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A recent study performed by the School of Economics and Management at the Technical University of Lisbon concluded that, contrary to perceived conventional wisdom, only 10 percent of innovative products in the marketplace are patented. The study was based on an analysis of 2,802 inventions from 1977 to 2004 that won Research & Development magazine’s R&D 100 Award, which annually recognizes the top 100 technologically significant products of the year. The results were particularly surprising in light of the fact that, to win the award, the products must have been available for sale and licensing and therefore represent full-developed R&D efforts. Typically, these types of products would be the most ripe for the patent process. Yet, for some reason – whether patent protection was simply unavailable or innovators are opting out of the patent process – the vast majority of innovation is taking place without resort to patent protection.

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