According to a recent piece by Bruce Berman of Brody/Berman posted to IP CloseUp®, organizations should not necessarily measure the quality or success of their patents in terms of patent yield per R&D dollar spent. In other words, says Berman, while relevant, more R&D and more patents – even if the result is a lower average cost per patent filed - “are very limited indicators of success…” It depends upon the reasons a company is embarked on the effort, which in turn is (or should be) a function of the company’s strategy. “Is it to obtain patents that provide design and sales freedom?” Berman asks. “To reveal ideas for new products? To generate licensing income? All of the above?”
Applying a three-year delay between R&D spent and patents issued “to provide an idea of the role prior research might have played in current patent issuance,” Berman compares IBM’s $6 billion in R&D spent in 2008 and 6,146 patents issued in 2011, to Apple’s $1.1 billion in R&D and about “1/10th as many patents” issued during the same time frame. His point is that the massive patent walls that IBM erects are not the only approach to generating a return on intellectual property. Correlating direct and indirect returns on IP to R&D and patent productivity “remains a mystery” for most companies, according to Berman.
Aligning a business strategy with an IP strategy is a compelling issue for companies to keep working on.