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Fewer patents submitted in 2009: a sign that US is less innovative? Maybe just the contrary.

Companies have been cutting budgets, and lengthy/expensive patent applications is one of the easiest costs to cut. In the fast-moving economy, by the time your patent is accepted, the product is outdated. But there are other reasons for not submitting patents:
  1. By submitting a patent, your idea can get stolen (e.g. by the patent Attorneys)
  2. For analytic algorithms, it is much more important to be protected against reverse engineering (a patent offers no protection against that) than lawsuits: in a lawsuit, it's always possible to tell that your very sophisticated algorithm is different from the plaintiff's one.
  3. For stuff easy to copy (e.g. a nice search engine functionality), it will always been copied anyway, and your best protection is smart marketing to quickly acquire momentum, and thus kill potential competitors
Indeed, the more modern version to protect an idea is to publish it and make it public (so nobody can patent it), while the secret sauce (parameters of your model, details about weights being used or cross-validation) is kept secret. Just market your product at the right time - when you've acquired enough momentum to kill or dwarf potential competitors.

Personally my experience with the government has been disappointing. I submitted the trademark "click scoring" (I've owned the domain name and technology for a long time) and lost after 18 months of battle with the Patent and Trademark office. Shortly after, another company was granted the trademark. Now this trademark has no value because of my old application (this is public record), and ironically I have a very good relationship with the company who was later granted the trademark. But my point is: why wasting so much time and efforts when I could have created new concepts and ideas in the meanwhile, rather than being buried under red tape?

Now startups are increasingly focusing efforts on producing increased innovation, and a a result, they are filing patents at a much slower pace to save costs (to some extent, because of inefficiencies in the patent process, and because the value of a patent is much lower than it used to be, when it comes to selling your company or operating business). So we may see more innovation, but fewer patents.

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