US Inventors

The chart below provides a contrasting glimpse into the subject matter of US-originated patents compared with their foreign-originated counterparts.   For each art-unit grouping, I show the percent of patents having US inventors (residence).

37 thoughts on “US Inventors

    1. 8.1

      If solo inventors were to stop filing in the USPTO, that would be a better outcome for both the inventors and the USPTO.

      1. 8.1.1

        I would posit the exact opposite — such would be expressly what the Efficient Infringers (and those that view patents as the Sport of Kings) would want.

  1. 7

    In this thread is an interesting argument between Greg and Night about whether:

    “……..local patent law does profoundly affect the local inventors…..”

    Might we, in furtherance of the debate, cast a glance at the Employee Inventor Law introduced in Germany during the National Socialist era, by one Adolf H. , a law subsequently replicated in countries including Japan?

    The Fuehrer promulgated this Statute in an initiative to stimulate innovation and technical progress. It remains in force today. Under the Statute, if the Employer doesn’t file, the Employee can, and then assert against the employer.

    Why is it that the number of patent applications filed by corporations resident in Germany is, even today, a multiple of the number of patent applications filed by UK corporations? Might Adolf’s statute be a contributory factor?

    In other words, might the:

    “….head of the EU IP….”

    cited by Night Writer, be right, that the statutory environment does influence how many domestic patent applications are filed, in any given jurisdiction?

    1. 7.1

      Three responses:

      (1) Night Writer [might] be right, that the statutory environment does influence how many domestic patent applications are filed, in any given jurisdiction. Is that what you take NW to be saying in #5? I had read him to be talking about innovation (“[t]he US is no longer number one in some areas of innovation,” emphasis added), not patent applications. If so, there is no disagreement. I doubt that anyone would dispute that fine points of patent law affect whether patents get filed in a given jurisdiction. I am less convinced that they affect innovation in a jurisdiction.

      (2) Where are you finding the data about numbers of applications filed by DE & GB resident companies?

      (3) I would note that DE GDP is more than half again as large as GB GDP, so I am not sure how much of the difference in applications filed you will want to attribute to differences in patent law between the two jurisdictions, and how much to the fact that there is just more economic activity happening in Germany.

      1. 7.1.1

        So, Greg, here my instant answers to your three points:
        1. German employee-inventor law provides for compensation to be paid to employees who make inventions that benefit the business of their employer. Perhaps the most famous example of employee compensation is the “blue diode” case in Japan. I think German-style employee invention statutes raises consciousness of technical innovation throughout society and so stimulates not only patentable invention but also innovation by employees, also in Japan, also in universities.
        2. The annual figures of patent applications filed at the EPO by inventors in Germany and in the UK reveal that filing activity is proportionately higher in Germany.
        3. Haven’t done the math. Yes, it could be, that the difference in filing activity between DE and GB is proportionate to the difference in GDP. But with the population of the UK not so far behind that of Germany, one has to wonder why the Germans manage to file twice as many patent applications per year.


          Wow, year after year the DE filings are nearly 5x those of GB. This is much larger than the differences between DE & GB in either population or GDP. I agree that the likeliest explanation for the discrepancy comes down to local law.

          That said, this really tells us less than one might like about the difference between DE & GB in innovation. One can file a lot of applications without having a lot of innovation. Regrettably, it is really hard to measure “innovation” as an output, so it is difficult to know how “innovation” is affected by patent law.


            Let’s see Greg’s “data and studies” supporting HIS view…

            Oh wait, he only asks that of others…


            Well, Greg, those who provided the finance for the UK referendum to exit the EU are immensely innovative, just in areas that are not patentable.

            London, these past 40 years, has been setting itself up as facilitator (financial and legal) to the world’s most egregious tax-dodgers, including most of Mr Putin’s inner oligarch circle and most Middle East journalist-eliminating autocrats. That’s where nearly all of England’s creative energy is to be found.

            Apart from weapons manufacture, what other areas of innovation do you see within the UK?


              GlaxoSmithKline (Brentford) and AstraZeneca (Cambridge) are both headquartered in the U.K. Neither of those two is a slouch when it comes to pharma innovation.


            Hm, there appears to be an irregularity in the statistics here. The EPO says that DE filed 24798 applications in 2015, while GB filed 5052. In other words, DE filed nearly 5x as many as GB in the EPO.

            By contrast, the USPTO says that Germany filed 30016 applications in 2015, while GB filed 13296. In other words, in terms of U.S. patent applications, DE applicants filed only ~2.25x as many as GB.

            That would suggest that it is not that DE is so much more file-happy than GB, but rather DE is more file-happy in the EPO than is GB. GB companies are much more interested in US protection than EP protection, while DE companies are only slightly more interested in US protection than EP protection. I am not sure what this really tells us about the rate of innovation in either country.

      2. 7.1.2

        That’s some song and dance there from Greg – pivoting from “applications” to “innovation” (as if patent applications were not a known proxy for innovation).

        Greg – do you have any hard data or studies to support this contention of yours that patents are (somehow) not aligned with innovation?

        You don’t?

        I am shocked – shocked I tell you.

  2. 5

    It is great that the world is developing and inventing. The issue is what is happening to the US innovation engine. The objective data says that US innovation is falling behind. And somehow the destruction of the US patent system has nothing to do with it.

    US patent applications from US sources is falling. The US is no longer number one in some areas of innovation. There are all these paid people that rail against patents who are paid to do so.

    Just a mess that is unlikely to correct itself anytime soon. Probably going to have to be a crash of the size of 1929 before there is real change. Meanwhile the Lemley’s live the high life off the cash from burning the patent system down.

