How can you convince people that you are right? By presenting evidence. That may be one reason why Intellectual Ventures, the notorious tech patent giant, just released a study on what small-scale executives think about patents (CNet). The study reportedly showed that most execs think of patents as a good and respectable thing, though it also showed that oftentimes, boardroom bigwigs don’t know very much about the patent decisions they make for their companies.
A Bit About Intellectual Ventures
Intellectual Ventures had a great reason to conduct a rosy study on patents. The company is one of the top five patent owners in the U.S. and is widely dubbed a “patent troll.” It has amassed a collection of over 40,000 patents since its birth in 2000, some through purchases, others via its own discoveries in the high-tech Intellectual Ventures lab.
The scary thing is what Intellectual Ventures does with its patents, many of which are secret. Any time an
inventor – solo mad scientist, tech industry team, whatever – comes up with an idea that is patented by Intellectual Ventures, they get slapped with lawsuit papers.
Why? Intellectual Ventures started on $5 billion in venture capital to fund its front-end sci-fi experiments. In 2011, the company had already made back $2 billion of that through its patents alone. By now, they may have made the bulk of that monstrous sum back.
Also, now is a great time for Intellectual Ventures to get some good PR for patents. In the months leading to the study release, Intellectual Ventures has filed suits against AT&T, Canon, Toshiba, and other large companies seeking massive payouts for copyright infringement (CNet).
The study itself is called Market Research on Patent Attitudes and was conducted in conjunction with Research Now, a research firm, and Waggener Edstrom, a PR firm. In a blind survey, Intellectual Ventures asked over 200 U.S. executives about their opinions and knowledge of patents. The execs were from companies with 25-1,000 employees.
The survey reportedly found that 68% of the executives had a “positive overall perception” of patents; only 7% thought of patents as generally bad. The study also showed that the larger the company, the friendlier the execs are to patents: 92% of companies with over 250 employees thought patents were good for innovation, while 66% of execs for companies with fewer than 25 employees shared the sentiment. The official slideshow of the study data also draws conclusions from the exec opinions, including “the U.S. Patent System is Not Broken.”
Perhaps more disturbing, though, is what executives actually know about patents. While 75% of those interviewed said they were the primary decision maker as far as patents were concerned, only 25% said they knew a lot about the subject. While the study points out that the execs could use more education on the subject so they can take better advantage of patents for their company, it also indirectly implies that the exec opinions of patents might not be so important. After all, only 25% of those interviewed admitted to knowing a substantial amount about patents.