State of Innovation

Patents and Innovation Economics

Great Again: Corp Tax Rate Driving Jobs Overseas

The excellent book Great Again by Henry R. Nothhaft with David Kline, points out that 2000 was the year in which the tax and regulatory burden in theUS reached a tipping point compared to other OECD (First World) countries.  2000 was also the year in which average corporate tax rates of OECD countries fell below theUS’s.  TheUS now has highest marginal corporate tax rate in the world (in most states) and our effective tax rate is 50% higher than the European Union average.  Is there any wonder why the US is losing high quality jobs to other countries?

The book’s identification of the year 2000 as the tipping point is ironic since this is also the year that I identified in my book as the tipping point for anti-technology startup regulations.  The book Great Again calls the decade from 2000-2010 the lost decade, let’s hope it is only a single lost decade.  Besides the negative effects of the US corporate and capital gains tax rates, the US has also significantly weakened our patent system and made it extremely difficult for startups to raise capital because of Sarbanes Oxley (although Dodd Frank only makes this worse).  The major asset of startups is their patents – legal title to their inventions.  Weakening our patent system has undermined this asset.

Some other interesting points made by the book include that a SBA (Small Business Administration) study showed that 1% cut in the corporate tax rate increases the number of start-ups by 1.5% and decreases the rate of failure by 8%.  A World Bank study showed that 10% increase in the effective tax rate results in 2.2% reduction in investment to GDP.

The policies necessary to grow high quality jobs and get our economy growing are clear.  The only conclusion is that the US is not interested in growing the economy, it is only interested in growing government power.

Great Again: Revitalizing America’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, by Henry R. Nothhaft with David Kline

May 19, 2011 Posted by | Featured Videos, Innovation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Edison was a Patent Troll

The excellent book Great Again by Henry R. Nothhaft with David Kline points out that in the middle 19th century:

Foreign observers attributed much of the country’s (U.S.) rapid technological progress to its distinctive patent system.  Quite revolutionary  in design at inception, the U.S.patent system came to be much admired for providing broad access to property rights in new technological knowledge and for facilitating trade in patented technologies.  These features attracted the technologically creative, even those who lacked the capital to directly exploit their invention  . . . and also fostered a division of labor between the conduct of inventive activity and the application of technical discoveries to actual production.  It is no coincidence that Britain and many other European countries [later] began to modify their patent institutions to make them more like those of the Americans. (emphasis added)

They point out that in the U.S 85% of all patents were licensed by their inventors, while only 30% of patents in Britain were licensed.  In the late 19th centuryU.S. inventors were increasingly operating as independent inventors who extracted returns from their discoveries by licensing or selling their patent rights.  Among these inventors were Edison, Bell, Tesla, etc.  “An astonishing two thirds of all America’s great inventors in the nineteenth century were actually NPEs” (Non-Practicing Entities).  But today’s modern Luddites would call these great inventors trolls.  They claim all value is created by production and marketing or if they are economists they claim all value is create by manipulating monetary instruments and deny the source of all human values, the mind.  They denigrate inventors who demand a return on their efforts as imposing a tax on innovation.  Invention is the only source of per capita increases in wealth.

The book asks:

 Does it really make sense to consider Edison a “patent troll” just because he licensed most of his inventions rather than commercializing them himself?  As the inventor of electric light and power, the phonograph, and many other world-changing new technologies, his contributions toAmerica’s economic progress are beyond dispute.

Is there any evidence of a patent litigation (troll) explosion?

Judge Michel former head of the CAFC, the court which hears all patent appeals, points out that the number of patent suits filed each year has remained constant at less than three thousand.  Only about 100 of these suits ever go to trial.  In a technology based economy with over 300 million people and 1 million active patents this is trivial.

The reality is the Patent troll/ litigation crises is a very clever marketing ploy by large multinational companies that want to be able to steal U.S.inventors’ technology.  The America Invents Act will put the final nail in the coffin of U.S.innovation if it passes, by making it even easier to steal U.S. innovation.  It is a product of these same multinational companies that are not interested in vitality of the U.S.economy, but in their short term profits.

May 8, 2011 Posted by | Patents | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Could Apple Get Funded Today?

This intriguing question and its implications for US economic policy are tackled in the groundbreaking book Great Again, by Henry R. Nothhaft with David Kline.  They answer the above query with a series of questions:

Could a twenty-year-old college dropout, just back from six months in an ashram somewhere, attract funding for a capital-intensive venture based on the manufacture (yes, the manufacture) and sale of a $2,500 consumer product unlike any that had ever been bought by consumers before?  One whose potential uses were at best unknown, and possibly nonexistent?  And one for which the total current market size was exactly zero?

