Breakthrough Technologies – Robotics, Innovation and Intellectual Property
“Robotics technology and the increasing sophistication of artificial intelligence are breakthrough innovations with significant growth prospects and the potential to disrupt existing economic and social facets of everyday life. Few studies have analyzed the developments of robotics innovation. This paper closes this gap by analyzing how innovation in robotics is taking place, how it diffuses, and what role intellectual property (IP) plays. The paper finds that robotics clusters are mainly located in the US, Europe, but increasingly also in the Republic of Korea and China. The robotics innovation ecosystem builds on cooperative networks of actors, including individuals, research institutions, and firms. Governments play a significant role in supporting robotics innovation, in particular through funding, military demand, and national robotics strategies. Robotics competitions and prizes provide for an important incentive to innovation.
Patents are used to exclude third parties, to secure freedom to operate, to license technologies and to avoid litigation. The countries with the highest number of filings are Japan, China, Republic of Korea and the US. The growing stock of patents owned by universities and PROs, in particular in China, is noteworthy too. Automotive and electronics companies are still the largest patent filers, but new actors in fields such as medical technologies and the Internet are emerging.
Secrecy is often used as a tool to appropriate innovation. Copyright protection is relevant to robotics too, mainly in its role in protecting software, and more recently in protecting so-called Netlists. Finally, proprietary approaches co-exist with open-source robotics platforms which are developing rapidly in robotics clusters.”
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