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Every American Parent Should Teach Their Children about Patents: Here's Why

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In 2012, California generated more than 25 percent of the patents granted by the United States Patent Office (USPO) with almost 35,000 patents granted to citizens or organizations from California; the USPO granted a meek approximate 8,500 patents to citizens and organizations from New York, and as few as 32 from Alaska.

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Startling? Not so much, but hold your horses, in 2012 Japan filed almost twice the amount of patents filed by citizens and organizations from California with the USPO granting almost 53,000 patents to citizens and organizations from Japan, Germany at approximately 15,000 (about half that of California), and the United Kingdom at approximately 6,000 (around the amount form New York).

This may not seem troublesome on surface since while California has approximately 40 million residents, Japan has approximately 130 million residents. So the pure magnitude difference may explain. What is interesting is the trend.

In the last three years (2010-2013) the amount of patents granted by the USPO to foreign origin patents versus domestic originated patents has crossed over the 50 percent mark, and has stayed above 50 percent for three years.

Just recently as 1970, this percentage was below 30 percent.

Why is this worth thinking about?

You can debate opinion, and political and cultural beliefs, but the numbers are black and white. Geographies that file more patents are more productive (jobs, earning etc.) than geographies that do not. Below is an except from the National Journal published February 1st 2013 - Why Patents--Yes, Patents--Matter to Economic and Jobs Growth.

Metro areas that produce a lot of patents--and the inventiveness that that implies--are more likely to see above-average gains in population, productivity, jobs, and education, according to a report from the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit research and policy think tank. And the bottom fourth of metro areas, the ones that produce the fewest patents, could gain as much as $4,300 per worker over a decade if they amped up their patent production to match the top fourth.



"If we were able to get the roughly 250 metropolitan areas that do very little patenting up to the level of the 100 that do a great deal of patenting, we'd be richer in an extraordinary way," says Jonathan Rothwell, a lead researcher on the study. "It would make really a huge difference to economic development."

The report suggests the administration may potentially provider incentives for low-patenting states and cities.

Do we have enough patent and intellectual property awareness in America?

Surely, most Americans must know something about a patent. There are blockbuster patent lawsuits in the news, we are presented with advertising of services that can "patent our ideas" on television and radio, but how many Americans know/feel like they either:

  1. Know enough to file a patent of their own?
  2. Can afford filing a patent?
  3. Will benefit if filing a patent?

I did not learn about patents until about the age of 25, and I was insanely lucky to find co-founders who explained to me why it was important that our start-up business filed a patent. How many Americans learn this by 25, and how do Americans become more intellectual property aware even younger?

We can expect the administration to launch something like "CitizenIP.gov" or "CitizenPatent.gov" eventually as a companion to the incentives being suggested above, but will that be enough? I do not believe so, I am debating that we need to start educating children as early as possible on the nuances of intellectual property, innovation, and patents.

After all children are more divergent in thinking, more creative, dream more, and fear less intellectually than adults; they are perfectly designed to help regain America's patent status in the world, and according to the excerpt and the report above, can potentially design more productive lives for themselves if "patent schooled".

Below is a popular video where the great Sir Ken Robinson, discusses the paradigm shift needed in education, and the high levels of divergent thinking in children suited for creativity and intellect property generation.

So should we teach our kids about intellectual property rights, patents and innovation?

Well, turns out I have no expertise at this. While I have been a child and have some first hand experience, I have no children of my own. So I asked some of the leading thinkers, who have children of their own. Most are pro patent-schooling.

Ray Wang, Principal Analyst, Founder & Chairman at Constellation Research, Inc. is on the pro side of the debate.

"We have examples of brilliant young minds ignorant of IP rights, failing to build promising companies and futures for themselves, and our country" "the results of not knowing are disastrous to American citizens as we see a global increase in patent land grabs by large organizations, and the reemergence globally of patent trolls"

John Nosta, Forbes.com contributor, and founder of NostaLab sees it similarly, but with a contextual edit.

"I think we need to examine the context, and presentation for children, we may waste efforts and risk boring and alienating children if we attempt to teach 'intellectual property' and 'patents'" "however, if we can frame the knowledge and retrofit it for children, it is a brilliant way to extend creativity and bridge the growing gap between childhood/academics and adulthood/reality"

A few folks on the opposing side of the debate were not comfortable being quoted, but there are folks that believe that we should not inundate children with commercial constructs such as patents and intellectual property.

I say we should absolutely teach our children about patents and intellectual property, and when/if I have children, with their mother's permission of course, I squarely plan to delivering to my children corporate awesome sauce as early as I can.

-Richie