"Why do entrepreneurs and startup companies file for patents? Why not? How often do startups acquire patents from others? How important are patents in fostering innovation at startups? In helping them raise financing? In providing leverage in cross-licensing negotiations? Are entrepreneurs and startups subject to patent thickets? These and many related questions were the subject of the Berkeley Patent Survey—the most comprehensive survey to date in the United States, probably worldwide, on how patents are used by and affect entrepreneurs, startups, and early-stage high technology companies.
[…] First, startups hold many more patents and applications than previously believed. […]
Second, startups report that they primarily file for patents to prevent against copying of their innovative products and services. […]
Our third major finding concerns startup executives' perceptions of the effectiveness of patents and other methods of providing competitive advantage. Interestingly, responses vary widely (see Fig. 2 below). Biotechnology companies rate patents as the most effective means of capturing competitive advantage, more effective than first-mover advantage (though the differences are not statistically significant), trade secrecy, reverse engineering, copyright, and other means. Software companies, on the other hand, rank patenting dead last in providing competitive advantage. "
Here are part II and part III of the survey:
"Our fourth major result is that our respondents—particularly software companies—find the high costs of patenting and enforcing their patents deter them from filing for patents on their innovations. […]
Last, we asked how much of a role patents play in the steps of the innovation process, […]. Somewhat surprisingly, the responses on the whole are rather tepid. For instance, biotechnology companies report that patents provide closer to a "moderate" than a "strong" incentive to engage in the innovation process. Among software companies, the results are even more striking, with them reporting that patents provide less than a "slight" incentive."
"We acknowledge that our analysis to date of the study results do not allow us to say one way or the other whether the views of the executives accurately reflect the economics of the patent system. Thus, it would be wrong to conclude […] that one of the key findings of our study is that patents "play essentially no role in fostering innovation among startup companies … outside biotech and other limited areas." In the same fashion, it may also be wrong to conclude that […] the reality is that patents play a major role in promoting innovation. […] As such, we come to no conclusions in this article regarding the actual role patents play in fostering startup innovation (or not). […] The data, however, present an interesting paradox: If executives believe that patents provide relatively weak incentives to innovate, why are so many startup firms seeking them?"