Looks like we’re not the only ones conducting surveys on US IP trends. Researchers at the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, the University of San Diego Law School and the Georgia Institute of Technology released a paper detailing the results of a 2008 survey where they polled over 1300 start-up companies on their patent strategy; one of the researchers recently commented on some major findings here. The paper in its entirety can be downloaded here. We found the following results to be of particular interest.
Page 1299 lists the motivation of respondents for pursuing patent protection. In order of importance, the reasons cited were to:
Prevent others from copying their products or services;
Improve chances of securing investment;
Improve chances / quality of liquidity (e.g. IPO / acquisition);
Enhance company reputation / product image;
Improve negotiating position with other companies (e.g. cross-licenses);
Prevent patent infringement actions against themselves; and
Obtain licensing revenues.
Based on the above, it’s clear that many start-ups rely on patents not just for the obvious purpose of protecting their intellectual property, but also for numerous secondary benefits as well.
The Berkeley poll also asked respondents, taking the scenario where they chose not to patent their last major technology innovation, why they decided not to pursue patent protection. Not surprising given the economic climate, nearly 57% of respondents cited the cost of getting a patent as the deciding factor for not seeking a patent.
This strategy, however, comes with long-term consequences. Companies must remember that patents last for 20 years and letting their right to seek patent protection expire opens the door forever to their competitors.
If costs are a concern, sounder strategies exist which can allow a company to pursue patent protection while minimizing costs.