When researching industries, companies, and technology, have you ever stopped to consider what insight patent activity might provide?
Patent activity is an indicator of technological activity, both foreign and domestic, and therefore provides a unique perspective, particularly for the economic activities of competitors and industries. By looking at the "who, what, where, and when" of patent activity, one can derive interesting information about technology and industry. Patent documents contain technical information not published elsewhere and, as a result, can be a powerful tool for many uses other than the obvious ones.
What if you are curious about technological development in the state of Connecticut? What if you want to know about the current trends in biotechnology?
Since browsing through patent documents one by one is not efficient when researching general trends within industries and geographic areas, this tutorial will guide you through the United States Patent and Trademark Office's website in order to locate pre-existing patent statistic reports and also show you how to create your own reports.
Patent statistics are aggregate data made available by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In 1971, the United States Patent and Trademark Office recognized the need to provide access to its ever-expanding patent file, which then contained millions of patents. Because patent activity can be an indicator of technological activity, the USPTO viewed patent data as a valuable and unique resource.
The Office of Technology Assessment and Forecast (OTAF) was created, later called the Patent Technology Monitoring Division (PTMD) which assembled the TAF (Technology Assessment and Forecast) master database covering all U.S. patents.
Its goal was "to stimulate the use and enhance the usability of the patent file, and to assemble, analyze and make available meaningful data about the file." From this database, PTMD reports were created to present patent activity using many different variables, such as geographic region and type of technology.
By looking at patent statistics grouped by organization, you can view the amount of patent activity that has occurred within a specific timeframe for a particular company. Within the PTMD reports, data is usually presented for the last five years. When creating your own report, you can specify the timeframe.
By selecting a PTMD report, you can view patent activity by state. In addition, reports include data grouped by country, allowing you to compare many geographic locations based on their patent activity. When creating your own report, you can also search by city which may be particularly useful for jobseeking purposes.
By looking at patent data grouped by technology, you can see who is participating in what kinds of technological activity. Since patents are grouped by technology class and subclass, you should be familiar with the class system used by the USPTO. To learn more about this, see our Engineering Library Patent Searching Tutorial.
By looking at patent activity by industry, you may look at pre-existing reports called "Patent Profiles" created by the USPTO. These reports exist for specific industries of interest for the government such as genetic engineering and nuclear energy. When creating your own report, researching by industry becomes more difficult.