Patents and the Measurement of International Competitiveness

Patents and the Measurement of International Competitiveness

New Data on the Use of Patents by Universities, Small Firms and Individual Inventors

William Kingston and Kevin Scally

This highly original book represents a major advance in the use of patents to compare countries’ technological competitiveness. It tabulates and analyses 280,000 United States patents from countries across the world over a ten year period. Specifically, these patents were granted to ‘not-for-profit’ entities (mainly universities and research institutes), firms with no more than 500 employees, or to individual inventors. For each of these groups, the book provides statistics and discussion on how long patents are kept in force, the extent to which they are cited, and how far inventions made in different countries are in fact owned in the United States.

Chapter 1: Introduction

William Kingston and Kevin Scally

Subjects: economics and finance, economics of innovation, intellectual property, innovation and technology, economics of innovation, intellectual property

Extract

In searching for means of comparing one country’s technological performance with another’s, it is only to be expected that scholars would want to use patent counts. Patents exist in every country of any size, are well tabulated, are easily accessible and go back to the beginning of the industrial revolution. Indeed, there have been many studies which purport to use them in this way, as well as many others which are little more than vehicles for demonstrating econometric skills, making use of the large numbers which libraries of patents can provide. However, when such collections of data are examined carefully, they are found to be less valuable than appears at first, and their use has drawbacks which have not always been properly recognised by researchers.1 There are several reasons for this. First patents only protect a small part of technology. Moreover, in many areas of it, they have now become little more than a reinforcement of large firms’ primary means of protecting their inventions, which is the combination of manufacturing capability and speed to the market with anything new. This has been confirmed by several large-scale empirical studies of the actual mechanisms used by firms to protect the output of their investments in research and development.2 Even where patents are used, some technologies use them more than others. For example, out of a total of more than 2.3 million Utility patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office to the end of 2001, 44 per cent...