The impact of economic crisis on patent activity
What happens to patent activity in economic crisis is something that all of us are wondering particularly during these unprecedented times. The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is the greatest challenge we are facing since World War Two. Cases are rising daily and lockdowns of countries is a reality we are currently facing. The most important question is if the current outbreak will have a long-term impact on the free movement of people and goods. And how will the current economic crisis impact innovation?
Since the start of the new millennium, the number of patents filed in the world has increased every year expect in two specific years, 2002 and 2009 when the number of patents filed decreased with 1% and 4%. During these times we faced the Dot-Com crash in 2001 and the Global Financial crisis in 2008. Another interesting remark is that during the SARS outbreak in 2003 (severe acute respiratory syndrome) caused by SARS-CoV where 8000 people died there was no impact at all on the patent activity.
The question is now how the coronavirus will affect the patent activity? On the one hand I think that many companies are conducting research to fight the coronavirus by finding a vaccine, treatment etc. that will lead to many patents about this topic, and on the other hand many technology companies in other technical fields that continue with R&D activities will also generate many new patents. Therefore, the number of new patents won’t drop to zero but the question still remains if it is going to increase or decrease. But keep in mind whatever is filed today will be revealed in the public domain 18 months after the first filing date. And whatever we see being published today was filed 18 months ago, prior the corona pandamic. Therefore, for a technology company, patents are still a very good instrument to secure the freedom to operate and/or to block others from offering the same solution or product in a specific country, because patents are valid up to 20-25 years. And that is most probably why companies are still filing patents during crisis, to be prepared for the better times to come. If we look into the past many successful companies have existed for decades and survived multiple economical crisis. They never stopped filing patents because the goal is still to get exclusivity on their new technology but as well to make sure that they have freedom to operate in the near future. It is going to be very interesting to see how the coronavirus will affect the patent activity, but we will most probably know that in 18 months from today.
Therefore, don’t expect your competitors to stop filing patents and be sure that many companies are using this time to work more on R&D and projects that could not be prioritized previously due to time limitation.
One last thing, I believe that during such extraordinary times we will solve this crisis together and our creativity won’t stop because never forget that “Necessity is the mother of invention”.
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My name is Dimitris Giannoccaro, I am helping technology-driven companies to unleash the power of patents.