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Or, does it refer to 'the original rationale for granting patents'?

Patents and copyright laws grant too much credit and reward to individuals and imply that technology evolves by jerks. Recall that the original rationale for granting patents was not to reward inventors with monopoly profits but to encourage them to share their inventions. A certain amount of intellectual property law is plainly necessary to achieve this. But it has gone too far. Mostpatents are now as much about defending monopoly and deterring rivals asabout sharing ideas. And that discourages innovation.

The Myth of Basic Science- WSJ

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  • “This” refers to “the original rationale” as a whole.
    – StephenS
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 15:48

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Recall that the original rationale for granting patents was not to reward inventors with monopoly profits but to encourage them to share their inventions.

The goal stated here, which achieve can work with, is "encouraging them to share their inventions." So that is what the this has to point back to.

  • "The original rationale for granting patents" can't be a goal because we don't know what that is until it's defined later in the sentence.

  • "To reward inventors with monopoly profits" is negated by "not" and also the following "but" so it's specifically not the goal.

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