New Zealand claims half a percent of US patents

New Zealand punches above its weight in US patent registrations

New Zealand organisations claimed 0.47 percent of patents awarded by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2009, a total of around 800 claims.

This may not be a stellar figure, but it does appear to be growing and on a per capita basis shows New Zealand punching above its weight.

According to US patent intelligence and analysis company IFI Patent Intelligence, New Zealand organisations claimed 0.41 percent of patents in 2008.

Per capita, compared with the population of all OECD countries, New Zealand appears to be doing well in developing and securing intellectual property. New Zealand’s population is just .33 percent of the total population of the OECD.

New Zealand Trade & Enterprise operations director Craig Armstrong is positive about the numbers. He says, while the numbers are small, the percentages are “at least heading in the right direction”.

“It reflects what has become standard advice that New Zealand companies protect their intellectual property before going offshore,” he says.

Armstrong says the figures are also a reflection that the US remains an attractive market for New Zealand companies, with a fair legal system and an emphasis on establishing ownership rights over IP.

The statistics cover patents awarded to companies and organisations, not to individuals. They are also for utility patents only, which are about 90 percent of the total patents issued by the USPTO. Utility patents cover new devices, processes, machines, manufactured items and chemicals among other inventions.

The USPTO issued a total of 167,350 utility patents in calendar year 2009, a 6.1 percent increase over 2008 and nearing the “all-time high” of 173,772 set in 2006.

Forty-nine percent of those patents landed with US firms, while 51 percent went to foreign companies. Yet IFI points out that US companies received about 7 percent more patents in 2009 than in 2008, while foreign firms experienced a 6.5 percent increase.

“It’s foolhardy to use this statistic to infer that American firms are losing ground to foreign competitors, because with patents it’s important to consider quality, as well as quantity,” says Darlene Slaughter, general manager of IFI Patent Intelligence.

“What we’re seeing this year is that innovation in American firms is far from declining. In fact, many had impressive gains and several posted record numbers of total new patents.”

For instance, IBM achieved an all-time high of 4914 patents and Microsoft moved from the sixth slot to the number three position with 2906 patents. Cisco also increased its number of patents by 30 percent, winning 913 to land it in the 18th slot on the list.

The US also received twice as many corporate patents than Japan, which was issued 23 percent of US patents in 2009. South Korea won 5.6 percent of the patents ahead of Germany (5.2 percent).

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