TIME Invention Poll – shedding light on innovation from a global perspective

Recently TIME magazine and Qualcomm published the results of a wide-reaching survey about invention and inventors. Over ten thousand people in 17 different markets were polled about a range of issues related to Imagination, innovation, and intellectual property. As an intellectual property officer, I see the TIME/Qualcomm poll is a fascinating deep-dive attempt to explore these and other issues.

The poll highlights a rich global awareness of patents, and a fundamental belief in the value of active patent systems. But respondents were equally dissatisfied with their local patent governance:

People in 14 of the 17 countries scored close to or well above 90% when asked if they were familiar with the idea of patents; only India (72%) the UAE (67%) and Kenya (42%) scored lower. There was similar accord (90% overall) that a robust patenting system is important in fostering inventiveness.

When respondents were asked which of the 17 countries in the poll did the best job of protecting intellectual rights, the U.S. won in a landslide, at 40%, with the next best finisher, Germany, clocking in at just 10%. Respondents in none of the surveyed countries—not even in the U.S.—were satisfied with their own government’s patent system, with 76% wanting even tighter protections.

The poll also sheds an enlightening perspective on the impact of the cell phone (71% believe it’s the most significant invention in history!) and identifies electronics overall as the hottest sector of innovation today:

Seventy-one percent of people polled said the cell phone was the most important invention in human history—­something the unknown inventor of the wheel and first master of fire might dispute—and they believed that’s more or less the wave of the future too.

In both developed and emerging countries, electronics and computer hardware were seen as the likeliest sectors for big innovation (at 23% and 22%, respectively), with health care and pharmaceuticals coming next (21% and 13%). The energy sector, which gets little love in most polls, finished at a respectable 15% in developed economies and 11% in emerging ones—with respondents perhaps learning from the big play China is making in the clean-­energy market. Most other sectors—­including aerospace, transportation and, alas, education—­finished in single digits.

The full report is a must-read, and a closer study for anyone involved in patent licensing. For a full view of the poll results, via infographic, click here; http://techland.time.com/2013/11/14/the-time-invention-poll/.