Intellectual Property Education Lags the U.S. Economy

Have you ever watched an episode of the television show Shark Tank? Contestants attempt to attract investments in their businesses by marketing them to moguls (the “sharks”). Innovation and entrepreneurship are strong themes. Virtually every contestant with a new product is asked about patent protection. Contestants lacking patent protection almost always fail to secure investments.

Just what is a patent and why is a patent important? A patent is a government grant of the right to exclude others from exploiting an invention for a limited time in exchange for teaching the public how to make and use the invention. Teaching the public about an invention enables others to create improvements without having to first recreate the invention, advancing the pace of innovation. Meanwhile, the patent enables the inventor to prevent others from undermining a hard-earned competitive advantage. As a result, young businesses are better able to compete against more mature competitors in possession of greater resources who might otherwise freely replicate the patented invention.

While it is clear that venture capitalists like the sharks recognize the importance of patents, how many Shark Tank viewers actually understand the significance and value of a patent? The public appears to be growing increasingly aware of IP. But few people other than lawyers have a deep understanding of patents or the other types of IP or their importance to the economy. Any experienced IP professional can relate a number of stories based on misunderstandings about IP by those outside of the IP profession. This happens despite the bombardment of IP most of us encounter on a daily basis.

Read more of this Consumer Business Review op-ed by Manny W. Schecter by clicking here.