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90 Percent of Businesses Say IP Is "Not Important"

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the maybe-not-to-them-in-particular dept.

Patents 185

langelgjm writes "In 2009, the National Science Foundation teamed up with the Census Bureau to ask U.S. businesses how important intellectual property was to them. Now, after three years of surveys, the results are in. Astonishingly, it turns out that when asked, 90 percent of businesses say intellectual property is 'not important'. While some very large businesses and specific sectors indicate that patents, copyrights, and trademarks are important, overall, the figures are shockingly low. What's more, the survey's results have received hardly any press. It appears that formal intellectual property protection is far less important to the vast majority of U.S. businesses than some federal agencies, such as the patent office, are willing to admit."

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Reminds me of spoilers (3, Insightful)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 9 months ago | (#45753289)

Most people don't care about spoilers, but people who care about spoilers REALLY care about spoilers.

That said, it is an interesting result, and I wish it were more widely reported (and that it influenced policy, but oh who am I kidding).

Re:Reminds me of spoilers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753479)

I don't think that I'm completely following what you're saying.

Here in the UK, "spoilers" are people who engage in a specific fetish involving rotting foodstuffs. Simply put, it involves men who put their penises into rotting pumpkins, squashes, and cabbage, or it refers to women who put rotting cucumbers and carrots into their vaginas, for sexual gratification.

Generally, we don't care much about these people, and they often are considered deviants to some degree. So I do think that your argument is sensible, in that case. But I don't see how spoilers relate to intellectual property at all. They seem like very distinct and separate issues to me.

Re:Reminds me of spoilers (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about 9 months ago | (#45753669)

I think he means spoilers as in telling how a film/book/game ends to somebody who didn't see/read/play it yet.

Re:Reminds me of spoilers (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45754019)

I'm pretty sure he meant spoilers as in "the stupid metal things people attach to the back of their cars in a failed attempt to make the cars look cooler".

how get on internet then? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753293)

a business not on internet will fail. everyone should call and get IP from local ISP

Re: how get on internet then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753375)

IP, in this context, means Intellectual Property.

Re: how get on internet then? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45754139)

Nah, too obvious. It's probably referring to interactive polynomial time.

Re:how get on internet then? (1)

mellon (7048) | about 9 months ago | (#45753465)

HAR!

Why the fuck is that +4, Insightful? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753553)

Come on. This is beyond unbelievable. Why the hell, Slashdot mods, is that comment at +4, Insightful? It's just some guy from India (you can tell by the horrible grammar) trying to be funny in the most unoriginal, stupid way possible. The summary even mentions "intellectual property" in the first sentence, for crying out loud!

Between the beta site and this sort of ultra-stupid moderation, I'm quickly losing whatever small shard of hope I had left for Slashdot. My gosh, it's even making reddit look like an appealing place to read comparatively intelligent commentary, it's getting that damn bad around here.

Shockingly? (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 9 months ago | (#45753299)

I'd say logically.

When is IP important to you, as a business? If you hold patents and if you're heavily invested in R&D, and copyright is something that you care about strongly if you're creating content, be it music, movies or software. Else, at best, it's uninteresting to you. At worst, it is a headache to you since you always have to watch out whether or not something trivial you do steps on someone' patent toes.

Gums up the narrative that IP is for everyone (3, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | about 9 months ago | (#45753391)

It is logical... unless you're the U.S. Patent Office, which claims that IP is responsible for 40 million jobs and 35% of the U.S. GDP.

The survey results throw a wrench in the narrative that IP is critical to "the economy." It's clearly critical in certain industries, or for certain companies, but if 90% of businesses say its not important, blanket statements about how IP an economic "engine", etc. need to go.

Re:Gums up the narrative that IP is for everyone (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753667)

It is logical... unless you're the U.S. Patent Office, which claims that IP is responsible for 40 million jobs and 35% of the U.S. GDP.

The survey results throw a wrench in the narrative that IP is critical to "the economy." It's clearly critical in certain industries, or for certain companies, but if 90% of businesses say its not important, blanket statements about how IP an economic "engine", etc. need to go.

90% of businesses saying X is important or not need to go then, they aren't premised on an analysis that demonstrates substantial rigor.

For one thing, 90% of businesses doesn't correlate with the same amount of employment, it could be far less, same with GDP and other things.

Get back to me when you're ready to show the whole data set.

Re:Gums up the narrative that IP is for everyone (1, Insightful)

click2005 (921437) | about 9 months ago | (#45753691)

IP is only valuable & important to a business when it has enough patents to create a stranglehold in their sector.

Re:Gums up the narrative that IP is for everyone (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#45754095)

IP is only valuable & important to a business when it has enough patents to create a stranglehold in their sector.

Or any business that has an identifiable name. Your local "Quickie Laundromat" may say they don't care about IP. But if I open another business right next door called "Quickie Laundromat", and if I copy their ads and signs word-for-word, they might change their minds. IP is more than just patents. It also encompasses trademarks and copyrights. 10% say they care about IP. The other 90% don't understand what IP is.

Re: Gums up the narrative that IP is for everyone (4, Insightful)

tsqr (808554) | about 9 months ago | (#45753929)

The owner of the local car wash (15 employees) doesn't care about IP. Ditto for the florist (3), bakery (5), and bar (4), or five other small businesses engaged in buying and selling commodities. But the CEO of the aerospace corp (4000 employees locally) with a huge annual R&D budget -- he cares a lot.

Re:Gums up the narrative that IP is for everyone (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 9 months ago | (#45753937)

Quick calculations...

