Wednesday, February 16, 2011

patent applications: Canada pales compared to Switzerland,

An article by Neil Reynolds in the Globe and Mail discussing Canada's relative performance in terms of patent applications filed.  The article questions Canada's performance on a per capita basis:

With a 7.8 million population, Switzerland led the world with 120 patents per million people. Japan finished close behind with 118. Other top-inventor countries: Sweden (80), Germany (68), Netherlands, Finland and Denmark (all 60) – and the United States (40) and Canada (20). Thus the United States beats Canada 10-to-1 in absolute numbers and 2-to-1 in relative (population) numbers.

 and ties it to R&D investment. 

One thing the article doesn't get into: some industries simply are more prone to patenting than others.  Switzerland has a concentration in those industries that Canada doesn't, which accounts for part of the difference.  Of course, maybe that's also an identification of the "problem."  Why this exists probably gets into the realm of historical/economic path dependence - but also leaves open the question of what Canada can do about it (or even if it should want to try to do something about it - something which these sorts of newspaper columns often leave out ;)  ).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the things missing from that G&M article is a discussion of the different rules & regulations between the US & Canada. In the US, business methods are generally patentable (often as software patents), as are methods of medical treatment. This leads to a substantial increase in the total number of granted patents. Further, the US requires division of apparatus and method claims. While this doesn't necessarily translate to an automatic doubling of total patents, in fields where methods and devices are both of value the total patents are substantially higher than if the general inventive feature were treated as a single invention as in Canada.