Saturday, March 01, 2008

World Patent Filing

One should use care in interpreting these figures. The major element here is that the United States with about one-quarter of the World's GDP accounts for just over one-third of patent applications.

It seems to me that a fair comparison for Switzerland would not be the United States as a whole, but a relatively high technology area within the United States with a comparable size economy and a similar role in the American economy that Switzerland plays in the European economy. Thus Switzerland might be compared to New England or Washington state.

Companies do not go to the trouble and expense of obtaining patents unless they think they will make money by doing so. Unless a company has the ability to commercialize a technology, either through its own production or by licensing the rights, then it should not patent that technology. Many companies in the world don't have the ability to take advantage of patent protection in the large markets that would allow them to profit. Indeed, even if they could produce for the American or European market, they could not detect patent infringement or take the needed legal action to stop it if it occurred. So they do not seek patents.

Further, if a company knows in advance that it has little ability to take advantage of invention through intellectual property rights protection, it is very unlikely to spend its time and resources to invent.


Mike O'Keeffe said...

WIPO and the Economist do a great disservice in trumpeting the WIPO patent filing numbers as representing the sum total or even a representative indicator of patenting activity in the world. WIPO is merly one of many places to file patents. It is attractive to inventors of small countries as one filing there acts as a place marker for subsequent filing in other countries, but less attactive to inventors of big economies such as the USA where filing at the USPTO is, in many instances, a more attractive proposition. Anyone wanting to do the analysis could start not at WIPO but at Esp@ce which compiles patent filing by inventors from every country in nearly every country. That analysis would take time but the results would be balanced and worthy of the analysis John Daly applies to them.

John Daly said...

Thanks to Mike for the tip.

The European Patent Office website esp@spacenet is a useful one.