The findings shed light on the importance businesses place on various types of IP protection for their companies. Specifically, during 2008, they reported whether utility patents, design patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and mask works—copyright protection for semiconductor products—were "very important," "somewhat important," or "not important."
IP protections are granted to the owners of a variety of intangible assets, such as discoveries and inventions; musical, literary and artistic works; and symbols, names, images and designs used in commerce.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Census Bureau co-sponsored this data collection as part of a revamped and expanded Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS). The BRDIS collects information from a nationally representative sample of about 40,000 companies, including companies in both manufacturing and nonmanufacturing industries.
Overall, 15% of all businesses reported trademarks as either very important or somewhat important to their business in 2008; that is 6% said trademarks were very important, while 9% said they were somewhat important.
Fourteen percent of surveyed businesses reported trade secrets as very important or somewhat important at 6% and 8% respectively.
But, because each form of intellectual property protection is specialized, the percentages are not additive across types. A trade secret, for example, provides economic benefit by keeping information from being publicly known, whereas a trademark protects economic value through name or brand recognition. Therefore, a single firm could identify both of these forms as important to its business.
"Much of today's business derives its competitive advantage from the ability to protect and exploit exclusive rights over investments in intellectual property," said John Jankowski, lead author of the report in NSF's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. "Hence, IP protection is a persistent and recurrent concern of businesses."
Meanwhile, 12% of U.S.-located businesses identified copyrights as important, and businesses indicated that design patents and utility patents are important forms of IP protection, at 5% and 4% respectively.
In another finding, mask works, which provide extremely focused copyright protection for semiconductor products, were reported as very or somewhat important by 2% of all businesses.