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 3: Nonprofit Patents (Including Universities)

William Kingston and Kevin Scally

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


3. Nonprofit patents (including universities) The database of USPTO small entities does not contain a field which helps us to distinguish between Small Firms and Nonprofit organisations. The identification and separation of commercial firms from assignees whose central motivation is research for educational, charitable or humanitarian purposes can only be achieved by examination of the individual records. In the process, a distinction needs to be made about the precise conditions necessary for Nonprofit status. The US Office of Management and Budget provides a working definition1 of the term ‘Nonprofit’; it bestows this status on any organisation engaged in an activity ‘primarily in the public interest’. Of course, defining what is and what is not in the public interest is frequently complex. In this analysis, we have interpreted the definition broadly to mean that a ‘not for profit’ or ‘Nonprofit’ organisation is one where the primary beneficiary of the organisation’s activities is not a private shareholder; it is not organised primarily for profit. A profit-making firm is expected to act in the financial interests of its shareholders or investors; and its research and development activities, while crucial to its own innovation and whose spillovers contribute to general economic growth, are directed towards that end. It is a feature of Nonprofit organisations that any returns from inventions are, in general, recycled to further the research activities of the organisation. This distinction has become complicated by the fact...

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