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Q: Technology and Innovation in the past century. ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Technology and Innovation in the past century.
Category: Relationships and Society > Politics
Asked by: jjg265-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 01 Dec 2005 01:22 PST
Expires: 31 Dec 2005 01:22 PST
Question ID: 599909
I would like to know which sectors contribute the most in terms of
patents and general technological innovation in the past century or
so. By sectors I mean whether these organizations are publically
funded (government/military and research/universities) or in private
business? Thanks a million.
Subject: Re: Technology and Innovation in the past century.
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 01 Dec 2005 08:21 PST

Corporations win by a mile!

However, it takes a bit of reading between the lines of the available
historical statistics on patents in order to clearly demonstrate this.

First, let's have a look at the historical numbers that the US Patent
Office makes available:
Reports Available for Viewing -- Historical and Extended-Year Set Statistics

Of the numerous reports here, there are two in particular that give
the big picture of patent trends, and where the patents come from. 
The first is the historical record going back to the 1700's:
U.S. Patent Activity -- Calendar Years 1790 to the Present

The numers show the tremendous growth in patent activity since the early days.  

In the 1700's, there were only a few dozen patents for inventions
issued per year.  It wasn't until the 1850's that invention (utility)
patents broke the 1,000 per year mark.  In 2004, by comparison, there
were over 164,000 patents for new inventions!

The long-term trends don't break out the patents by sectors...this
data is only available since 1963.  However, the data do show us that
almost half (about 43%) of all patents granted in the US in the past
100 years, have been granted since 1963, so that this information
certainly is representative of the overall trends for the past

The sector-specific data can be found here:
PART A1- Table A1-1b, Breakout by Ownership Category 

The grand total numbers are presented over in the right-hand-most
column.   The numbers show us that a combination of US and Foreign
corporate patents account for the bulk of patents issued:

In the period covered by the table (1963-2003), there were 3,583,813
patents issued -- 1,675,007 to US corporations, and 1,190,355 to
foreign corporations.

Thus, corporations were granted 2.86 million patents out of a total of
3.58 million, or almost 80% of all patents.

In contrast, the US government was granted a mere 51,995 patents,
which amounts to about 1.5% of the total patents.  Individuals have a
larger chunk, but still, a small piece of the pie compared to

But where, you may ask, are the universities?

Statistics for university patents are presented for a slightly
different time period, here:

The bottom line in this table is, that for the 1969-2003 period, only
9,435 patents are listed as "U.S.- Owned Utility Patents Granted to
Universities" -- a pittance relative to the millions of patents
granted to US and foreign corporations in roughly the same period.

So, the corporate sector is far and away the big hitters as far as new
inventions go, followed by private individuals as a distant second,
with government and universities barely in the running.

I trust this information fully answers your question.

However, please don't rate this answer until you have everything you
need.  If there's anything more I can do for you, just post a Request
for Clarification, and I'm happy to assist you further.


search strategy -- Used the bookmarked USPTO site to look for historical statistics.

Request for Answer Clarification by jjg265-ga on 01 Dec 2005 13:31 PST
Can we say that as a general principle, the more money allotted to a
corporation or university, the more patents, the more innovation, etc.

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 01 Dec 2005 16:40 PST

That's an interesting question.  It certainly would seem to make sense
that pumping money into an organization can be a spur towards
innovation.  The converse would also seem to make sense:  innovative
organizations with a good track record of invention attract more funds
than others, and help spur even more innovation.

However, there's nothing in the Patent Office data that directly
addresses the influence of money on the pace of invention.  If that's
a topic you wish to pursue further, you might want to consider posting
a follow-up question.

Hope that helps.  Let me know if there's anything else I can do for you.

There are no comments at this time.

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