NORTHAMPTON, MA / ACCESSWIRE / November 3, 2022 / Qualcomm
By Kirti Gupta, VP, Technology & Economic Strategy, Qualcomm Incorporated
I recently moderated a panel of experts hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS): U.S. Technological Leadership and Patents: What Can the Data Tell Us? The conversation explored how the geopolitical battle for leadership in critical technologies like 5G, AI, biotech, and quantum computing has spawned media coverage, and use-and-abuse of data that attempts to gamify which country or company is leading the R&D race in different technologies. The event examined how stakeholders, policymakers, and the public can better interpret patent data and assess claims frequently featured in coverage of this topic.
The event featured a lineup of a variety of experts, including former USPTO Director Andrei Iancu, Director and Distinguished Senior Fellow, Berkeley Center of Law and Technology Mark Cohen, Competition Dynamics CEO Dr. Jonathan Putnam, and IPLytics CEO Dr. Tim Pohlmann.
Director Iancu opened the panel discussion with a reflection on the Space Race of the 20th Century, which catalyzed the significant mobilization of resources that was necessary in order to reclaim leadership in space, and in doing so, reclaim our country's technological leadership on the world stage. He reminded us that the United States is now in another "Sputnik moment," while well-positioned to win in the global race for leadership in 5G, AI, and other emerging technologies, the United States must implement a robust innovation strategy to win that race.
Fundamental to the determination of leadership in that race is our ability to intelligently analyze the vast quantities of data around innovations in 5G, AI, and other emerging technologies. Recently, media coverage on the geopolitical competition for technological leadership has misguidedly relied on flawed methods of patent portfolio valuation. Emphasis has been placed too heavily on the counting the number of patents in a given portfolio. Without further context, patent counting can fail to capture the true value of a patent portfolio. Simply put, not all patents are created equal, just like all ideas are not created equal. In fact, they display a huge variance in value. If "Firm A" has more patents in a particular technology than "Firm B", that doesn't necessarily mean that Firm A has a stronger patent portfolio in that technology.
Unfortunately, patent counting offers the easiest way for onlookers outside the industry to gauge technological competition, often with misleading interpretations.
In February 2022, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a study analyzing the portfolios of the companies developing 5G technologies. While the media has often resorted to portraying a singular firm as the leader in patenting 5G technologies, the USPTO report concluded that "the results suggest that there remains ongoing competition among six 5G companies in patenting activity, notwithstanding media claims that a single firm may lead. Given the complexity of the results, caution is recommended when reviewing media claims of 5G dominance."
The study came to this conclusion by comparing the quality of patents in each firms' portfolios, instead of just the quantity. For example, the study found that although a Chinese firm filed the most 5G-related patent families, Qualcomm Incorporated filed the most in triadic patent families (i.e., those filed in the United States, the European Union, and Japan). The study also considered other indicators of patent portfolio strength, including legal breadth, radicalness (i.e., indicating fewer prior art citations against an application during prosecution), technical relevance, and more.
The panel of experts unanimously concluded that while drawing conclusions about technology leadership based on patent data is appealing, it is an exercise fraught with possibilities to mislead. True leadership, as we all know, comes with quality, not quantity.
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