Qualcomm Gives $2 Million for Patent Research

Wireless technologies company Qualcomm Incorporated gave the Searle Center on Law, Regulation, and Economic Growth $2 million to establish the Project on Innovation Economics, research that will investigate the role of patents in incentivizing technological innovation.

"Technology is evolving in an increasingly complex legal environment," said Matthew L. Spitzer, the Howard and Elizabeth Chapman Professor at Northwestern Law and director of the Searle Center. "Critics claim that patents may, in some cases, limit technological advancement. There is a lot of discussion about 'patent thickets,' 'hold-up,' and 'royalty stacking,' and how these constructs could hinder innovation, but there is surprisingly little actual data out there. Our project will create the needed data sets and allow the critics' claims to be tested."

The grant will make it possible for the Searle Center to create a series of related databases to collate information regarding technology standards, standards organizations, and markets for patents. Professor Daniel F. Spulber, research director at the Searle Center and the Elinor Hobbs Distinguished Professor of International Business and Professor of Management Strategy at the Kellogg School of Management, played a crucial role in demonstrating the need for this project to Qualcomm. Spulber will serve as the academic director for this project.

"Scholars will be able to use these databases to understand how inventive activity occurs, how it is commercialized, and what might be done to facilitate future innovation," Spulber said in describing the project.

The grant also funds a series of conferences and roundtables to examine and improve research in the field. Additionally, Spulber will edit an annual special issue of the Journal of Economics & Management Strategy to disseminate the results of new research in this area. As a whole, these elements will generate new insights and pave the way for an understanding of the important roles that patents and other types of intellectual property play in innovation.

Established in 2006, the Searle Center conducts research into how government regulation, and the interpretation of laws and regulations by the courts, affect business and economic growth. It has a dual mission—to study these issues and to communicate the results of the research to academic and policy thought leaders.

August, 2013