Grand Rapids makes a wide assortment of national “top” lists, most especially for entrepreneurial effort and a creative or design-centric community. While Business Journal reporting, however, shows the number of “doing business as,” or DBA filings, have been consistent since 2012, patent filings have increased — despite the cost and time to do so. Consider, too, that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office shows 10,481 patents were filed in Michigan in 2016, the number of those eventually granted was 5,967. The number of patents granted in the Grand Rapids Metropolitan Statistical Area jumped from 189 in 2011 to 217 in 2015, and from 189 to 217 in the Holland-Grand Haven MSA.
Aaron Wong, a patent attorney at Grand Rapids-based intellectual property law firm Price Heneveld, told the Business Journal the patent activity isn’t coming from an increasing number of businesses but an increasing number of patent filings from existing companies. Wong said West Michigan is “rich” with forward-thinking executives, which might be why the region’s business climate continues to flourish.
While Wong sees West Michigan entrepreneurs as a special breed, he also commented on their diversity. “I have a lot of clients coming to me inventing in areas outside of their traditional discipline. For example, doctors coming to me with nonmedical inventions. The entrepreneurial spirit is certainly here in West Michigan. We have a lot of innovators tinkering and figuring things out and not afraid to pursue ideas that are different, new and not in their wheelhouse, per se, but can be a very practical solution to an everyday problem.”
Grand Rapids Business Journal has seen a significant increase in such efforts, most recently an entrepreneur who created a product to assist working moms continue breastfeeding. Julie Burrell was cited as the 2017 winner of the InnovateHER Challenge, a program of Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women. Comfort Research believes it has a game changer in material technology for the consumer products industry, including affordable furniture. The KNITit startup entrepreneur is using a technology invention that dates to 1589 and applied it to 3-D sustainable applications for advanced technology. There are dozens of such examples week after week in the Business Journal.
The recorded number of patents pursued and granted, and observations from experts and observers supports general perceptions of the metro area — and offers encouragement to those who would “build a better mousetrap.”