We are all accustomed to American (and Western) innovation in just about everything. From Benjamin Franklin and electricity to Al Gore and the Internet, from the I-beam to the iPod, Americans have been messing around and creating things throughout the history of the nation. We take it for granted that people are fiddling around in their garages inventing oscilloscopes or wonder drugs or extreme sports. But what would it be like to live in a land where people invented nothing, where technology came to you as though from Mars? More than this: what if that constant progress and tinkering represented a threat to the sufficiency of the founding documents of your culture and religion? Judging by the numbers, that is apparently the current state of thought in some major Islamic countries. Take Saudi Arabia, which recently went six years without granting a patent.
The Saudi Patent Regulations of 1989 established a patent registration system, covering any new article, methods of manufacture (including improvements in either of them) and product patents. In 1996, the Saudi Patent Office granted its first patents since its establishment in 1990.
A new patent law has been drafted recently. The new law, if approved, would extend patent protection period to twenty years and widen the definition of an “invention” as protected by the law. Unlike the current patent law, the draft law provides for a substantive examination of the patent application before granting the patent.
The new draft law provides for “substantive examination” of a patent application, eh? My, my, that would be progress if they get there. Contrast that with the (overly cumbersone) US rules for “substantive examination” of patents, whose rulebook currently runs to 27 Chapters! Or take our current bugbear, Iran:
Iran in 2001, had only one patent, whereas U.S. in 1997 had 111805 patents…
Or finally Indonesia, which totalled 30 patents over the last five years. These are Arabs, Persians, and South Asians, different peoples with vastly different histories, but one thing in common among them today: a culture of and belief in submission. The Islamic world, as of this writing, would appear to have fewer patents in their entire recorded history than did the citizens of Utah last year. Here are some additional data from Science Magazine which are consistent with our analysis, and include China, India, and Japan, among others.
It appears from the numbers that Communist and Islamic political and economic cultures have possibly been at least partially responsible for stifling the inventiveness of almost a third of humanity. We note as well the remarkable progress of China since it decided to adopt a capitalist economy. China has only had a patent law for 20 years, and is now near the top of the list.
None of this should be surprising. Reuel Marc Gerecht: As Bernard Lewis “regularly points out, the word curiosity doesn’t really have good equivalents in Islamic languages.” Churchill’s observations were similar, and the unemployment rates in these countries show a certain passivity when it comes to commerce.