Patents and the Measurement of International Competitiveness
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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.
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Chapter 5: Individual Patents

William Kingston and Kevin Scally

Extract

5. Individual patents The stereotypical image in literature and cinema represents the individual inventor as an eccentric male, strong willed, obsessed and passionate. He is usually little concerned with the mundane details of daily existence like dress or sustenance, but is driven by the need to change the world, or to achieve immortality through some quirky application of imperfectly grasped science. If we base our presumptions on the stereotype, we might expect from our Individual inventors many whimsical and incongruous machines, perhaps only a little less bizarre than those depicted by Rube Goldberg or William Heath Robinson. Perhaps unfairly influenced by the image of the stereotypical inventor, Individual patents are often perceived as the poor relations of the invention and innovation system. Living examples of the stereotype may exist, but the majority of Individual inventor patents in the USPTO database appear to be pragmatic, business-oriented ones. Of course, this also reflects the filtering process, discussed in Chapter 1, for all countries other than the US. A random sample from the database of 30 non-US Individual patents, taken from across the full ten years (Table 5.1), suggests a wide variety of patent subject matter and a high level of technological sophistication. At the same time the data on comparative rates of decay in this study do suggest that, even after filtering, expenditure on patents by the Individual inventors may be affected by personal vanity or ego, to a greater extent than the other Small Entity categories. Because of the...

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