In Germany this week on business which has me thinking about some things related to Germany. For example, what can we learn from Germany and their relative economic success, including energy policy and manufacturing? Important current article in Technology Review reviews the current debate on manufacturing and the wisdom in looking to Germany for clues. Advanced manufacturing, including 3-D printing and nanotechnology, are important themes. The cited Brookings study (2012) has more information about Germany, including its R&D networks, continuous vocational training, stable access to financing, and long term approaches to problem solving. Of course, one also has to review the progress in other countries also including Japan and South Korea.
I reproduced part of the Technology Review article below:
“…, the White House has proposed a series of measures to accelerate advanced manufacturing, including an additional $418 million for advanced manufacturing R&D (a 19 percent increase over current levels); $8 billion in new funding for community colleges to train people with the skills manufacturers need; a bundle of tax breaks for U.S. manufacturers; and a $1 billion program to create 15 national institutes aimed at developing new manufacturing techniques in areas such as 3-D printing and nanotechnology.”
“The government’s approach has a committed chorus of supporters who believe active intervention is needed. In February, the Brookings Institution released a paper arguing for a manufacturing policy similar to that of Germany. That country, which carefully manages its manufacturing sector, still maintains a trade surplus with China and has lost fewer of its manufacturing jobs than the U.S. has.”
Last year, Josh Lerner published another provocative book, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Why Public Efforts to Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have Failed – and What to Do About It (Princeton University Press, 2009). Why bring this up now? Two reasons include:
- The ten year anniversary of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is at hand, and
- The thirty year anniversary of the Bayh-Dole Act is also at hand. Both are subject to “celebrations” in Washington DC in coming days and weeks. Both involve government playing strong roles in innovation and jobs.
In addition, the recent election further makes for important political debate about the role of the government in stimulating job creation. Will the new Congress continue to fund nanotech? How long will cleantech be a ”darling” of politicians and venture capitalists (or flavor of the month)?
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China continues to grow, and the growth is impacting patenting. I was reminded of the importance of these trends during a recent visit from a Taiwanese law firm which also operates in China. In addition, the Economist recently reported on China’s patent efforts (Oct. 16-22 issue, pages 78-79).
One ignores these trends at one’s peril. Companies must shrewdly decide whether to seek to do business and obtain IP in China.
We can also see the coming impact on nanotechnology. The US PTO patent data base now lists 6,464 nanotech 977 class patents. Of these, only about 1 % (71) list an inventor who lists their residential address as China. However, of these 71 patents, roughly a quarter issued this year, and 50 out of 71 issued in the last four years (2007 to present).
According to the Economist:
Anxious to promote domestic innovation, the Chinese government has created an ecosystem of incentives for its people to file patents. However, concern exists that too many of the patents are “worthless” (and/or “junk”). The world also continues to watch IP damage awards in China, including that a firm from Wuhan has won $7m in a case against a company from Fujian and its Japanese supplier over the use of a process to clean sulfur.
Adding to the intrigue, China and Taiwan signed their first IP agreement on June 29, 2010. The agreement was modest but indicative.
One ignores these trends at one’s peril.
The patent landscape in the United States has changed dramatically since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in KSR in 2007. Some have argued that the bar to overcome the obviousness rejections have become higher in the United States and as a consequence, it has become more difficult and taken longer for a patent to be granted. However, to our knowledge, limited data have shown how the patent granting process has been affected since KSR in the United States, in comparison with other countries, such as Japan. Statistics suggested that there are disparities between the grant approval rate on similar patents filed at United States and Japanese patent offices.
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A recent WIPO report indicates that more than 20 percent growth rate (despite larger slow-down in PCT filings over all tech areas) has been observed in the microstructures/nanotech related technology in the 2008 PCT patent publications. This is particularly significant in view of a larger slow-down in the number of PCT filings over all technology areas. Whether this reflects an increase interest in such technology in 2008 and on or we are merely witnessing the result of such increase in interest long prior to 2008 remains to be seen.
For more information, follow the link to http://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2009/article_0002.html