Saturday, August 06, 2011

"Berkeley Patent Study" as a trade secret?

The underlying benefit of the patent system to the public is to make useful information available to the public to promote technical progress. The underlying meaning of the word "patent," as distinct from the word latent, is a tip-off.

In the context of a paper about patents ("Berkeley Patent Study"), authors Robert Merges, Pam Samuelson, and Ted Sichelman presented the rather (shocking) statement at Patently-O:

To make further inferences, especially without access to the underlying data in the study—which we cannot make publicly available due to confidentiality restrictions—will almost invariably lead to conclusions that are simply not supported by our data set.

If one alluded to a trade secret within a patent application, the examiner would bounce the application. It should be no different with papers about patents.


Two comments on PatentlyO about the Merges et al. study:

#1. Relating to the flaw in analytical thinking by Merges et al. in the post on PatentlyO

Scholarship in general, and patent studies in particular, are meant to be critiqued and their findings questioned and their methods and data probed.

For such a study as this one, to be announced that any findings must be taken on blind faith, ("we hope that others will indeed read our articles... in detail and only report and rely upon the conclusions we draw in those publications") is a waste of time. A waste of time for those the study is offered to and a waste of time for those undertaking the efforts of the study itself.

You might as well agree to believe me that I have taken an exacting and exhaustive study that just so happens to support every one of my favorite premises and just so happens to disprove every premise that I do not agree with. Take my word - this is "true." You cannot look at my underlying data and you must only report and rely on my conclusion I give.

#2. Relating to the value of the Berkeley Patent Study

I thoroughly agree with comments that corporate CEOs or CFOs are often clueless as to the impact of their product's patents or copyrights or trade secrets on their corporate bottom line, and naturally prefer to attribute increased profits to their personal marketing brillance. Even if they did know that their IP was very important in reducing their competition, they will be wisely advised not to admit it to anyone to avoid AT allegations. Thus, economic surveys based on their expressed IP economic opinions are essentially worthless.

Of the comment below:

LinkedIn lists for Summerfield: University of Melbourne
PhD, Optical Fibre Communications Technology
1992 – 1995


Blogger Unknown said...

Surely the confidentiality in this case is a result of the fact that the study involved surveys of startup companies? Many of these presumably were only willing to participate on the basis that their responses would be kept confidential, and only anonymized statistics and conclusions actually published. I am not sure that I can see any problem here, but maybe you could ask the authors to whom they owe the duty of confidentiality, and why?

5:49 AM  

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