As I recall, the US workforce is about 155 million people, so 40 million is about a quarter of that. That means 75% of jobs don't rely on IP, according to the USPTO. Per this survey, that figure is 10% of businesses. TFA notes that larger businesses are more likely to value IP, so it makes sense that 10% of businesses could employ 25% of employees.

Not a very big wrench. To me, it looks like the figures likely corroborate each other. The message I get is that we shouldn't start panicking whenever we see a big number.

Re:Gums up the narrative that IP is for everyone (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 9 months ago | (#45754101)

Shouldn't post just after waking up.

Per this survey, that figure is 10% of businesses.

"That figure" refers to the 25% of jobs that do rely on IP.

Re:Gums up the narrative that IP is for everyone (3, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 9 months ago | (#45753941)

It is logical... unless you're the U.S. Patent Office, which claims that IP is responsible for 40 million jobs and 35% of the U.S. GDP. [...] if 90% of businesses say its not important,

No. And also no. I mean, I'm as skeptical of the patent office's numbers as the next guy, but seriously. If I'm the guy who buys the solution, I might not think the patents are that important, because I'm not explicitly licensing them. I buy a product from someone who's licensed the patent, all that is abstracted away from me. But if I'm dependent on that thing, and the thing wouldn't have been created/marketed without a patent, then I'm dependent on the IP. The real question then becomes how much of this stuff would be designed, built, and sold even if anyone could build it. Some things clearly fall into that category, and there's probably plenty the USPTO is taking credit for there that they shouldn't.

On the other hand, exports of American media are wholly dependent upon IP. If anyone could legally profit from copying your movie, then you wouldn't spend a lot of money making one. Whole classes of entertainment involving costly special effects would not exist at all. Clearly, there are industries wholly dependent upon it.

Re:Shockingly? (4, Insightful)

epiphani (254981) | about 9 months ago | (#45753507)

I work in the technology space, where we're heavily investing in R&D. And we don't own a thing - it's all open source, apache software.

Fundamentally I think people are realizing that owning IP is a short-term strategy for many businesses. If the value you provide is entirely locked up in your IP - and not in your customer service and skills, eventually someone is going to come along with a cheaper or free version of your IP. Then your only advantage is the lock-in you already have.

In the long term, companies have to function based on their ability to support their customers - not just throw IP at them. This is especially true in software.

Re:Shockingly? (5, Informative)

kanweg (771128) | about 9 months ago | (#45753699)

Patents/patent applications are open source knowledge before the term open source was coined. You are free to build on those ideas (and are free to take a patent on any non-obvious improvement, if you want that or not if you don't want that). Patent databases are freely accessible (as in beer); they may even have free machine translators so you can read the information in a language you don't speak. Want to know how something can be made, alternative ways of solving problems? Patent documents are your friend. No books to buy. No subscriptions needed. The documents are well-organized, in a standard format and can be searched using keywords from the comfort of your home. (You don't need to register and sell your soul to get the information you want.).

The information in patents becomes freely available to the public in on average about 7 years (drugs take longer, other stuff shorter). No shitty near-infinite term like copyright.

The applicant paid quite a bit to put an accurate description of the invention into words, and it becomes public after 18 months. That may be before the actual product hits the market. You couldn't have know about it otherwise.

Bert
Patent attorney (oh, and patents on software? Yes, I agree. They're a bad and unnecessary thing)

Re:Shockingly? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45754113)

except that in practice, people writing up patents seem to see it as a challenge to make them as broad as possible, and have no qualms about patenting prior art; patent databases are searchable but it is damn hard to know if you're infringing. When they were invented (ha!), dissemination was slow, and knowledge comparatively localized. Patent databases don't serve as knowledge centers, more the other way around; those first things, combined with heavier penalties if you knew you were infringing, makes people *not* look at them for information.

I get the original sales point; if you invent something you don't want some big corp with and existing distribution channel and way more development capabilities to go and steal your idea; but in practice, it seems to me that patents in their current form are way more damaging to progress and free markets than they are helping. And of course, there still isn't a decent solution to the problem that you *could* invent something entirely on your own, and still infringe because someone else happened to file a patent about it; similar inventions tend to happen independently at different places. The overly broad patents don't help; and neither do the incentives for patent offices ("more patents = good")

Re:Shockingly? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 9 months ago | (#45753935)

If the value you provide is entirely locked up in your IP - and not in your customer service and skills, eventually someone is going to come along with a cheaper or free version of your IP.

And if you're The Tetris Company, you go ahead and successfully sue that someone. Tetris v. Xio.

Re:Shockingly? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 9 months ago | (#45753673)

Shocking is the logic. "Because Safeway cares about trademark, we need better protections on patents and longer terms for copyright." Those are the assertions being found with millions of dollars of taxpayer money spend to artificially support IP.

When you exclude trademark, the number who care about "IP" becomes Hollywood, and not much else. It's just a rich and important "not much".

Re:Shockingly? (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 9 months ago | (#45754325)

When you exclude trademark, the number who care about "IP" becomes Hollywood, and not much else.

The technology sector is run by Hollywood?

Re:Shockingly? (2)

Sique (173459) | about 9 months ago | (#45753875)

When is IP important to you, as a business? If you hold patents and if you're heavily invested in R&D, and copyright is something that you care about strongly if you're creating content, be it music, movies or software. Else, at best, it's uninteresting to you. At worst, it is a headache to you since you always have to watch out whether or not something trivial you do steps on someone' patent toes.

