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Patently Obvious

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Prior economic research suggests that inventors filing patents would want to keep their know-how a secret as long as possible. But a recent study examining nearly two million U.S. patents upends this common wisdom. Researchers found that since early publication became an option in 2000, U.S. inventors have chosen by more than five-to-one to disclose their inventions’ technical details prior to patent approval. And those patents kept secret disproportionately cover the lowest value inventions.

“Do small U.S. inventors really value secrecy for their most impactful discoveries? Our findings are that overwhelmingly, and in every category we can test, they do not,” said Stuart Graham, study co-author and an associate professor of strategic management in Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business.

The study, co-authored with Deepak Hegde of New York University, was published in the journal Science. The research was sponsored in part by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. — BRETT ISRAEL

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