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Study Shows Patent Filings on the Rise, but Patent Quality Slipping


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This week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published its 10th annual Science, Technology and Industry Scorecard.  The Scoreboard tracks trends in science, technology and industry to understand how innovation is evolving and how countries are positioning themselves in the global knowledge economy.

One way to measure technological innovation is through the commercialization of inventions as reflected in patenting. This year’s report finds that rising patenting activity has been accompanied by declining quality of patent filings – declining an average of 20 per cent between the 1990s and 2000s.  Time to market for true innovations and the potential for breakthrough innovations has been hindered due to overburdened patent offices.  This pattern was seen  across nearly all 180 of the countries included in the 2011 study. 

Other highlights of the report include:

  • The US leads the world in research and development (R&D), with around USD 400 billion of spending on R&D in 2009. China is today second, with over one third of that total, followed by Japan. The European Union as a whole spent about USD 300 billion in 2009.

  • Between 1996 and 2000, about 70% of the top 1% of highly cited patents were from the United States, Germany and Japan. Five years later, that share had fallen to 60%

  • The Nordic countries and China, India and Korea have seen their share increase of highly cited patents.

  • China has the second largest number of scientific publications, after the United States, but the degree of scientific collaboration and impact of its research are among the lowest

  • Countries in the process of catching-up have a lower propensity to seek protection for their innovations (via patents or trademarks)

  • On average, only under a quarter of all patents filed make it to the market (they are granted by the patent examiner).

  • 10-12% of patents originate from the education sector

  • The United States maintains the lead in health-related technologies, while Japan leads innovative efforts in environmental technologies including innovation for climate change mitigation.

The complete 2011 Science, Technology and Industry Scorecard is available at www.oecd.org/sti/scoreboard