Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Reader Comments on "Using Patent Citation Analysis to Target/value M&A Candidates" (Sept.-Oct. 2002, Pp. 28-36)

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Reader Comments on "Using Patent Citation Analysis to Target/value M&A Candidates" (Sept.-Oct. 2002, Pp. 28-36)

Article excerpt

Trade Secrets In Lieu of Patents

I enjoyed reading Breitzman and Thomas's paper on patent citation analysis, and I was especially interested to see where GM would fit in Figure 7 as a result of their analysis. But the paper raised a question: how do you account for the fact that companies might use trade secrets in lieu of patents?

This question occurred to me because prior to my retirement from GM I was in charge of the R&D organization and one of my responsibilities was to determine (with the help of very capable patent attorneys and R&D managers) which records of invention (ROI) we patented, which we called trade secret, and which we defended with a publication.

I would use the patent for ideas that could be easily reverse-engineered (a component that would become a physical part of the car or truck), but I chose the trade secret for many ROIs that would be difficult for anyone to be able to discern--technology such as manufacturing processes and software algorithms that might be used in engine or chassis control systems. A great deal of what GM research did for the past several years in the area of advanced manufacturing, for example, wouldn't show up in patents. I suspect other companies use the same approach.

Another strategy that I used was to encourage the staff to "blanket" an area with patents if GM considered that area important to the business, but discourage patents in areas of less importance to GM (unless they had unusually good royalty potential). …

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