High Technology Entrepreneurs and the Patent System: Results of the 2008 Berkeley Patent Survey
Author(s): Robert P. Merges
Abstract: We offer description and analysis of the 2008 Berkeley Patent Survey, summarizing the responses of 1,332 U.S.-based technology startups in the biotechnology, medical device, IT hardware, software, and Internet sectors. We discover that holding patents is more widespread among technology startups than has been previously reported, but that the patterns and drivers of holding patents are industry and context specific. Surprisingly, startup executives report in general that patents are providing relatively weak incentives for core activities in the innovation process. Our analysis uncovers that the drivers of startup patenting are often associated with capturing competitive advantage, and the associated goals of preventing technology copying, securing financing, and enhancing reputation – although again these and other motives depend on firm and industry factors. We also find substantial differences in the roles played by patents for startups in the biotechnology and medical device sectors – where patents are more commonly used and considered important – as compared to those operating in the software and Internet fields – where they are less useful. Interestingly, venture-backed IT hardware startups tend to resemble those in health-related fields in terms of their use of and motives for patenting. We generally find a wide disparity between the patenting behavior of venture-backed technology startups and those that are not funded with venture capital. We also discover that, when choosing not to patent major innovations, startups often cite to cost considerations, although again the motives to forgo patenting differ according to firm and industry characteristics. The respondents to our survey also generally report that checking the patent literature and licensing patents from others is reasonably common, although there too results differ according to the context. Other findings are discussed.
Keywords: Entrepreneurship, Patents, Innovation, Intellectual Property, Pamela Samuelson