Monday, April 29, 2013

Clarity: patent pending.

Let me get this straight: 'in the last year over 30.000 patents were granted to European companies and that is more than all the patents issued in the US, Japan, China and South Korea combined". Wow! Did you expect that? I surely did not. Here in Europe we are still inventing like there is no tomorrow...(no pun intended).

Now, you can try to draw all the conclusions you want from this quite incredible fact, but what I get from it are two things (stay with me!):

1) With all this talk of Europe being on the way out, obsolete, backward looking, paralysed by the crisis, it is easy to forget that there are incredibly innovative and creative companies in Europe and that it does not all have to be doom and gloom (mind you, I come from a country where 'dooming and glooming' is a national sport and I am a true representative, I am afraid, especially these days. For a reason, I may add! You see, I can't help myself!).

I know that for most journalists 'good news is no news', so I did not expect headlines in the main broadsheets. And in fact, I took that first quote from this, ehm..mesmerising, video:

The video wants to promote this year's European Inventor Award (or the Oscar of Technology as they call it in the video, yeah right), an event organised by the European Patent Office or EPO. The EPO website says: 'The European Inventor Award pays tribute to the men and women whose quest for new ideas drives technological progress and economic growth, shapes society and improves our daily lives'.  Great idea, and great news, as I was saying. Great video? No. It tries hard but it is, how shall I put it? very, very boring. Boring in the way things are told and in the way it is shot. The elements are all there (and that is probably part of the problem): interesting stats, historical context with museum pictures, description of the event, interview with previous winner and even vox pops!!! But where are the innovation and the creativity one would expect from a video on such a subject? If you don't have the budget (although I think this one was not cheap either), then just don't do it! Or maybe just focus on the inventors and their story, if you want to deliver - as you should - the message about the number of patents in Europe.

But here comes the doubt. (Or, the second thing I got from those numbers -you thought I had forgotten?)

2) Are these numbers true? Let's listen carefully once more. The video starts with the quote I mention above. Then, at 4 minutes 16 seconds into the film, you see a graphic of the world. And the voiceover says: 'Shortly more than 36% of all patent filing in 2012 comes from Europe with Asia following closely behind'.

Here is the graphic:

So, more European companies than US, Japan, China and South Korea combined get a patent but Europe is just marginally above Asia in terms of filing them?  What does that mean?  Does it mean that it is easier in Europe to get a patent? Maybe the EPO has the explicit aim of promoting innovation in the EU, then say it clearly! Can we consider these real numbers and are they still good news for Europe, or isn't more impressive that Asia files almost the same number? Why do I need to guess?

Clarity brings transparency. And neither requires a patent.

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