Recommended reading: The Patenting Paradox

In Insights, Uncategorized

14 May, 2009

Recommended reading: The Patenting Paradox

The number of filed applications breaks the record almost every year and seems to tell us it’s more and more attractive to patent for companies, research organisations, universities etc. On the other hand, surveys indicate that only 30 per cent of the patents owned by European companies are in use; the rest of them are more or less asleep. So in spite of the steady growth of patenting, it looks like little value is actually extracted from patents. This Patenting Paradox is the starting point of the eponymous book by Arnaud Gasnier, researcher and EPA.

Having identified the paradox and shown numerical evidence, Gasnier moves on to explaining its causes. A main idea is this one: although companies are generally aware of the importance of patents – admittedly, 160,000 PCT applications were filed in 2008 – they do not take the proper actions. However, given the amount of material on patent strategies, both for small businesses and for multinationals, don’t the companies know what actions to take? Sure, but that’s not the problem, Gasnier argues. In fact, the missing link between awareness and action is attention. (More precisely, Gasnier refers to “attention” in the sense economist Tom Davenport uses the word. It’s one of the scarce resources in our economy today, for no matter how easily information can be retrieved or sent to us from any other Internet user, we can only focus on it for a certain number of hours per day.)

Lack of attention is directly linked to the Patenting Paradox and may lead to poor coordination, misdirected investments, not-sustained strategy, short-sighted decisions and low commitment!

Fortunately, the book proposes remedies to this situation in the form of scheduled training sessions:

  Target group Duration Focus
“The light intervention” All staff 1 day Education
“The mild intervention” R&D staff 5 days Cooperation
“The heavy intervention” Executives 1 day Strategy


Each of the three interventions includes playing a new board game on patents, for which Gasnier has filed a European patent application (now apparently withdrawn). Reminiscent of the familiar Monopoly, the game puts its players face to face with simplified, semi-realistic situations involving development and manufacture of products, patent prosecution, negotiation and litigation. After a game, participants generally feel they have become aware of the Paradox, acquired knowledge and practical experience and, most importantly, improved their level of attention towards patenting issues.

This isn’t a review, but I must admit a slight frustration as I finish the book: wasn’t the Patenting Paradox harder than that? Maybe Gasnier has straightened things out too comfortably for the reader, but the supposedly enigmatic problem seems to reveal its solution just by being looked at.

Anders Hansson, Associate

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