    1. 5.1

      And somehow the destruction of the US patent system has nothing to do with it.

      It’s worse than that.

      We are being fed that it is a GOOD thing that the once gold standard of the US patent system is being systematically weakened.

    2. 5.2

      The US is no longer number one in some areas of innovation. [And somehow the destruction of the US patent system has nothing to do with it.]

      Two points:

      (1) The time when the U.S. was a leader in every area of technology was largely the post-war legacy of the rest of the world’s labs and factories being bombed out and their top scientists having been killed or driven to exile in the U.S. It was inevitable that the passing of time was going to erode that state of affairs. Reversion to mean is something like a law of nature, and will not be resisted by mere patent law.

      2) Really, it makes no sense to attribute these sorts of developments to changes in U.S. patent law. CN inventors get US patents like like US inventors do. US inventors get CN patents just like CN inventors do. Why would you expect US patent law uniquely to affect US inventors?

      1. 5.2.2

        >>Why would you expect US patent law uniquely to affect US inventors?

        This is an argument Greg that I have many of the top intellectuals in patent law refute. The fact is that the local patent law does profoundly affect the local inventors and every study says so.


          If every study says so, perhaps you can cite one? Correlation is not causation, mind.


            But never mind FULL industries starting up and taking off in locals that afford patent protection as opposed to those that do not…


            I don’t feel like looking up the studies and lectures. I know the head of the EU IP gave a lecture on this issue that I personally attended.

            I know CJ Rader gave talks about this issue that I personally attended.

            And so forth.


              I don’t feel like looking up the studies and lectures.

              Fair enough. I will tell you that I have tried to find studies that bear this out, and cannot. Just because you heard someone say something that you find appealing is not actually a good reason to believe it—especially when a moment’s reflection should tell you that it makes no theoretical sense.


                especially when a moment’s reflection should tell you that it makes no theoretical sense.


                Where is the evidence and studies supporting “Greg’s view?

                Oh wait — he is a Liberal Left, so such are merely “Rules for Thee”

  3. 4

    Thanks, Dennis. A great initiative.

    Do the results surprise anybody? Otherwise put, readers, if you were to draw your own curve, relying solely on your gut feeling, how much different would it be from the one we all see above?

    1. 4.1

      Nothing about the list surprised me. I would have guessed that the U.S. presence in each of those art fields was something in the neighborhood that Prof. C’s analysis confirmed.

      I agree that it is good to see these figures. It is useful to calibrate one’s intuitions against actual data from time to time.

    2. 4.2

      The results are limited just to utility patents and so I was a bit surprised about AU 1660 – plants. I did not realize that group does both plant patents and utility patents related to plants.

      Most of the utility patents appear to be transgenic plants, so I guess I’m not surprised that most of that work is coming from the US (where many farmers are happy to grow and many shoppers are happy to buy GM food).

      Typical claims:

      11,242,534 – A transgenic soybean plant cell comprising a transgenic locus comprising the sequence of SEQ ID NO: 14.
      11,214,811 – A transgenic maize plant cell comprising a transgenic locus comprising the sequence of SEQ ID NO: 20.
      11,198,885 – A DNA molecule comprising the polynucleotide sequence of SEQ ID NO:3.
      11,168,336 – A Tobamovirus resistant Solanum lycopersicum plant, wherein the plant comprises a Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (TBRFV) resistance gene encoding a TBRFV resistance protein comprising polypeptide sequence SEQ ID NO: 116.

  4. 3

    Night Writer may well be pleased with the focus of this article, but I would be pleased with a further step of analysis adding the factor of “Big Corp” (especially Transnational Corporations).

  5. 2

    Does the percentage include any US patent with at least one inventor who is a US resident?

    It would also be interesting to see how this data compares to US parent applications, as opposed to ones that claim foreign priority.

    1. 2.1

      Hi Paul – What I did for this was calculate a Percent_US_Inventor value for each patent. In cases with cross-border inventorship, the percentage will be somewhere between 0% and 100% (US_Inventor_Count divided by Total_Inventor_Count).

      00% – No US Inventors & 1 Foreign Inventor
      33% – 1 US Inventor & 2 Foreign Inventors
      50% – 1 US Inventor & 1 Foreign Inventor
      100% – 5 US Inventor

  6. 1

    Another graph that might be interesting is the country of origin for non-US inventors. Are they all coming from one country (e.g., China) or is there a wide worldwide distribution of inventors.

    1. 1.1

      The USPTO releases data in its annual PAR that describes which countries receive US patents – China is 2nd behind Japan for foreign recipients.

      Their methodology differs slightly from Dennis’s (only attributing to a single country, rather than fractional attribution), but as Dennis notes most patents will neatly fit into a single country.

      Also worth noting (and maybe adding to the graphic?) the overall average of US vs foreign issue – PTO numbers put that around 52-53%, but might vary slightly from Dennis’s methodology. Either way, it’d be interesting to have the above the line/below the line division visually represented.

    2. 1.2

      I was not surprised to see that US inventors are under 50% in most of the materials science categories, because when I used to practice in that area the work was all JP, KR, & TW inventors. I am sure that CN is coming up in those fields, but I doubt that they would cover the whole ground.

      1. 1.2.1

        …whereas in medical/surgical instruments, 3770, the investment by US inventors is not far short of that for business methods. Impressive, but not really surprising, is it?


          Says the guy who runs from any discussion of US prosecution (but is perfectly willing to throw
          at the wall to see what sticks.

          Here’s something for you MaxDrei – 3620/3680/3690 – Contrast Useful Arts and Technical Arts.

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