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Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright

Patent Statistics

Patent Statistics Basics

When researching industries, companies, and technology, have you ever stopped to consider what insight patent activity might provide? 

Patent activity is an indicator of technological activity, both foreign and domestic, and therefore provides a unique perspective, particularly for the economic activities of competitors and industries. By looking at the "who, what, where, and when" of patent activity, one can derive interesting information about technology and industry. Patent documents contain technical information not published elsewhere and, as a result, can be a powerful tool for many uses other than the obvious ones.

What if you are curious about technological development in the state of Texas? What if you want to know about the current trends in biotechnology?

Since browsing through patent documents one by one is not efficient when researching general trends within industries and geographic areas, this page will guide you through the United States Patent and Trademark Office's website in order to locate pre-existing patent statistic reports.

Patent statistics are aggregate data made available by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In 1971, the United States Patent and Trademark Office recognized the need to provide access to its ever-expanding patent file, which then contained millions of patents. Because patent activity can be an indicator of technological activity, the USPTO viewed patent data as a valuable and unique resource. 

The Patent Technology Monitoring Division (PTMD) creates reports to present patent activity using many different variables, such as geographic region and type of technology.


Researching a company's technological research and development activity 

By looking at patent statistics grouped by organization, you can view the amount of patent activity that has occurred within a specific time frame for a particular company. Within the PTMD reports, data is usually presented for the last five years. When creating your own report, you can specify the time frame. 

Researching a city, state, or country in terms of its technological activity 

By selecting a PTMD report, you can view patent activity by state. In addition, reports include data grouped by country, allowing you to compare many geographic locations based on their patent activity. When creating your own report, you can also search by city which may be particularly useful for job seeking purposes. 

Researching a specific type of technology

By looking at patent data grouped by technology, you can see who is participating in what kinds of technological activity. Since patents are grouped by technology class and subclass, you should be familiar with the class system used by the USPTO. 

Researching an industry

By looking at patent activity by industry, you may look at pre-existing reports called "Patent Profiles" created by the USPTO. These reports exist for specific industries of interest for the government such as genetic engineering and nuclear energy. When creating your own report, researching by industry becomes more difficult. 

Patent reports or PTMD reports are divided into several different categories. Some particularly useful categories are geographic origin, patent technology, and patenting organization. 

Some facts about the PTMD reports: 

  • Depending on the report, you will find that the range of dates vary. Some reports begin in 1977 while others begin in 1999. Most reports provide data up to two years prior to the current year.
  • If you have researched companies or industries in other databases, you may have noticed that you can often search by Standard Classification Code (SIC) or North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). When researching patent data, however, you cannot use these codes. In addition, you cannot search by zip code, geographic region or multiple regions. 
  • Custom reports prepared by the PTMD are available for a fee.
  • "Patent Profile" reports exist for specific industries of interest for the government, such as genetic engineering and nuclear energy.

To find PTMD patent statistic reports go to the PTMT homepage 

Types of Reports 

Reports are broken down by such categories as: 

  • geography - the patent's assignee was located in a particular state when the application was filed 
  • organization - the patent application was filed by a company rather than an inventor
  • technology - the patent is grouped by technology class 
  • inventor - the patent was filed by an independent inventor 

In addition, there are reports looking at patenting trends that are considered important by the government.

Some of the most interesting reports are the "drill-down" reports which combine these categories. Choose one of the categories and scroll down the page to find some of these "drill-down" reports.

Drill-Down Reports 

Drill-down reports combine categories such as patenting organization and geographic region, allowing you to see, for example, how many patents were issued for IBM in the state of Vermont.

While these reports can provide unique information, it may not be exactly what you are looking for. To find specific information that cannot be found in the PTMD reports, contact the Engineering Library staff for additional help with patent searching.

Further Readings:

  • OECD Patent Statistics Manual - "This 2009 edition of the OECD Patent Statistics Manual takes stock of the recent developments in the field. It provides guiding principles for the use of patent data in the context of S&T measurement, and recommendations for the compilation and interpretation of patent indicators in this context. It aims to show what patent statistics can and cannot be used for, and how to count patents in order to maximise information on S&T activities while minimising statistical noise and biases. Finally, it describes how patent data can be used in the analysis of a wide array of topics related to technical change and patenting activity including industry-science linkages, patenting strategies by companies, internationalisation of research, and indicators on the value of patents."

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