Guest Post: What We Said (and Didn’t Say) in the Berkeley Patent Study



In 2008, along with Stuart Graham (now Chief Economist at the USPTO) and Robert Barr (Executive Director of the Berkeley Center for Law &Technology), we conducted the most comprehensive survey to date on startup companies and patenting in the United States. Funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, our survey reported results on the drivers of patenting, the role of patenting in startup financing and the innovation process, and a number of other important areas. We have described initial results from the survey (here) and in a follow-up article (here). We also posted a three-part series on Patently-O on the survey (here, here, and here).
Since the publication of our articles, a number of commentators have drawn bold—and somewhat contradictory—inferences from our results. Former Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit, Paul Michel, and CEO of Tessera, Hank Nothhaft, stated in a New York Times op-ed that, "[A]ccording to our analysis of the data in the Berkeley Patent Survey, each issued patent is associated with 3 to 10 new jobs." Yet, Harold Wegner, a patent lawyer at Foley & Lardner who authors a popular e-mail distribution, contends that the USPTO's position that "prompt patent grants will stimulate innovation" and thus "create American jobs" is "in direct conflict" with the Berkeley Patent Study. According to Mr. Wegner, "the Berkeley Study questions showed that for many high technology areas patent grants played no role or a minimal role in stimulating innovation." From this inference, he concludes, that "A fortiori, prompt patent grants would be irrelevant" to stimulating innovation and, hence, creating American jobs. And, finally, Ronald Katznelson, an independent inventor active in the patent reform debates, states bluntly: "The Berkeley study is typical of other flawed 'scholarship' on patents by academics. They ask the wrong questions of the wrong people and draw wrong and counterfactual inferences. … The question that startup CEOs should have been asked is 'who are your investors and can we interview them for their reasons to invest in your startup?'" 8/5/2011