You should actually read the report. Then you would stumble upon such results as:

Even when looking at a sector where one would expect heavy reliance on intellectual property, the results do not match expectations. For example, take one of the most copyright-dependent sectors we can imagine: “R&D active” software publishing. In 2010, 51.4% of respondents in this sector said copyright was “very important”; 34.6% said it was “somewhat important”; and 13.9% said it was “not important.” That is, only about half of respondents in a purportedly heavily copyright-dependent sector describe copyright as “very important” to their business.

Or look at this:

Overall, businesses report that trade secrets are the most important form of intellectual property protection, with 13.2% of businesses calling trade secrets “very important” or “somewhat important.” Trademarks are a close second, with copyrights and patents significantly farther behind.

Re:Shockingly? (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 9 months ago | (#45754327)

Yes, sometimes I think the slashdot community is guilty of forgetting that the bulk of the world doesn't function in the somewhat-rarified air of "IT".

The bulk of companies actually make something; in that case, it's a matter of people and machines: who can make it the best (most efficiently, highest quality, etc.), not about some 'secret recipe' that they need to hide from anyone else. Others serve people - forwarders, brokers, any service industry - again, a business where there's no secret recipe but a trade in knowledge, relationships, experience that's worth something.

There is no such thing as Intellectual Property (2, Insightful)

Kleokat (1081449) | about 9 months ago | (#45753303)

Thinking otherwise is counter-productive.

Re:There is no such thing as Intellectual Property (-1, Flamebait)

bunratty (545641) | about 9 months ago | (#45753339)

If you say so. You don't mind telling us your passwords then, huh? You don't have any exclusive rights to them, according to your own claim.

Re:There is no such thing as Intellectual Property (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753403)

That's a stupid answer....

IP implies that someone can't use it unless giving you credit or some other payment. You're not allowed to know my password, but you are allowed to think up, your own password, which can be the SAME as mine, without you giving me credit or something.

If people are designing something, in different places in the world, it is possible that more people are coming up with the same idea. But in an IP world the first one, want to get the money, and the rest has to pay.

I don't care to invent something the first time, I just invent something when I need it. Which could be a few years later or 100 years later, before someone else invents it, why should I pay him for something I invented after him?

Re:There is no such thing as Intellectual Property (1)

bunratty (545641) | about 9 months ago | (#45753537)

It doesn't seem that you know much about IP. The fomula for Coca-Cola is IP, and it is protected by trade secret. You can make up exactly the same formula, and the Coca-Cola company would not be able to stop you from selling the same product, because their formula is protected by trade secret. To allow inventions to become widely known, they can be protected by patent, which allow exclusive rights to an invention even though it is public knowledge. That's why patents exist -- to allow innovations to become public knowledge.

You have a lot to learn, my friend. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753681)

He knows more than you do, clearly.

Trade secrets are not considered intellectual property in many jurisdictions. The differences from patents, copyright and trademark are quite clear. There's generally no registration of trade secrets. Their transferability is quite limited, if not non-existent. They do not share the same pseudo-tangibility that other forms of actual IP have.

In fact, the concept of "trade secret" arises out of contract law, rather than intellectual property law. It's the act of disclosure, contrary to a previous agreement of non-disclosure, that is the issue in cases involving trade secret. Once the information is public, regardless of how this came to be, it is generally considered to be reusable without consequence by third parties.

While some may ignorantly lump trade secrets in with intellectual property, trade secret is conceptually a result of the lack of, if not a complete rejection of, intellectual property rights. It arises because the parties involved resort to contract law to try to merely limit the dissemination of the information, rather than control it as a from of intellectual property.

Re:There is no such thing as Intellectual Property (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753689)

The fomula for Coca-Cola is trivially discovered using cromatography . . .

Fuck off with your pseudo-intellectual crap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753431)

When the fuck did he ever claim that he does have an exclusive right to his password? Oh, that's right, HE NEVER MADE THAT CLAIM.

OBSCURITY is not the same as OWNERSHIP.

Passwords aren't registered with some central authority. There's no legislation giving him control over the use of a specific password by others. They are not intellectual property in any sense.

You can use the same password for your account that he's using for his account, even if you don't realize it, and even if you do. There's nothing he can do to prevent you from using the same password as him. It's not property.

For crying out loud, if you're going to try to form an argument here, at least make it cogent. Don't go off on a tangent spewing fecal matter that's without any basis whatsoever.

Re:Fuck off with your pseudo-intellectual crap. (0)

bunratty (545641) | about 9 months ago | (#45753567)

Exactly. He claimed no exclusive ownership to his password. So he'll let me have it, rather than keeping it secret, as in a trade secret.

Re:Fuck off with your pseudo-intellectual crap. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 9 months ago | (#45753685)

He doesn't "own" it. You can have the same one, if you like. Good luck in guessing it.

Re:Fuck off with your pseudo-intellectual crap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45754353)

He claimed no exclusive ownership to his password.

Correct

So he'll let me have it, rather than keeping it secret, as in a trade secret.

Incorrect, and non-sequitor. He claims no exclusive ownership to his password AND he won't tell you. Those two propositions are entirely compatible.

Re:There is no such thing as Intellectual Property (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 9 months ago | (#45753393)

Oddly enough, your opinion on this matter is only an opinion.

Re:There is no such thing as Intellectual Property (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45754321)

This is like the fat middle-aged slob ragging on how professional athletes are way overpaid and should be happy to make a working class salary for doing what they love.

