term interests, respect for both international and United States patent law, a clear understanding of the interrelation of different aspects of patent law, insight into the incentives that drive technological innovation, and appreciation of the disparate challenges posed by different kinds of disasters. When employed wisely, the patent system can offer society powerful assistance to prevent, prepare for, and mitigate disasters.
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