Far more inventions could qualify for patents in the US if a reform bill making its way through the Senate becomes law. The changes would not only increase the disconnect between European and American rules on what can be patented. They also have the potential to stifle innovation and create greater uncertainty for companies that want to protect their intellectual property globally, experts warn.
Since our country’s founding, the U.S. patent system has been one of the unsung heroes of America’s success story. Patents are based on a simple concept: that American inventors, entrepreneurs and companies whose hard work and expertise lead to a new invention deserve to reap the benefits of their work for a limited time.
The U.S. is losing its advantage to China and other countries when it comes to innovations related to artificial intelligence, blockchain and other key technology, according to an analysis of patent filings over the past decade. While American inventors still command the largest portion of the nation’s patents, the percentage is dropping in the high-tech fields, according to a yearlong study conducted by the law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP and researchers at GreyB Services Pte.
There is broad support in the United States for faster economic growth--a goal that ultimately depends on boosting labor productivity. In the long run, that requires more innovation, a big component of which comes from private research and development (R&D). But what, if anything, can countries do to increase domestic innovation?
If technology is advancing crazy fast, why aren’t those advances showing up in the broader productivity and economic growth numbers? Or as economists Erik Brynjolfsson, Daniel Rock, and Chad Syverson describe this mystery in their 2017 paper “Artificial Intelligence and the Modern Productivity Paradox: A Clash of Expectations and Statistics:”
Mitch Hungerpiller thought he had a first-class solution for mail that gets returned as undeliverable, a common problem for businesses that send lots of letters. But the process he helped develop and built his small Alabama technology company around has resulted in a more than decadelong fight with the U.S. Postal Service, which says his solution shouldn't have been patentable.
The increase in U.S. patents comes as the U.S. and China are embroiled in a trade war with a sticking point over Chinese firm’s accessing the intellectual property of U.S. tech companies. The report noted the increase in patents also marks a shift in how tech companies are operating in China. As one example, the report pointed to Huawei, which has beefed up its internal research and development as it aims to expand around the globe.
As it has for the past quarter century, IBM today topped the charts for U.S. patent holders, with 9,100 patents granted in 2018. This is the 26th consecutive year that IBM has claimed the number one spot on the annual list of U.S. patent recipients.
Patents--rights that governments grant to inventors for new inventions--pervade the modern world. The US alone grants about 300,000 of them annually, mostly for components of, or methods relating to, larger end products. Your smartphone, for example, contains thousands of patented features; but even many seemingly simpler items, such as cosmetics, often contain one or more.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) recognized a milestone of human ingenuity this week that perhaps even the Founding Fathers’ never anticipated: granting the 10 millionth patent. The Founding Fathers who drafted the Constitution understood that strong, enforceable inventor rights are necessary “[t]o promote the progress of science and useful arts,” and went on to establish the U.S. patent system in 1790. Since then, intellectual property protections have been the driver of America’s unique culture of innovation.