The Brookings Institute made a significant contribution to the intellectual property community's research literature this week with the release of a comprehensive report examining U.S. regional patent trends from 1980 to 2012. By comparing and contrasting patent filings and commercial activities among all 360 of the nation's metropolitan areas, Brookings analysts were able to offer several intriguing theories regarding the role of intellectual property management in shaping urban development and driving long-term economic prosperity.
One of the first findings noted by Brookings researchers was the fact that the majority of all U.S. patent activity was clustered in a select few cities. The 20 most active metropolitan areas were responsible for 63 percent of new U.S. patent filings, despite being home to just 34 percent of the country's population. What's more, the top 100 metros accounted for 92 percent of all U.S. patents.
Although several of the nation's largest cities climbed toward the top of regional rankings purely as a factor of scale, size was certainly not the only determining factor in success. Brookings researchers found that having a diverse labor market, an ecosystem of businesses providing complementary goods and services, and an influx of federal research funding were most predictive of long-term prosperity.
For instance, San Diego fared far better than Atlanta or Houston (cities of comparable size) thanks to a regional workforce with a uniquely high concentration of degrees in science, technology, mathematics and engineering.
Finally, top performing patenting regions all exhibited similar economic symptoms despite taking a wide variety of paths to success. According to the Brookings report, patenting was associated with higher productivity growth, lower unemployment rates and the creation of more publicly-traded companies. In fact, researchers suggested that a "low-patenting" region could add $4,300 to its workers' average salaries within a decade if it were to become a "high-patenting" metro.