Wednesday 13 February 2013

SMEs, SSOs and Patent Thickets

In this guest posting authored by regular IP Finance contributor Keith Mallinson (WiseHarbor), Keith considers the allegedly thorny issues with so-called patent thickets. The UK IPO’s October 2012 report entitled “A Study of Patent Thickets” and its inconclusive 2011 report on the same matter examine whether patent thickets are a “barrier to entry into patenting for UK enterprises, in particular [SMEs].” While Keith also finds that the latest IPO report lends only convoluted and qualified support to theories of harm from patent thickets, he presents a variety of empirical evidence showing that thousands of SMEs and many others are, instead, flourishing by virtue of—not despite—extensive IP developments, patenting and licensing of Standard-Essential Patents (SEP)s, and with Standard Setting Organizations (SSOs).

Patent thicket -- or work of art? See "Visualizing patent statistics
by means of social network analysis tools", here
According to Keith’s analysis, the open and standards-based environment for ICT in conjunction with (F)RAND licensing that has developed over the last couple of decades has been very fertile technically and commercially for large and small companies including new market entrants. For example, he cites another IPO report which found from survey results that SMEs in hi-tech, (e.g., including communications equipment), where the patent thickets are supposedly most prevalent, have a significantly higher propensity to rely on patents to protect IP than in other sectors. Keith cites evidence of upstream patenting and contributions to standards by start-ups and SMEs with examples in venture capital and mobile communications at SSO ETSI. Examples of successful market entry for SMEs and others in SEP-based market sectors include video codecs (as required for digital TV), mobile handsets and associated software applications where 500,000 U.S. jobs have been created since 2007. For ease of reading, Keith's contribution (which is rather longer than usual) can be accessed here as a PDF document.

1 comment:

Suleman said...

I think the UKIPO's work and Keith's article on patent thickets are interesting, but the question is what happens next? And is anyone listening? With the levels of global harmonisation that have been achieved in the patent world we can be sure that patentability requirements and the monopoly that is given cannot be changed. The patent system is becoming less and less flexible as the world is changing faster and faster. That does not bode well.