What about GPL enforcement? That's someone defending "intellectual property rights", although I'm sure that Stallman and the EFF would call it something else (the "Four Freedoms". Whatever, RMS!)

Reason (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 9 months ago | (#45753307)

90% of businesses are in fields that don't have the type of IP you see in new fields like IT.
I'm sure a small, local bakery would care about IP too if he had to pay license fees for every bread he bakes, simply because his oven has a digital timer.

Re:Reason (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 9 months ago | (#45753345)

Look at the bright side. It means that the economy is not as bad off as it could be, at least 90% of businesses out there still provide goods&services instead of trying to IP troll.

But IP also includes trademarks (1)

langelgjm (860756) | about 9 months ago | (#45753347)

But IP also includes trademarks, which in theory are relevant to virtually every business... unless maybe you supply a purely fungible commodity.

That said, I think you're right. When I considered my experiences with small businesses (a cabinet shop and a veterinary hospital), I realized that not even trademarks were particularly relevant. There was simple no real danger of someone ripping off the name of the business... it wouldn't really make sense to do so.

I'd love to see how politicians and government officials react when confronted with this kind of survey data.

Re:But IP also includes trademarks (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 9 months ago | (#45753425)

But IP also includes trademarks, which in theory are relevant to virtually every business...

In theory, perhaps. In reality, no. Most small businesses do not need trademark at all.

Re:But IP also includes trademarks (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about 9 months ago | (#45753765)

I'd love to see how politicians and government officials react when confronted with this kind of survey data.

All you'll hear will be the crickets chirping. Politicians an government officials only react to surveys presented in the form of small green papers with pictures of former presidents on them.

Re:Reason (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 9 months ago | (#45753493)

The point is that to most businesses IP is an expense. A harmful existence. Your example of bakery is a good one.

Such companies are unlikely to be invested in the concept. It wouldn't be surprising if they were opposed to it in fact, as it increases their cost of doing business.

Re:Reason (1)

dbarron (286) | about 9 months ago | (#45753501)

However, if you asked the local baker for his recipes....I think you'd hear a different story.

Re:Reason (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 9 months ago | (#45753639)

But if I invent the exact same recipe all by myself, he's not going to sue me.
Nor does he have to do extensive research into patented and copyrighted recipe's before he can legally use his own recipe.

Re:Reason (1)

Sique (173459) | about 9 months ago | (#45753775)

However, baking recipes don't fall under any legal protection. Also fashion is not protected by the law.

Re:Reason (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 9 months ago | (#45754339)

Sure they do: trade secrets.

local baker has IP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753613)

And, I'm sure that local baker has house recipes and processes that they would rather their competitors not have. Trade secrets are IP.

Re:local baker has IP (1)

Sique (173459) | about 9 months ago | (#45753801)

No. Baking recipes are not protected by the law. No one can sue me for using a gas chromatograph to figure out the recipe for food and then prepare the same food. Trade secrets fall within contract law, it's just a contract between two parties that they won't reveal the recipes to any third party.

Re:local baker has IP (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 9 months ago | (#45753951)

No. Baking recipes are not protected by the law.

Sure, but if you discovered a previously unknown gastronomic technique for making some kind of odd food derivative, and it required the slightest bit of equipment, you could patent that, and have a restaurant with a [legally] unique food item. The process would be uncopyrightable, but patentable.

Re:local baker has IP (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 9 months ago | (#45754257)

You might be able to patent the specific bit of equipment if you had invented that too.
Nobody would be stopped from making a bit of equipment that effectively produces the same result using a different bit of equipment
If you're using a previously existing bit of equipment, you wouldn't be able to patent the recipe because it uses that equipment.

Re:local baker has IP (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 9 months ago | (#45754357)

No, it is not "sure". Secret recipes are considered trade secrets and you can be sued for publicly disclosing them. And, yes, "trade secrets" are IP.

Re:local baker has IP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45754033)

Trade secrets don't need contracts between two parties, it can be a secret known by only one party.
Trade secrets are the cheapest and most common form of IP and the oldest of all, it doesn't require registration and it occurs spontaneously all the time someone has an idea that will give an edge over competition. The KISS (Keep It Secret Stupid) of IP.

Re:local baker has IP (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 9 months ago | (#45754345)

No. Baking recipes are not protected by the law.

Go steal KFC's secret recipes and see how much they aren't protected by law.

Re:Reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753647)

Most business people would say it was important if 14 of their neighbors opened identical bakeries with identical names selling the identical recipes that they sell.

Re:Reason (1)

ScentCone (795499) | about 9 months ago | (#45753679)

I'm sure a small, local bakery would care about IP too if he had to pay license fees for every bread he bakes, simply because his oven has a digital timer.

They might also care if, as a bakery, they decided to invest thousands of man hours in developing a new product or producing a series of books on new techniques, and then someone else who "doesn't care about IP" just ripped them off and started profiting from the other bakery's investment and creativity without having to do any of the hard work.

Re:Reason (1)

kramerd (1227006) | about 9 months ago | (#45754129)

The bakery does have to pay license fees for bread, they are just built into the cost of ovens, yeast, eggs, milk, and so forth.

Re:Reason (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 9 months ago | (#45754311)

The point is, they can still use that oven, yeast, eggs and milk to create bread. They don't have to pay some southern Texas company a license fee because they want to use a different speed on their blender, making it a patented recipe.

The point is that in most of the business world, IP is treated a lot more reasonable. It's just the relatively new fields (IT, tech, bio) that seem to redefine the rules of what can be legally protected.

