Thursday, January 17, 2013

Canada's Innovation Is Patent-ly Declining

Starting in 1902, Albert Einstein spent seven years as a Swiss patent clerk, not only did it pay well but his "cobbler's trade" as he referred to it, gave him ample time to do his scientific work.

With less and less patents being applied for in Canada, Einstein gives hope, albeit slim to Canada's dismal state of innovation. Because as our patent clerks aren't preoccupied with reviewing new technologies that could salvage our weakening economic growth, perhaps at least one of them is just days away from proving unified field theory.

Though innovation is hard to measure or quantify, patents by their very nature offer at least an indication of a country's progress in inventing new technologies that improve lives, and thicken wallets. The World Intellectual Property Organization recently reported that while total patent applications worldwide have increased, the number in Canada has only decreased, for its third year in a row.

Most countries' patent filings were weakened in 2008 due to the global economic recession, but the number of Canada's patent applications keep on falling. Four years ago our northern nation received 42,089 applications, in 2011 that number was 35,111, an almost 17% drop.

Adding to the bleak outlook for Canada, and most likely not a coincidence, is that our current government has been cutting its share of spending on research and development. In 2006 total money spent on  R&D was 2% of GDP, now it's just over 1.6%. The near future of Canadian innovation is only made more dark as the nation's largest patent filer is troubled smartphone maker Blackberry.

In the end, it doesn't take an Einstein to know that falling patent applications in Canada is not just a reflection of its poor state of innovation, but with shrinking GDP growth forecasted, a sign of possible future economic decline.

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