A decade ago the biomedical research community was sounding alarm bells about the impact of intellectual property (IP) rights on the ability of scientists to do their work. Controversies and delays in negotiating terms of access to patented mice and genes, databases of scientific information, and tangible research materials all pointed toward the same conclusion: that IP claims were undermining traditional sharing norms to the detriment of science. Michael Heller and I highlighted one dimension of this concern: that too many IP rights in "upstream" research results could paradoxically restrict "downstream" research and product development by making it too costly and burdensome to collect all the necessary licenses. We called this phenomenon "the tragedy of the anticommons" in biomedical research, a phrase that has since become a buzzword for a broader range of potential detrimental effects of intellectual property.
Eisenberg, Rebecca S. "Noncompliance, Nonenforcement, Nonproblem? Rethinking the Anticommons in Biomedical Research." Hous. L. Rev. 45, no. 4 (2008): 1059-99. (Symposium: Patent Law in Persepctive Institute for Intellectual Property and Information Law.)