Patent Statistics as Economic Indicators: A Survey
This survey reviews the growing use of patent data in economic analysis.
After describing some of the main characteristics of patents and patent data,
it focuses on the use of patents as an indicator of technological change.
Cross-sectional and time-series studies of the relationship of patents to R&D
expenditures are reviewed, as well as scattered estimates of the distribution
of patent values and the value of patent rights, the latter being based on
recent analyses of European patent renewal data. Time-series trends of patents
granted in the U.S. are examined and their decline in the 1970s is found to be
an artifact of the budget stringencies at the Patent Office. The longer run
downward trend in patents per R&D dollar is interpreted not as an indication of
diminishing returns but rather as a reflection of the changing meaning of such
data over time. The conclusion is reached that, in spite of many difficulties
and reservations, patent data remain a unique resource for the study of
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