So Microsoft and SAP claim SMEs need software patents? Not only are SME organisations opposed to software patents. Past economic evidence also has shown how wrong this is, see for instance the IFIS Survey. The results of a project of the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA), published in November, add further empirical evidence.
In their paper "Can´t block, must run: Small firms and appropriality", Byma and Leiponen from Cornell University examine how several hundred small Finnish companies reap benefits of their innovations (software companies are included in "R&D or technology intensive services"). Their findings come as no surprise:
This study demonstrates that few of the smallest firms benefit from patenting, even if they are R&D intensive, innovative, cooperate in R&D, or operate in discrete or high technology industries.
Only firm size explains the preference to use patents to protect innovations in our sample of small firms. Instead, the strategic choices for most small firms are between speed to market and secrecy.
And they conclude that…
… the emphasis on patents in the debates concerning the institutional environment for innovation may be misplaced.