Sunday, 17 October 2010

A Coda to "Patent Data and Innovation: Once Again, So Much and Yet So Little"

It is rare that I add a Coda to an IPFinance blog post -- but this is one those exceptions. Last week I commented in a blog post ("Patent Data and Innovation: Once Again, So Much and Yet So Little" here) about the effort by The Economist magazine to reach conclusions about the nature of innovation in Asia in particular, and in China, in particular, on the basis of selected data filing and registration data. Interesting comments were made by several readers and on other blogs, including by our colleague Ken Jarboe at Athena Alliance.

The last word, however, belongs ironically to The Economist itself. Appearing at the bottom of the Business section of the October 9th issue of the magazine is the following:
"Correction: "In "Trading Places" (October 2nd) we incorrectly said that in 2008-2009 the Japanese filed 12% fewer international patents and the Chinese 18% more than the previous year. In fact, the Japanese filed 4% more international patents and the Chinese filed 29% more. Also, America has 1.4 million patents in force, not 14m. Sorry."
1. No problem with the typo that misreported 1.4 million as 14 million, although one wonders how, through how stages of proofreading, the error passed without editorial comment. If it passed several layers of editorial review, and no question was raised why the figure for the U.S. was 10 times greater than Japan, then one wonders about degree of understanding about the content of the entire article.

2. More interesting are the revised figures about Japanese and Chinese patent filings, inasmuch as the original (and apparently incorrect) data were attributed in the October 2nd issue "to a recent report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ...." The Correction does not indicate the source of the error--The Economist, WIPO, or otherwise? Similarly, it does not indicate the source for the correct information.

3. Perhaps even more interesting is the absence of any further comment about the Correction. I know that The Economist seldom offers any comment to a correction of fact. Here, however, since patent filing and registration data were the foundation of the article, is the reader not entitled to know whether the corrections had any material affect on the substance of the article? Unless, of course, there anyway was less to these data than met the magazine's editorial eye.

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