South Carolina patent grants higher than the national trends

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By Doug Kim, attorney, Douglas Kim Law Firm LLC

From 2008 to 2017, patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office that have at least one inventor living in South Carolina outpaced the national trend. South Carolina had on average 9 percent more patents granted year over year, while the United States, in the same time period, increased by only 7 percent. This is a positive sign as patent activity is one indicator of innovation. Intellectual property protection, including patent protection, has grown in the past decades as the importance of IP becomes more valued by companies and inventors. In a 2012 report, the United States Patent and Trademark Office concluded that IP intensive industries contributed $5 trillion and 40 million jobs to the U.S. economy.

Not surprising, companies with a South Carolina presence that applied for and received patent grants include General Electric, Milliken, Clemson, Kemet, Hubbell Lighting, Techtronic, and AVX. What is not that well known is that from 2008 to 2015, individual inventors (presumably entrepreneurs) ranked first or second in the number of patents granted. While innovation is certainly a key component to a strong economy, combining innovation with entrepreneurship can produce a synergistic effect that both stimulates existing business and furthers economic development by creating new businesses and jobs. After all, established companies not only innovate but also acquire innovation through merger and acquisitions.

The benefits of IP, however, depend upon a solid IP national protection structure. The Global Intellectual Property Center of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported in 2017 that the United States was closely ranked with the U.K., Japan, and the European Union in its International IP Index. This index is based upon the belief by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that economies with strong IP systems tend to enjoy the most economic benefits from commercial activity. However, the United States fell to 10th place behind the U.K., Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, France, Japan, Spain, and Singapore for the protection of patent rights in the same report. Work to improve the IP protection system of the United States is still needed, especially in improving patent protection.

A discussion of innovation as it relates to global economic growth is not complete without a discussion of the software industry. As reported by IP Watchdog, in 1991 the percentage of patents granted that were software related was 26.5 percent. Ten years later, it was 33.2 percent. From 2008 to the present, software patents were about 50 percent of all patents granted in the United States. This trend is expected to increase with improvements and innovation in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and new technologies such as blockchain.

So, for 2018 and beyond, make an effort to develop and apply ideas and technologies that can improve our goods and services or make their production more efficient — engage in innovation.

Doug Kim is an intellectual property attorney with Douglas Kim Law Firm LLC. He develops IP strategies, manages IP portfolios, and creates IP protection plans to complement companies’ business goals and to build intellectual capital. He can be reached at 864-616-9095 or doug@dougkim.com.

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