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A meeting of minds on the use and users patents

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: IP research, Patents

September saw the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) host a conference on patent use alongside Brunel University at the Big Innovation Centre in London. The event was attended by academics and representatives of patent offices from around the world along with legal practitioners and industry Intellectual Property (IP) users.

The conference presented findings from the survey of innovation and patent use that IPO had part funded with the Economic and Social Research Council, but there was certainly more brain food on offer.

It was a day of two halves

  1. The morning session concentrated on surveys around the use of patents.
  2. The afternoon session focused on the use of patents in innovation.

Time was devoted between presentations for global stars in patent research and industry IP users to put their minds towards various pressing questions such as:

  • the legitimate non-use of patents rather than simply blocking competitors
  • measuring the social cost of un-commercialised patents
  • what is the structure of the UK market for technology transfer in the UK
  • the usefulness of IP brokers
  • the lack of price discovery and transparency in IP markets
  • the pros and cons of technology licensing at various stages in the patenting timeline

It would be unfair on the various presenters (and me) to attempt to sum up their research in a blog so I shall simply provide links to the presentations and offer highlights from the presentation or discussion.

Use and non-use of patents in the US and Japan - John Walsh (Georgia Tech University, USA). Findings include a 60% level of commercialisation for triadic patents; applications filed for protection in the US, Japan and at the EPO.

The economic use of EPO patents: evidence from the Patval surveys - Salvatore Torrisi (University of Bologna, Italy). It appears that it is not easy to identify a public policy that would stimulate growth and reduce the transaction costs in the market for technology.

Innovation and Patent Use: Findings from the SIPU survey - Ashish Arora, Suma Athreye and Can Huang. Developed a new measure of 'propensity to patent’ taking into account whether a firm is genuinely innovative.

Do Patents Shield Disclosure or Assure Exclusivity When Transacting Technology - Beth Webster (Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia). The increased ability to fully disclose an idea after patenting may not help in the trading of technology.

Buyer Behavior in Markets for Technologies - Ayfer Ali (Universidad Carlos III, Madrid). An exploration of the licensing of medical technologies and the possible reasons for an apparent lack of demand.

Deals Not Done: Sources of Failure in the Market for Ideas - Iain Cockburn (Boston University). Highlighted the reasons why technology deals fail at various stages in the licensing process.

Imperfect Information, Patent Publication, and the Market for Ideas - Deepak Hegde (New York University, USA). Earlier disclosure through 18 month publication shortened the time for licensing of patent applications not licensed until after allowance after the change in the US law (American Inventor’s Protection Act 1999).

The panel sessions sparked a lively debate. Highlights of the cerebral discussion were:

  • non-practising entities, known as patent trolls (a topic which will inevitably jump out from under the bridge). Is this really a new phenomenon? And does anything need to be done about it? Examples were given of the early days of the railroads and the behaviour of an owner of patents covering braking systems
  • does measuring the value of IP licensing deals reflect technology transfer or is this distorted by profit shifting for tax purposes?
  • discussions on the use of the Patent Box as an incentive to renew patents which would otherwise have little value
  • the difficulty for companies to find technologies they want to license because of the haphazard availability of information and high search costs

Hopefully this gives you a flavour of the day’s activities, which I’m certain was considered a success by all those who took part. I encourage you to follow the links above for a more in-depth look at the great work which was presented.

If you have questions or feedback, do comment on this blogpost and we’ll do our best to respond.

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