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

Last update: October 2017

The indicators presented here are based on fractional counts (see note in Country dimension).

Click to expand Data source(s) used
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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);
  • Patents granted by the EPO (from 1978 onwards);
  • Patent applications to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) (from filing year 2001 onwards);
  • Patents granted by the USPTO (from 1976 onwards);
  • 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 Japan 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, publications up to June 2017). Series on USPTO and 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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Number
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Units
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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 and health-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, Environment, Health-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.
Click to expand Reference period
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2013
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Click to expand Key statistical concept
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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. 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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Patent counts by technologyContact person/organisation

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

Last update: October 2017

The indicators presented here are based on fractional counts (see note in Country dimension).

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);
  • Patents granted by the EPO (from 1978 onwards);
  • Patent applications to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) (from filing year 2001 onwards);
  • Patents granted by the USPTO (from 1976 onwards);
  • 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 Japan 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, publications up to June 2017). Series on USPTO and 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/ipstatsUnit of measure usedNumberPower codeUnitsVariables 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 and health-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, Environment, Health-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 period2013Key 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&amp;D, its productivity, structure and the development of a specific technology/industry. The relationship between patents as an intermediate output resulting from R&amp;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.&nbsp;

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 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 Scoreboardhttp://www.oecd.org/sti/scoreboard