90% of businesses (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753325)

Isn't there a saying something along the lines of "90% of all businesses fail"?

Of Course! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753329)

Well, of course 90% of business say intellectual property(IP) is not important. That's because 90% of businesses, or more, don't develop or produce products and therefore have no need to protect IP. Most businesses are distributors, retailers, or resellers. They don't design a new product and they don't manufacture anything. Furthermore, a good percentage of manufacturers don;t design the products that they manufacture either.

But, if you are the inventor or designer of a new product, IP is absolutely essential to you ability to make a profit from your idea. If you can't protect your IP, then some third world mass production facility will essentially take your product away from you by mass producing it and selling it for a price that you cannot possibly match or profit from. Duh!

I'm opposed to some IP stuff. Software patents, especially, are mostly ridiculous. But, the freetard mentality that all IP protection should be eliminated is ludicrous and clearly indicative of the fact that they themselves have never produced anything of their own.

Survey specifically targets businesses doing R& (4, Informative)

langelgjm (860756) | about 9 months ago | (#45753359)

The problem with this logic is that the survey specifically targets businesses performing R&D. From TFA:

"The target population for BRDIS consists of all for-profit companies that have five or more employees and that perform R&D in the United States.”

But results include companies not performing R& (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 9 months ago | (#45754365)

The problem with this logic is that the survey specifically targets businesses performing R&D. From TFA:

"The target population for BRDIS consists of all for-profit companies that have five or more employees and that perform R&D in the United States.”

Continuing in TFA:

If you examine the details, the survey results begin to make more sense. Larger companies tend to report intellectual property as being more important; businesses designated as especially “R&D active” also place more importance on various kinds of intellectual property.

And if you follow the link to the actual data tables in the report, you'll see that the various numbers pulled into the article - 96% say patents are not important, 54% in the "information" fields say copyright is not important, etc. - are all including the non-R&D active sets. If you do look at the target population that performs R&D, those numbers change, respectively, to 34% and 69% saying that they are important.

More telling, go to the data chart for new or improved products or processes by businesses who performed or did not perform R&D [nsf.gov] . For companies that did not perform any R&D, 88% did not create or improve any products or processes. Accordingly, it's pretty reasonable to consider that they wouldn't see much value in IP over that time. For companies that did perform R&D, 65% created new products or processes, and that starts getting a lot closer to the percentage saying that IP is important.

So, sure, depending on what numbers you cherry pick, you can "support" almost any conclusion, but you're not telling the entire story.

Re:Of Course! (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 9 months ago | (#45753413)

Making content free will probably not be a good idea. But it would still beat the current situation.

But either extreme is bad. We have to get back to an IP law that follows the idea behind them: To give people an incentive to create and to create a balance between those that create and those that want to enjoy that creation.

Right now, the IP law fails in every of these aspects. It does not promote creation, since it allows an author to milk his success forever. Not only that, but also his heirs to do just the same. And please don't come with the "but a true artist will create even if he is rich already" argument. The same argument can be fielded for abolishing IP laws altogether.

Because most people don't invent stuff (1)

sandbagger (654585) | about 9 months ago | (#45753377)

My example is this. In the automotive industry the car manufacturers make new intellectual property. Everyone else is in inventory, logistics, or repair. The same thing goes with software. Most people in technology are in the integration and configuration business.

But the survey targeted businesses doing R&D (2)

langelgjm (860756) | about 9 months ago | (#45753399)

From TFA:

According to the NSF, the Business Research and Development and Innovation Survey (BRDIS) “is an annual, nationally representative sample survey of approximately 43,000 companies, including companies in manufacturing and nonmanufacturing industries. The target population for BRDIS consists of all for-profit companies that have five or more employees and that perform R&D in the United States.”

Re:Because most people don't invent stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753593)

My company, (Lighting Industry) has a policy that any idea I come up with belongs to them, so if it isn't going to benefit me, then there isn't a real push to bring forth new ideas unless they just make my day easier.

That sounds about right. (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 9 months ago | (#45753379)

The 10%, however, care quite a lot.

Summary left out "to them". (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about 9 months ago | (#45753385)

Those things weren't important *to them* in their business, not that they thought those things weren't important. Big difference.

Re:Summary left out "to them". (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about 9 months ago | (#45753831)

Those things weren't important *to them* in their business, not that they thought those things weren't important. Big difference.

They actually asked the correct question to measure overall importance of intellectual monopolies to the economy.

Your rhetoric here (0)

TheloniousCoward (2941425) | about 9 months ago | (#45753415)

Round up the usual "software patents are evil" suspects.

STOP RANDOMLY SENDING ME TO BETA ! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753445)

Stop randomly sending me to beta !

IP is not Important (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753455)

Ip is not Important. Especially if you are still using UUCP.

IP is only important if you are a patent troll (0)

dtjohnson (102237) | about 9 months ago | (#45753473)

Make of that what you will.

Re:IP is only important if you are a patent troll (1)

ScentCone (795499) | about 9 months ago | (#45753695)

IP is only important if you are a patent troll ... Make of that what you will.

It matters to me, and I'm not a patent troll. So what I make of it is that you are yourself a troll.

Why is this surprising? (1, Interesting)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | about 9 months ago | (#45753477)

The vast majority of businesses have no significant branding to speak of, publish no significant media, and do no significant R&D. To put some perspective on it, there are more companies in the US than there are individual engineers and very few companies produce anything where copyright is central to the business.

