Top Ten reasons why innovating and filing patents are not the same thing

Here’s an interesting list reported by Gene Quinn at IP Watchdog, it is the list of top-ten innovating countries this past year according to the Global Innovation Index:

1 Switzerland
2 Sweden
3 Singapore
4 Hong Kong (SAR)
5 Finland
6 Denmark
7 United States
8 Canada
9 Netherlands
10 United Kingdom

Now here’s another list:

1 USA 44,855 27.5% -1.7%
2 Japan 29,802 32,156 19.7% 7.9%
3 Germany 17,171 10.5% 2.2%
4 China 12,337 7.6% 56.2%
5 S Korea 9,686 5.9% 20.5%
6 France 7,193 4.4% -0.6%
7 UK 4,857 3.0% -3.7%
8 Netherlands 4,097 2.5% -8.2%
9 Switzerland 3,611 2.2% -1.6%
10 Sweden 3,152 1.9% -11.6%

This is the top ten patent-filing countries, with numbers of patents filed in a year in each followed by the percentage of patents worldwide represented by that number, and finally the gain or decrease in filings compared with the prior year.

Of course, what is striking is not only that the top 2 most innovative countries this past year are the lowest among the top ten patent filers, but that each succeeded in innovating while actually decreasing the number of patents filed. Moreover, the 3d through 6th most innovative countries are not in the top ten patent filing list.

So, is there a correlation between innovation and patent filing? Very possibly, though it is clearly not a one-to-one correlation. But is it causal? There’s no way to know. Anyone who wants to make the case that patents are vital or even necessary to innovation has a tough row to hoe, it seems to me, given that a number of countries are innovating rapidly and well with just a fraction of the number of patents being generated in the USA.

The measure of innovation is clearly more complex than simply looking at patents filed, and the fix to a slow economy will be equally complex. Those who are selling the snake oil of “patent reform” as the key to stimulating the US economy should pay heed of the complexity involved, and these two top ten lists.


About nanowares

Author, philosopher, attorney, and educator interested in science, technology, ethics, and freedom
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