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OECD: Falling Patent Quality Hurts Innovation
Sep 22, 2011
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The OECD believes the quality of patent filings has fallen dramatically in the past two decades, with a rush to protect even minor improvements in products or services overburdening patent offices, which in turn slows time to market for true innovations and reduces the potential for breakthrough inventions.

The Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2011 finds that patent quality has declined by an average of around 20 per cent between the 1990s and 2000s, a pattern seen in nearly all countries studied.

Studying patent quality in different sectors has also allowed the OECD to assess which countries are doing best in innovation. Some examples:
• The United Kingdom produces semiconductor and environmental technology patents that are above average in quality.
• Korea has a competitive advantage in ICT-related innovations.
• Germany is strong at innovating in solar energy.

Patents from inventors in the United States, Germany, and Japan are the most highly cited, suggesting that these are true innovations used by many firms, the OECD said. These countries were credited with about 70% of the top 1% of highly cited patents from 1996 through 2000, but that share fell to 60% by 2005.

Increases in this share have been seen from the Nordic countries as well as China, India, and Korea. The European Union leads in clean energy technologies, with nearly 40% of all filings by the late 2000s, followed by the United States and Japan. China now ranks eighth worldwide.

In the report's ranks of research by universities, it found that 40 of the top 50 are in the United States and the rest are in Europe. A more diverse picture emerges when looking at subject areas. In social sciences, for example, the UK leads with 16 of the top 50 institutions after the United States. Evidence suggest universities in Asia are emerging as leading research institutions: China has 6 in the top 50 in pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmaceutics. Hong Kong University is among the best in computer science, engineering, and chemistry.

The US leads the world in research and development (R&D), with around $400 billion of spending on R&D in 2009. China is today second, with over one third of that total, followed by Japan. The European Union as a whole spent about $300 billion in 2009.

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