Most businesses are built almost entirely on individual customer relationships. Restaurants, contractors, specialty manufacturers, agriculture, etc. In all of these areas there are a few outliers that develop a substantial brand that they trademark but more often than not the "brand" is the individuals that work there or run the business so trademarks simply are not that important to their success.

I think this is surprising to people only because most of the largest and most visible American companies do have substantial investment in IP, so it is an availability bias. It overlooks the myriad smaller companies that have little investment in IP. It would probably be fair to say that IP is important to a significant percentage of the American economy but only because it tends to be concentrated in many of the largest and most successful companies. It is not evenly distributed across all companies.

Of course (1)

sugar and acid (88555) | about 9 months ago | (#45753483)

Lots of business are just in the business of selling stuff. So there is very little IP to be had.

Similarly there is very little IP to be protected in the vast majority of services businesses. That's everything from dog walkers to hotel chains, law firms and banks.

The building industry has very little IP as well apart on certain widgets used.

That pretty much leaves high tech manufacturing, software, and something that is probably best describes as "media".

Article is about R&D intensive businesses ... (4, Insightful)

MacTO (1161105) | about 9 months ago | (#45753509)

While surprising, the results do make some sense. IP laws are only meaningful to companies that have the means to sue. They would also have to look at the return on investment for launching legal action. A small business on the east coast is unlikely to sue another small business on the west coast simply because there is no return (i.e. no overlap in potential clients).

IP is mostly geared towards the interests of large entities and multinational entities: businesses that have both the means to sue, and where their market is large enough that it is likely to overlap with someone else's market.

That's right (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753591)

90% of businesses are retail, contractor, landscaping, etc ... industries that are using "tech" that is centuries old.

When was the last time you've seen a landscaper or plumber sue another for IP?

Re:Article is about R&D intensive businesses . (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753625)

It's also important to businesses that get sued. Mine got a couple strongly worded letters of how we allegedly infringed on patents. Next thing you know, we're patenting up our stuff to protect ourselves against other assclowns.

BS. They would mind a competitor using their name (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about 9 months ago | (#45753529)

I'm still waiting for the pdf to download, but I can smell the BS from here. Does anyone really believe that most businesses wouldn't mind if a competitor misappropriated their name and opened a competing establishment with the same name across the street?

Someone said that small businesses don't build a brand and don't care about their names (trademarks). I've owned a couple of small businesses and in two of those all of my customers were small businesses. For most small mom and pop businesses, the reputation attached to their trademark is EVERYTHING. They don't have national ad campaigns, their business comes from friends telling friends "go to ShoeDoc to get that fixed, they do a great job." If someone else opened a shoe repair place down the street and violated their IP by calling it ShoeDoc that would be a VERY big deal to them.

"Minding" and caring about IP are different (1)

langelgjm (860756) | about 9 months ago | (#45753607)

I'm still waiting for the pdf to download, but I can smell the BS from here. Does anyone really believe that most businesses wouldn't mind if a competitor misappropriated their name and opened a competing establishment with the same name across the street?

No, no one believes that. However, apparently this isn't a big enough concern for most businesses to get them to respond that trademarks are "somewhat" or "very" important. I wonder how realistic the "You've Got Mail" scenario of theft of goodwill for the Shop Around The Corner bookstore actually is.

For most small mom and pop businesses, the reputation attached to their trademark is EVERYTHING.

Well, their reputation may be everything, but I'm guessing many businesses don't even bother filing a trademark registration. I think one of the takeaways from the survey may be that formal intellectual property protection isn't always valuable to most businesses, even though intangible things like reputation may be very valuable.

Re:BS. They would mind a competitor using their na (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753649)

I'm still waiting for the pdf to download, but I can smell the BS from here. Does anyone really believe that most businesses wouldn't mind if a competitor misappropriated their name and opened a competing establishment with the same name across the street?

Someone said that small businesses don't build a brand and don't care about their names (trademarks). I've owned a couple of small businesses and in two of those all of my customers were small businesses. For most small mom and pop businesses, the reputation attached to their trademark is EVERYTHING. They don't have national ad campaigns, their business comes from friends telling friends "go to ShoeDoc to get that fixed, they do a great job." If someone else opened a shoe repair place down the street and violated their IP by calling it ShoeDoc that would be a VERY big deal to them.

Don't confuse a trademark with a patent...

Re:BS. They would mind a competitor using their na (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753693)

Don't confuse a trademark with a patent...

Don't confuse subsets of intellectual property for intellectual property as a whole.

Load of statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753563)

The methodology used to determine the significance of IP to the economy relies on the assumption that a business that generates IP, views that IP as important to competitiveness.

This survey undermines that assumption. So, we are left with the question, if IP is view as generally unimportant, why are these companies generating IP?

Someone needs to ask this question in their survey.

TFA clueless, thinks Coke brand is worthless (2, Insightful)

raymorris (2726007) | about 9 months ago | (#45753611)

The author shows their complete ignorance of how the economy works when they select GROCERIES as their example of an industry where they claim IP doesn't matter. Imagine if you were to walk into the grocery store and all of the cola made by different companies was labeled "Coca-Cola". It's trademark, intellectual property, that allows you to tell the difference between Coke, Pepsi, and RC cola. Were it not for IP, the generic stuff that sells for under a dollar would also be labelled "Coca-Cola".

Do you think it's important to grocers that customers can distinguish Guiradelli and Hershey from Z corp "chocolate flavored bar"? Of course! The grocery industry is ALL about trademarks. The author proves they are completely clueless by claiming IP doesn't matter in the grocery business.

