State of Innovation

Patents and Innovation Economics

Accounting Inhibits R&D

Accounting rules for R&D result in companies and nations under investing in research and development.   Since increases in real per capita income are the result of increases in our level of technology, this accounting error actually results in all of us being poorer.  The point of R&D is to create inventions, whether products or processes, that are useful.  R&D that does not result in inventions may be interesting intellectually, but does not increase our wealth- so the rest of the post will discuss investments in inventions as opposed to the more nebulous concept of R&D. 

 Creating an invention without obtaining legal title to the invention is like building an office building without obtaining title to the land and building.  Without legal title to the office building, you cannot finance the building, sell the building, or lease the building.  In other words, without legal title to the office building its economic value is significantly reduced.  The same is true of inventions.  Inventing something without obtaining legal title to the invention means that you cannot license (lease) the invention, cannot sell the invention, and cannot finance the invention. 

There are couple of ways to obtain title to an invention.  You can either obtain a patent on the invention or you can keep the invention a trade secret.  Many inventions are not amenable to trade secret protection.  As a society, it is better if people obtain patents instead of keeping their inventions a trade secret, since a patent allows other people access to the knowledge associated with the patent, allowing them to use this knowledge to build other inventions.

 The present accounting rules for the costs in creating an invention and obtaining title to the invention result in an immediate expensing of these costs.  While this may be helpful from a tax point of view, it causes these costs to appear superfluous.  Note that the rest of this post is concerned with accounting as an accurate measurement tool for the operations of a business and is not concerned with tax law, which has caused so many perversions to accounting and business generally.  Our present accounting systems never show  internally funded inventions produce any value. 

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March 14, 2010 Posted by dbhalling | Innovation | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments