Patents can tell a lot about the state of innovation in a given region. But how much of that innovation is organic? This byt3 explores the volume of patent filings by country and applicant type (resident & non-resident) to get a glimpse into how “native” a country’s patented innovations really are. Bear in mind, however, that patents are only one facet of gauging innovation. If a country has 1000 patent variants of an autonomous Swiffer® duster, it might be worth questioning the overall quality of patents. The global view below shows the percentage of resident patent filings in all countries that had the most up-to-date data from the World Bank going up to 2016.
What is immediately evident, albeit broadly, is the hemispheric difference between “organic” patent filings in the Eastern & Western Hemispheres. The generally darker shades of blue/teal in the Eastern Hemisphere denote that the majority of patents filed in those given countries are from native residents. 24 of the countries had resident patent filings at a rate of at least 90% and primarily came from the European region. On the flip side, countries like Canada have only 12% of their patent filings coming from residents, which could be partially explained by some of their strategies to attract foreign graduate and post-graduate students, which includes relaxed immigration policy.
With respect to sheer volume, China alone has filed almost as many patents (both residents and non-residents) than all the other countries combined (1.33M to 1.59M filings). The graph below (resident minus non-resident filings) shows just how large the “organic” base of patent filings are in China compared to the remaining countries
While this number could be taken as a testament to China’s productivity/innovation, China’s population size must be taken into account. Furthermore, China has been notoriously difficult for foreign firms to conduct business, and delving into the quality of their patent filings is a significant undertaking. But between banning/censorship of major foreign companies’ products (Netflix, Facebook, etc.) and native behemoths such as Alibaba, they certainly have enough intellectual horsepower to innovate within their own borders.