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A benchmark metric, patents per lawyer, suffers from degradation in China

A patent is a patent is a patent. We wish, Gertrude.

It is comforting to assume that the building blocks of benchmarks, among others lawyers, paralegals, lawsuits, patents, have fairly consistent meanings among general counsel and around the world. For the most part, the operational definitions of these key quantities hold up well although they and other key terms have their soft spots (See my post of Sept. 22, 2009: difficulties with definition of “lawyer”; Feb. 10, 20010: variable definition of “paralegal”; March 26, 2008: “matter”; and May 16, 2006: “in-house chargeable hours”.). The coins are not shaved.

Turns out, we can’t trust some patent figures. The Economist, Nov. 13, 2010, at 96, notes that between 2003 and 2009 Chinese patent filings grew by 26% — far faster than in any other country. The article then bursts anyone’s bubble about the quantity and quality of Chinese patents. “Bureaucrats in Chinese patent offices are paid more if they approve more. As a result there is a mountain of Chinese patents of dubious quality.” That inflation of output cheapens quality and throws off benchmarks based on patents if Chinese companies’ figures are included.

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