Features

Board accountability for patents

By Ian D McClure and Elvir Causevic

As patents are transacted, divested, litigated and strategically managed more frequently, the risk and value that corporate senior management and boards must monitor and take responsibility for are greater than ever before

There has been much discussion about the value and import of patents in general, particularly through patent reform in the United States and similar considerations around the world. Such discussions tend to include finger pointing at non-practising entities (NPEs), dubious unscientific estimates of the ‘$28 billion patent troll problem’, criticism of patent offices that grant low-quality patents and attempts to reform the legal system that allows those patents to be enforced. However, good, strong patents that result from real R&D and inventive steps towards a commercial purpose are very much alive and are critical to sustaining the US economy and levels of innovation. In 2012 the US Commerce Department published a report entitled “Intellectual Property and the US Economy: Industries in Focus”, which used thorough econometric analysis to demonstrate that IP-intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion to, or 34.8% of, US gross domestic product. A significant body of academic research – including a recent study commissioned by the US government and prepared by US national academies – has confirmed that a strong patent system is vital to the innovation economy. In addition, the patent troll problem is finally showing signs of abating, which means that the focus can return to protecting and disseminating true innovation.

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