A recent article posted on Inc.com highlights an interesting and revealing statistic. Currently, more than half of all patents filed with the United States were from individuals who are foreign born. The U.S. Patent Office just released information showing that approximately 51% of the 303,000 patents filed in 2013 were with non-citizens. So, what does this mean?
In the first place, it's not a bad idea to take a step back and think about what this says about current immigration law and visa programs. The U.S. allocates only a certain amount of H-1B visas each year. These visas are set aside for immigrants who are considered to be highly skilled. However, there is a problem. There is a cap on the number of H-1B visas that can be given out each year: 85,000. Although that number sounds like a lot, the window to file your H-1B petition closes very quickly. In recent years, the window has closed in just 5 business days. It seems as though we are losing many well-trained, highly-educated immigrants to other countries.
This makes a huge impact on our economy. In many cases, immigrants come to the U.S. for school or other educational training with a student visa, but then cannot find an employer to sponsor them after their schooling ends. So, although the immigrant wants to stay in the U.S., he is forced to leave. Because of this, the U.S. is losing out on great ideas and great economic opportunities.
Over the last decade, the ratio of citizen vs. non-citizen patent filings has stayed pretty consistent. However, it has not always been this way. In 1963, only 18% of “patents originated from foreign sources.” In addition, patents typically have a direct relation with startup companies. This is true because, in many cases, a startup will commercialize the patented idea or product.
When you take a closer look at recent startups, you will inevitably discover that “more than half of startups in Silicon Valley were founded by foreign-born entrepreneurs.” In addition, it seems that immigrant entrepreneurs are now starting businesses at approximately twice the rate of native-born business owners.
There are a variety of reasons why immigrants look to the U.S. for patents. To begin with, the country has a large consumer population. In addition, it has an average $17 trillion gross domestic product - making it the biggest market in the world. Courts in the U.S. also tend to offer more patent protection than other countries do. "Having a patent in the U.S has a lot of benefit potentially," says George Beck, a partner specializing in intellectual property at Foley & Lardner in Washington, D.C. "The U.S has an established court system, and the enforcement mechanisms are strong."
Unfortunately, the process one must go through in order to get a patent in the U.S. can be both time consuming and expensive. In total, the cost is generally between $20,000 and $25,000. However, most entrepreneurs agree that having a U.S. patent is often times necessary for a company to grow.