Wednesday, January 18, 2006

USPTO Rankings - A Modern Innovation?

The US Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) has just published its annual rankings of 2005 of the top ten organizations to receive US patents. Although the USPTO site claims supremacy for US Innovators (IBM tops the list), the rest of the top ten list is dominated by Japanese firms.

Again, the granting of patents is suggested to be an indication of (or indeed synonymous with) innovation. However, the analysis in The Economist (12 January) suggests that the dominance of Japanese firms can be attributed to "their tradition of filing many applications with narrow claims." In other words, clever drafting in computer and electronics industries may mimic innovation, while other industries may not register the same levels of inventive activity: "garnering a plethora of patents does not necessarily mean that a firm is hugely innovative: the brute number says nothing about the value of the inventions." Patents - innovation readymade?

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