Not only could Apple not get funded today, it probably could not go public. Nor would Apple have received its first patent (USPN 4,136,359) in only 20 months.  The book asks “how many of today’s Apples are not getting a chance?”

The authors use the above example to make a broader point that theUSis failing economically and technologically because of the policies we are pursuing.  They show that all net new jobs created in theUSsince 1977 (and possibly longer) were created by startups like Apple.  All increases in real per capita income are due to new technologies and most revolutionary/disruptive technologies are created by startups and individual inventors.  So what are the policies that have undermined our economy, by undermining technology startups?

The book examines five areas:

1.Role of regulations.  The Authors show that our tax policies, Sarbanes Oxley and our indifferent (some might say arrogant) regulators’ application of well meaning regulations to startups is driving them either overseas or out of business.

2. Underfunding the patent office. This is costing theUS millions of jobs and billions in GDP.  According to the authors, each issued patent is worth 3-5 jobs on average, particularly patents issued to startups.

3. Manufacturing policies in the US.  Manufacturing is key, particularly in a world that does not respect property rights in inventions, to ensuring that theUS profits fromUS innovation and not other countries.  TheUS is also losing the global battle for human talent.

4. Battle for global talent. Our restrictive immigration policies are depriving theUS of talented entrepreneurs such as Andy Grove, founder of Intel.

5. Funding for research.  The book shows that our spending on basic science and engineering is not only declining as a percentage of GDP, but the system has become short-term oriented and bureaucratic.

While this book tackles complex issues, it is a quick easy read.  It is full of interviews from entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and technologists who built America’s technology startups over the last three decades.  Great Again provides numerous real life examples to illustrate its points.

This pioneering book shows how the US can create jobs and increase per capita income.  The policy prescriptions are based on solid science.  Just cutting government spending (balancing the budget) will not cause theUSeconomy to grow vigorously, we need pro-growth policies.  The authors are some of the few people that understand what policies are needed for the US to be GREAT AGAIN.

Great Again: Revitalizing America’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, by Henry R. Nothhaft and David Kline

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Innovation, Patents | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Restore Patent Funding to Create Jobs

A NY times op-ed piece suggests that a relatively minor investment of $1 billion in the US Patent Office would create 1.5 million jobs for a cost of $660 per job.  Note that the $1 billion in funding would actual be repayment of user fees that Congress has stolen from the Patent Office over the last two decades.  The conclusion of the authors is:

So our guess is that restoring the patent office to full functionality would create, over the next three years, at least 675,000 and as many as 2.25 million jobs. Assuming a mid-range figure of 1.5 million, the price would be roughly $660 per job — and that would be 525 times more cost effective than the 2.5 million jobs created by the government’s $787 billion stimulus plan.

To encourage still more entrepreneurship, Congress should also offer small businesses a tax credit of up to $19,000 for every patent they receive, enabling them to recoup half of the average $38,000 in patent office and lawyers’ fees spent to obtain a patent. Cost, after all, is the No. 1 deterrent to patent-seeking, the patent survey found.

For the average 30,000 patents issued to small businesses each year, a $19,000 innovation tax credit would mean a loss of about $570 million in tax revenue in a year. But if it led to the issuance of even one additional patent per small business, it would create 90,000 to 300,000 jobs.

Please read the full article.

August 6, 2010 Posted by | Innovation, Patents | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Patents and Jobs

According to business and patent expert David Kline and Henry R. Nothhaft, CEO of technology miniaturization firm Tessera, Inc. in the Harvard Business Review:

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) may be the single greatest facilitator of private sector job creation and economic growth in America. It is this agency, after all, that issues the patents that small businesses — especially technology startups — need to attract venture capital investment, develop new products and services, and serve their historic role as the primary source of almost all new net job growth in America. According to one recent study, 76 percent of startup executives say that patents are essential to their funding efforts.

 David Kline is an expert in this area.  He is author of ground breaking book, Rembrandts in the Attic , on patents in business.  He is also author of Burning the Ships  that explores how Microsoft used patents to transform their business.  According to the authors, “The costs of the forgone innovation resulting from patent delays in the many billions of dollars annually.”  I think they are underestimating the cost of patent delays. 

Please read the full article at

May 6, 2010 Posted by | Innovation, Patents | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment



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