You can't attribute all grocery employees to IP (2)

langelgjm (860756) | about 9 months ago | (#45753663)

The article doesn't claim that IP doesn't matter to grocery stores. It just points out that it doesn't make sense to attribute the entire employment figures of all grocery stores across the U.S. to intellectual property. Which is precisely what the Patent Office's report did.

It may be fair to call grocery stores an IP-intensive industry, but if it is, that's a definition of "IP intensive" that most people aren't thinking of when they talk about patent and copyright policy.

Re:TFA clueless, thinks Coke brand is worthless (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 9 months ago | (#45753763)

Do you think it's important to grocers that customers can distinguish Guiradelli and Hershey from Z corp "chocolate flavored bar"? Of course! The grocery industry is ALL about trademarks. The author proves they are completely clueless by claiming IP doesn't matter in the grocery business.

Chocolate and other luxury goods are an exception. In just about every packaged product category in a supermarket, there is an "own brand" option, which the supermarket would much prefer you buy. Branding is important to the supermarket's suppliers, not so much for the supermarket itself.

Re:TFA clueless, thinks Coke brand is worthless (1)

rts008 (812749) | about 9 months ago | (#45753813)

It's trademark, intellectual property, that allows you to tell the difference between Coke, Pepsi, and RC cola.

No, it is not.
It is my nose and taste buds that tell me the difference.
Lipstick(trademark) on a pig doesn' change the fact your still dealing with a pig.

Re:TFA clueless, thinks Coke brand is worthless (1)

Andreas Mayer (1486091) | about 9 months ago | (#45754075)

It's trademark, intellectual property, that allows you to tell the difference between Coke, Pepsi, and RC cola.

No, it is not.
It is my nose and taste buds that tell me the difference.
Lipstick(trademark) on a pig doesn' change the fact your still dealing with a pig.

Yes it is. Because you can't taste every bottle of Cola before you buy it.

only after you buy it. Trademark lets you know wha (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about 9 months ago | (#45754103)

You can only taste it after you've bought it.
It's the Coke trademark on the bottle that allows you to know what it's going to taste like. Without trademark, all of the different sodas would be labeled "Coke" and all of the different companies making them would call themselves "Coca-Cola".

There is a real life example of that here in Texas. A company in Elgin, Tx made great sausage and built a reputation for the best sausage in the state. If you were driving through Elgin on the way to Austin, you'd stop and get some "Elgin sausage". The problem was, you normally can't register your city name as your trademark. So four other companies opened up selling "Elgin sausage". Some of it isn't great. Most people no longer stop in Elgin because you never know whether you're getting the good Elgin sausage or not. The lack of trademark protection (because they chose a bad trademark) really hurt their business, and ruined customer's ability to pick up extra yummy sausage.

Re:TFA clueless, thinks Coke brand is worthless (1)

devent (1627873) | about 9 months ago | (#45753861)

I think the original USPTO study was on purpose mixing all IP protection into one basked. Trademarks, patents and copyrights are vastly different laws. Anyone who just mix such different laws into one basked called "Intellectual Property" is just conflating them on purpose for their own agenda, in case of the USPTO to show how much important IP laws are.

As the article points out:

        In 2010, 87.2% of businesses reported that trademarks were “not important” to them.
        90.1% of businesses reported that copyrights were “not important” to them.
        96.2% of businesses reported that patents were “not important” to them.

this makes sense that trademarks are more important as you pointed out with the case of Coca-Cola. The article is on the point that it doesn't make sense to compare I.P. and pointed out the ridiculousness by showing that groceries stores are the most one to have a benefit from I.P. laws.

Matches my limited mid-sized-company experience (4, Interesting)

dpbsmith (263124) | about 9 months ago | (#45753645)

I worked for over a decade at a midsized company, founded in the late sixties, whose business was the manufacture of $30,000-$100,000 high-tech products. The development process included internal firmware, quite a lot of interesting and non-obvious mechanical and optical engineering, and driver software.

To say they were casual about intellectual property was putting it mildly. The mindset seemed to be, basically, that they copied good ideas from the competition and expected the competition to copy ideas from them. (I do mean IDEAS though, nothing more). They felt their business success depended on getting needed products to market in a timely way, and that it was all about good execution of ideas, not exclusive possession of ideas.

All of us software people put copyright notices on our code because we just thought it was good practice, but nobody told us to do so or send out memos on how to do it or monitored us to make sure we were doing it right.

I created a mini dust-up once when the head of marketing told me to send the complete source code to one of our software drivers to another company--a 200-age listing--and I said sure, but that I wouldn't do it without written directions from an officer of the company. He was furious that I would even question his directions and insisting that it was inappropriate for me to demur because it was no big deal, and I replied, sincerely, that I didn't think it was a big deal, either--in context it really wasn't--but that nevertheless I thought I needed to have that level of authorization, and that since it wasn't a big deal it shouldn't be hard to get it. It's not that he was being a PHB, either--the point is that nobody in the company quite got it that maybe you didn't just send out half a pound of listing on a casual say-so.

For a while, there was one mid-level manager who liked patents and embarked on a semi-systematic effort to get things patented, and recognize engineers by posting framed notices about the patents that they had gotten--there were maybe about ten such frames on the wall by the time he left. But it was not part of the corporate culture.

I don't remember ever hearing about the company suing or being sued over a patent except for one case, where it was embroiled as a party in a lawsuit involving some software components they had purchased and licensed from another firm.

