Innovation in the USA: Mapping 4 Decades of Patent Activity
From Commercial Café, November 19, 2020
This year’s challenges have been yet another reminder of the importance of invention and adaptability in all aspects of our lives, and that innovation is key to persisting and thriving through the ever-surprising hurdles encountered by humans in the modern age. In celebration and support of the culture of innovation that has long been synonymous with the United States, we looked at more than four decades of national patenting activity. Specifically, we explored the wide-reaching economic importance of U.S. innovation and the essential relationship between the corporate patenting model and small business invention. We also tracked the U.S. corporations that have been leading the race for intellectual property. The accompanying maps, charts, and graphs in this article offer a nationwide perspective of invention by looking at the distribution of patents and patent applicability across industries and state lines. Visit the methodology section for more details.
Data Highlights Summary
About 51% of patents granted in the U.S. between 1975 and 2019 have U.S.-based assignees, amounting to 3,331,802 claimed inventions.
Patent activity peaked most recently in 2013, when 144,072 patents were granted — the most in a single year.
The highest patent applicability to date falls under physics (1.1 million patents). Within this field, innovation in computing and information storage has contributed significantly to increases in patent activity in recent years.
The five most innovative U.S. corporations to date are IBM, General Electric, Intel, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft.
The five most innovative states to date are California, New York, Texas, Illinois and New Jersey. In particular, a total of 731,705 U.S.-based assignee patents were filed and granted in California between 1975 and 2019, which puts the Golden State in the lead for patenting activity. The interactive map below provides data on patent totals and select innovation highlights for each state:
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Total patents 1975-2019: 1,229
Total patents 2019: 7
Most innovation (section): PHYSICS (345 patents)
Least innovation (section): TEXTILES; PAPER (46 patents)
Most innovation (class): MEDICAL OR VETERINARY SCIENCE; HYGIENE (202 patents)
Least innovation (class): SEPARATION OF SOLID MATERIALS USING LIQUIDS OR USING PNEUMATIC TABLES OR JIGS; MAGNETIC OR ELECTROSTATIC SEPARATION OF SOLID MATERIALS FROM SOLID MATERIALS OR FLUIDS; SEPARATION BY HIGH-VOLTAGE ELECTRIC FIELDS (1 patents)
Most prolific inventor: Shin Nishibori (838 patents) -- that's 68% of Hawaii's total
2012 All Things Digital: "Shin Nishibori, the Apple designer whose Sony-infused iPhone designs have become a central issue in the Samsung patent case, apparently has no plans to testify in the upcoming trial."