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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Why Do Start-Ups Patent?

  • Author(s): Graham, Stuart
  • Sichelman, Ted
  • et al.
Abstract

Numerous scholars have proposed many different explanations for why inventors and innovative companies patent. Few scholars, however, have conducted empirical studies seeking to confirm or deny these theories. Furthermore, there are only a handful of studies examining how entrepreneurs and start-up companies use and are affected by the U.S. patent system, and none answers the question presented in our title.

We first briefly survey the dominant theories of why innovators file for patents and why they forgo patenting, focusing on how well, if at all, these theories apply to start-up companies. Next, we examine the existing empirical data on the topic and find it generally inconclusive.

Last, we describe the 2008 Berkeley Patent Survey, the first survey in the United States examining patents and entrepreneurship, which is currently underway at the direction of the authors and other investigators. In particular, we discuss the survey questions designed to answer why entrepreneurs and start-ups patent (or choose not to do so) and offer some hypotheses based on previous research.

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