Patents are a useful tool in innovation policy—but they aren’t the only tool available. If all you ever see are patents (and patent lawyers), your natural reaction is to use patents to solve policy problems. It’s a normal human bias—the law of the instrument states that humans will reach for a familiar tool (i.e., patents) if they don’t have exposure to alternative options. (Other areas of intellectual property, and IP in general, also suffer from this problem.)
In the innovation context, an over-emphasis on patents risks ignoring other, more appropriate tools for achieving particular goals in innovation policy.