While I think the idea is interesting, the execution of it is a bit lacking. The question should be ‘what should be patentable’? Currently, you can patent a ‘set of symptoms plus a delivery method’, which seems a bit weird to me. I suggest patenting ingredients instead of cures. That way a patent will sometimes cover your market, but there might be another ingredient for the same symptoms… Here’s how it would work:
I would rather like to be able to patent the specific combination of ingredients used, with or without delivery method, with or without concentration, e.g. the ‘formula’ rather than what is treated. A patent should cover all drugs with that formula (adding/removing side effects by changing concentration doesn’t work. Removing side effect by machine doesn’t work either, but because of change II. However, when the patent covers a drug with removed side effect by machine, not implementing the whole process by not doing so may avoid the patent). Or maybe even patent the specific ingredients when discovered. To balance the game, more base ingredients may be needed to exist. That’s very interesting, as diffrent ingredients may be better or worse depending on starting concentration and side effects. The more broad a patent, the more expensive / longer to implement.
In addition, patents should prevent not only a product to be made and sold, but also this product to be used in any intermediate stage of creation. E.g. if ‘prevents gout using ingredient X’ is patented, then a competitor cannot produce ‘cures liver disease’ from a base cure using ingredient X, as they cannot have the specific patented thing at any point during their production line. Of course, if ingredient Y also could be upgraded into ‘cure liver disease’, using that is fine.
Balancing the game the other way again, no patents can now be used on a thing someone else is already producing, instead of everything being patentable once regardless. As soon as a competitor buys an ingredient or sells a drug with an ingredient, that ingredient is now unpatentable*. Same with processes: as soon as a competitor uses a formula before you, that formula is unpatentable. A small exception: if you are the ‘first’ to use a particular formula or ingredient, you can still apply for a patent after a competitor uses it, with a short time limit (3 or 6 months). As patents are generally researched after the 6 month mark, ingredients more than one player starts with and the associated level 1 cure are thus never patented, so the system can’t lock companies out completely any more (which is good as it solves the balance issues we have now).
- Note: You can still patent diffrent ‘concentration’ and ‘delivery’ compared to the products being sold.
Instead of ‘locking out’ competitors, you may offer a license. Charge any amount you like “per product” that utilizes your patent anywhere in its creation, e.g. any product that has ‘cliffotoxin’ zooming by on a conveyor belt anywhere in its production line instead of forbidding it (charging infinity). If you license something, and then produce a derivative product (e.g. by upgrading the compound further) you can then patent the derivative product! (for example by mixing the level 3 drug cliffotoxin with something else and then sequencing it to produce a level 4 drug).
The prerequisite for a patent is not having sold a drug with a compound, but simply having physically made the compound anywhere in any production line. This allows for ‘research company’: a company that researches stuff and makes money via royalties, but doesn’t itself produce any drugs.
Broad patents will automatically include ‘more detailed versions’ that are used in any of your production line(s). (Other companies can’t hijack your specific production technique(s) after your patent expires by filing a more specific version)
These changes have the following general effect:
Instead of patenting the specific symptoms & delivery method, the actual ‘stuff’ is patented. E.g. ‘cliffotoxin X’ where X is ‘concentrate’ or ‘gas’ or whatever is patented, e.g. all forms of cliffotoxin. So nobody can use ‘cliffotoxin’ in their production line. That includes the base ingredient if it exists. This is the ‘broad’ category of patent. The patent may be more specific: only cover a single ‘concentration’ of cliffotoxin, or a single delivery method of a medicine made by cliffotoxin. Suppose you’re the first to use cliffotoxin in a creamer, and the general stuff is already free of patent. You can still patent the ‘cliffotoxin cream’. So basically there’s four levels:
P - product, D - delivery, C - Concentration
P: “cliffotoxin” - Bans the use of cliffotoxin.
PD: “cliffotoxin cream” - Can’t make cream out of cliffotoxin.
PC: “cliffotoxin 14” - Can’t make any ‘14 concentration’ cliffotoxin.
PDC: “cliffotoxin cream 14” - Can’t make concentration 14 cliffotoxin cream.
If this is a bit too complex, it’s possible to leave out the ‘D’ part or the ‘D’ and ‘C’ part. Though please note the ‘PC’ style patent is actually effectively a patent on protecting the use of the ‘analyzer’ to find the perfect concentration, not allowing a competitor to copy your concentration values rendering the value of analyzing questionable against industrial espionage. So allowing concentration patents is actually quite a good addition. Similarly a ‘D’ patent can incentivize the use of more expensive / effective delivery methods as demand for more effective medicine is higher (if that’s planned to be part of the simulation, I haven’t noticed it so far).
As an ingredient gets discovered, it may be restricted to one company. As the patent then expires, companies will make patents on very specific uses of it that the first company didn’t already think of, until finally it becomes fully free. E.g. for example say the first company uses cliffotoxin in concentrations 14, 11, and 10 for a cream. Other companies can’t patent those particulars, but could supposedly patent concentration 20 cliffotoxin, or any cliffotoxin in pill form, used to treat a totally diffrent disease (after paying royalties or after the original patent expires). In order to implement this, the ‘ingredients’ screen needs to be expanded to not only have the ‘base’ ingredients but also resulting derivative ingredients, where you can view the particular patent status of the ingredient. (fully patented / restricted / free).
Now for a more complex example that illustrates a final ‘fine point’ to this method of patenting: intermediate products and trade secrets. Suppose a new medicine from cliffotoxin is made by you as a first mover by upgrading alfium to betanium using an ionizer, which is mixed with gamminium in a mixer, to create deltatoxin, and then autoclaved to make cliffotoxin. Suppose competitors are currently buying alfium and betanium from the market, e.g. those are unpatentable ingredients. Also, a medicine from betanium by a competitor is available on the market, so you can’t patent the formula for betanium either. (Note, if that competitor had a patent on betanium, you would need to buy his ‘license’ to make the cliffotoxin, as you are making use of betanium in the production line for cliffotoxin). Suppose no patents exist on deltatoxin.
You can now patent not one but two compounds: the cliffotoxin, but also the deltatoxin, even though it cures the same things betanium cures (with an additional side effect from the new catalyst).
As to the implementability of these ideas, while they may seem daunting, the complexity is actually fairly low. The licenses are simply flat costs that AI can easily be programmed to deal with. Probably the biggest challenge is coming up with a way to present all the various intermediate compounds to the user in a useful, uncluttered way.
Note that it would be neat to have an overview of the properties of all the intermediate compounds you’ve discovered so far outside of the usage for the new patent system anyway, as it’s information that’s lost when you no longer produce them, requiring writing it down or memorization. You can sort of reconstruct some of the information using the cures and ingredient list – namely the concentrations for side effects and the concentrations/machines needed to upgrade, but you can’t for example find the effective concentration of a ‘level 2 or higher’ drug after you stop producing it, you will have to re-make it when really the information should be there for you in the UI.
Also, unrelated is this one interesting thing I’ve observed: the patent research upgrade notes being able to patent level 2, then 3, then 4, then 6 drugs. Is there another level of drug to be added to the game (more fun machines, more stuff), or is this a typo?