The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has consistently embraced the role of facilitator in its dealings with the entrepreneurial community. But as dynamic technologies have posed new questions to the American intellectual property system, not all inventors have been pleased with the answers. To sort out fact from fiction in the complicated relationship between the two sides, attorney Leonid Kravets recently adopted a unique empirical approach.
In a recent column for TechCrunch, Kravetz explained how he cross-referenced data from the website's proprietary CrunchBase system with that of the USPTO to build an original database chronicling the patenting activity of 12,000 successfully funded technology-based startups.
Kravetz discovered that one-fifth of all firms in the sample had filed at least one application prior to receiving any funding. The semiconductor industry was the most active patron of the patent system, with 65 percent of firms filing applications, while biotechnology and hardware followed closely behind.
However, Kravetz also found that the average startup has become less likely to apply for patents each year since 2005. In fact, startups focused on ecommerce - a clear growth industry - were the least likely to file for patents.
While the patent community can feel encouraged by continued support from traditional science and technology industries, Kravetz noted that declining support in several dynamic markets could signal that it's time for change.