Indicators of international co-operation in patents
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Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry
Economic Analysis & Statistics Division
sti.microdatalab@oecd.org

Last update: October 2017

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The OECD’s Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry has developed patent data and indicators that are suitable for statistical analysis and that can help addressing S&T policy issues.

To date, the OECD Patent Database fully covers:

  • Patent applications to the European Patent Office (EPO) (from 1978 onwards);
  • Patent applications to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) (from 1976 onwards - before 2001, only patents granted are covered);
  • Patents filed under the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT), at international phase, that designate the EPO (from 1978 onwards);
  • Patents that belong to Triadic Patent Families (OECD definition): i.e. sub-set of patents all filed together at the EPO, at the Japanese Patent Office (JPO) and at the USPTO, protecting the same set of inventions.

EPO and PCT patent counts are based on data received from the EPO (EPO Bibliographic database, patent published until June 2017). Series on Triadic patent families are mainly derived from EPO’s Worldwide Statistical Patent Database (PATSTAT, Spring 2017).

Indicators based on patent families improve the international comparability and the quality of patent’s indicators (overcoming the drawbacks of traditional patent-based indicators, such as the "home advantage").

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3 sets of indicators are provided in OECD.Stat:

Patent counts by technology (including total patents, estimated total patents for latest years):

  • EPO, USPTO, PCT and Triadic Patent Families are presented according to classes of the International Patent Classification (IPC class up to 4 characters) and for selected technology domains such as ICT, nanotechnology, biotechnology as well as environment-related technologies.

Patent counts by regions (EPO & PCT):

  • EPO and PCT filings are presented according to the region of the inventors/applicants’ residence (Territorial Level 3), including total patents and selected technology domains (ICT, Biotechnology ,Nanotechnology and environment related technologies).

Indicators of international co-operation (EPO, USPTO & PCT):

  • Cross-border ownership of patents reflects international flows of knowledge from the inventor country to the applicant countries and international flows of funds for research (multinational companies).
  • Co-inventions represent the international collaboration in the inventive process.
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Patents are a key measure of innovation output, as patent indicators reflect the inventive performance of countries, regions, technologies, firms, etc. They are also used to track the level of diffusion of knowledge across technology areas, countries, sectors, firms, etc., and the level of internationalisation of innovative activities. Patent indicators can serve to measure the output of R&D, its productivity, structure and the development of a specific technology/industry. Among the few available indicators of technology output, patent indicators are probably the most frequently used. The relationship between patents as an intermediate output resulting from R&D inputs has been investigated extensively. Patents are often interpreted as an output indicator; however, they could also be viewed as an input indicator, as patents are used as a source of information by subsequent inventors

Like any other indicator, patent indicators have many advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of patent indicators are:

  • patents have a close link to invention;
  • patents cover a broad range of technologies on which there are sometimes few other sources of data;
  • the contents of patent documents are a rich source of information (on the applicant, inventor, technology category, claims, etc.); and
  • patent data are readily available from patent offices.

However, patents are subject to certain drawbacks:

  • the value distribution of patents is skewed as many patents have no industrial application (and hence are of little value to society) whereas a few are of substantial value;
  • many inventions are not patented because they are not patentable or inventors may protect the inventions using other methods, such as secrecy, lead time, etc.;
  • the propensity to patent differs across countries and industries;
  • differences in patent regulations make it difficult to compare counts across countries; and
  • changes in patent law over the years make it difficult to analyse trends over time.

For further details on the methodology applied to patent indicators, please consult the following documentation:

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Indicators of international co-operation in patentsContact person/organisation

Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry
Economic Analysis & Statistics Division
sti.microdatalab@oecd.org

Last update: October 2017

Data source(s) used

The OECD’s Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry has developed patent data and indicators that are suitable for statistical analysis and that can help addressing S&T policy issues.

To date, the OECD Patent Database fully covers:

  • Patent applications to the European Patent Office (EPO) (from 1978 onwards);
  • Patent applications to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) (from 1976 onwards - before 2001, only patents granted are covered);
  • Patents filed under the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT), at international phase, that designate the EPO (from 1978 onwards);
  • Patents that belong to Triadic Patent Families (OECD definition): i.e. sub-set of patents all filed together at the EPO, at the Japanese Patent Office (JPO) and at the USPTO, protecting the same set of inventions.