Re:Matches my limited mid-sized-company experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45754109)

I created a mini dust-up once when the head of marketing told me to send the complete source code to one of our software drivers to another company--a 200-age listing--and I said sure, but that I wouldn't do it without written directions from an officer of the company. He was furious that I would even question his directions and insisting that it was inappropriate for me to demur because it was no big deal, and I replied, sincerely, that I didn't think it was a big deal, either--in context it really wasn't--but that nevertheless I thought I needed to have that level of authorization, and that since it wasn't a big deal it shouldn't be hard to get it.

Generally it's sufficient to get your first line manager's direction in writing. Provided what they're asking you to do is not unlawful, they accept full liability.

Businesses are not a monolith... (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 9 months ago | (#45753799)

Pretty much the only thing they all agree on is that excessive taxes and unreasonable regulations are evil. Even then they don't actually agree on what that sentence means. The guy whose job is to sell coal thinks any carbon tax is excessive by definition and renewable energy requirements are inherently unreasonable. The guy who sells solar panels disagrees strongly.

In this case what's going on is that your local yogurt shop doesn't give a shit about patents or copyright because it sells yogurt. They don't have patents or copyrights. They do have a trademark, but unless some other yogurt shop has recently moved in and adopted a similar name they probably don't think of their trademark as important to their business. And their one vote is as important as Exon's.

It would be interesting to do a study weighting the response by the actual economic importance of the business. But that would be really fucking hard, particularly if you're only trying to tease out a couple aspects of IP law. The article mentions a government study that tried to do this, and criticizes it for including grocer's as important users of IP, but if you think about it for a second grocery stores use IP a lot more often then anybody else. If you're a geek obsessed with the IP implications of file sharing and the Samsung/Apple patent battles that sounds like ridiculous BS, but that's only because you aren't counting trademarks as Intellectual property. Coke is more expensive then RC Cola or the house brand for the same reason. Most people who buy Coke couldn't tell the difference between it and the house brand, but the grocery store probably charges double or triple for Coke, particularly if the House Brand is sold in 3-litre bottles. That markup is 100% due to the intellectual property of the Coca-Cole trademark. Yeah the music industry and software will use this trademark info to claim all Walmart associates will be fired the second that copyright is weakened, but that does not mean the government scientists were technically wrong for saying those Walmart associates are working for a business that is very dependent on the IP of trademarks.

Not the size of your IP but what you do with it (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 9 months ago | (#45753817)

I have 3 problems with today's IP. Most IP is completely obvious; the one click patent is 100% crap. Any web developer with 3 months training would stumble upon that as completely obvious if they were building a large online sales site. Things like patents and trademarks should be reserved for something innovative. Monster suing people for using monster as a synonym of big or great should be punished with their losing the trademark. There is definitely room for some patents and trademarks such as Xerox (completely made up). And inventing the transistor. But if someone invents a new way to generate light, nobody should be able to patent putting that into a flashlight.

But even in music and books there should be much shorter limit on the copyright. It just seems bizarre that someone who came up with an innovative guitar riff 60 years ago should be able to go after some indy band who "re-invented" the same riff and worked it into their song. To me copyright should start wearing out in stages. The wholesale copying of say a song or book should have a fairly long lifespan. But works based upon it or derived from it should be fine even after 5 or 10 years.

If you are looking for a simple historical precedent just look at Hollywood. Basically one of the main reasons they went out into the wild west to make movies was that movie technology was new and the patents were controlled by a few capitalist robber barrons who ruled east coast movie making with an iron fist. So people went out west and made movies where the federal government had far less control to enforce the dictates of east coast judges. Not only did an industry boom but free of IP they innovated and innovated. Stole the latest ideas from each other and everyone got rich.

IP is not always bad but generally where the best IP is applied is when it protects the public. Is the drug you bought actually made by the original company? Is it even the drug you think you are buying? When I buy a HEAD tennis racket I don't want something crappy that is painted with the HEAD logo. But when IP only serves to protect the profits of the company such as MS being able to protect some obvious file system patent to keep Linux out of the market then it should be eliminated.

People blah blah about China stealing so much IP. But the reality is that they have thrived doing so and if anything are probably laughing at us stupid westerners who have shackled ourselves to a few parasitical lawyers. Think about it. If every computer or robot innovation is locked up for 20 years then this might explain why we read about things in the science journals and then it stagnates for 20 years. A simple example would be 3D printing; a handful of key patents run out this year and I suspect that we will see a genuine 3D printing revolution that starts the week they run out.

Trademarks and trade secrets (2)

davidwr (791652) | about 9 months ago | (#45753915)

For most companies, trademarks and trade secrets are much more important.

The local bakery probably doesn't care about the copyrights on its secret recipes (yes, making and testing new recipes is a form of R&D). But if an employee pilfers them and leaks them to the competition, they would care very much that their trade secret was compromised. Likewise, if another bakery started using a nearly-identical logo or other "trade dress" in a way that caused confusion in the marketplace, they would care.

99% of law firms say IP laws are important (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45753983)

and in another news:

99% of law firms say IP laws are important

IMHO IP laws are bad - sharing of knowledge is essential to advance of civilization...

IP laws are jsut another guild system closing the market and generating profits for lawyers and patent trolls...

They don't use networking? (1)

Moskit (32486) | about 9 months ago | (#45754157)

You know, that transmission thingy using IP.
Internet Protocol.

How important are those businesses? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45754319)

The vast majority of businessmen are not billionaires. Those who are billionaires probably consider IP important. This may be only coincidence...

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