EPO and PCT patent counts are based on data received from the EPO (EPO Bibliographic database, patent published until June 2017). Series on Triadic patent families are mainly derived from EPO’s Worldwide Statistical Patent Database (PATSTAT, Spring 2017).

Indicators based on patent families improve the international comparability and the quality of patent’s indicators (overcoming the drawbacks of traditional patent-based indicators, such as the "home advantage").

Further information on OECD work on patent statisticshttp://oe.cd/ipstatsVariables collected

3 sets of indicators are provided in OECD.Stat:

Patent counts by technology (including total patents, estimated total patents for latest years):

  • EPO, USPTO, PCT and Triadic Patent Families are presented according to classes of the International Patent Classification (IPC class up to 4 characters) and for selected technology domains such as ICT, nanotechnology, biotechnology as well as environment-related technologies.

Patent counts by regions (EPO & PCT):

  • EPO and PCT filings are presented according to the region of the inventors/applicants’ residence (Territorial Level 3), including total patents and selected technology domains (ICT, Biotechnology ,Nanotechnology and environment related technologies).

Indicators of international co-operation (EPO, USPTO & PCT):

  • Cross-border ownership of patents reflects international flows of knowledge from the inventor country to the applicant countries and international flows of funds for research (multinational companies).
  • Co-inventions represent the international collaboration in the inventive process.
Reference period

Patent data are presented according to various dates (all based on calendar years). OECD patent indicators are aimed to provide a measure of the S&T output, therefore, there are usually published according to the priority date, which is the closest to the date of invention. However, there is a time lag between the priority date and the availability of patent information.

In addition to the priority date, patent counts are also presented according to the date of application of the patents as well as the date of grant.

Further information on nowcasting patentshttp://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/0/20/39485567.pdf
Key statistical concept

Patents are a key measure of innovation output, as patent indicators reflect the inventive performance of countries, regions, technologies, firms, etc. They are also used to track the level of diffusion of knowledge across technology areas, countries, sectors, firms, etc., and the level of internationalisation of innovative activities. Patent indicators can serve to measure the output of R&D, its productivity, structure and the development of a specific technology/industry. Among the few available indicators of technology output, patent indicators are probably the most frequently used. The relationship between patents as an intermediate output resulting from R&D inputs has been investigated extensively. Patents are often interpreted as an output indicator; however, they could also be viewed as an input indicator, as patents are used as a source of information by subsequent inventors

Like any other indicator, patent indicators have many advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of patent indicators are:

  • patents have a close link to invention;
  • patents cover a broad range of technologies on which there are sometimes few other sources of data;
  • the contents of patent documents are a rich source of information (on the applicant, inventor, technology category, claims, etc.); and
  • patent data are readily available from patent offices.

However, patents are subject to certain drawbacks:

  • the value distribution of patents is skewed as many patents have no industrial application (and hence are of little value to society) whereas a few are of substantial value;
  • many inventions are not patented because they are not patentable or inventors may protect the inventions using other methods, such as secrecy, lead time, etc.;
  • the propensity to patent differs across countries and industries;
  • differences in patent regulations make it difficult to compare counts across countries; and
  • changes in patent law over the years make it difficult to analyse trends over time.

For further details on the methodology applied to patent indicators, please consult the following documentation:

Using patent counts for cross-country comparisons of technology output STI review 27 OECD 2001http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/26/11/21682515.pdfTriadic patent families methodologyhttp://www.olis.oecd.org/olis/2004doc.nsf/linkto/dsti-doc(2004)2OECD Patent Manual (2009)http://www.oecd.org/document/29/0,3343,en_2649_34451_42168029_1_1_1_1,00.html
<Body /><Link><Title>OECD Compendium of Patent Statisticshttp://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/5/19/37569377.pdfOECD Main Science and Technology Indicatorshttp://www.oecd.org/document/26/0,2340,en_2649_34409_1901082_1_1_1_1,00.htmlOECD Science Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2013http://www.oecd.org/sti/scoreboard.htm