NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Patents Pushing Productivity

December 1, 1997

Economists think the continuing surge in U.S. patents could fuel faster-than-average economic growth. Technological progress is credited with producing more than one-third of productivity gains earlier in the century.

  • So far in the 1990s, patent applications are running more than 50 percent above the pace of the 1980s.
  • Since 1995, the pace of patent applications received by the U.S. Patent Office has zoomed to nearly 204,000 -- up from 173,000 earlier in the decade and less than 120,000 a year in the 1980s.
  • Research and development outlays by businesses are up by about 10 percent a year since 1994.
  • The ongoing cutbacks in defense spending appear to be relocating scientific talent to commercial projects.

These factors lead many economists to predict that the recent spurt in productivity growth could be extended for quite a while.

Source: Gene Koretz, "Patents Tell an Upbeat Story," Business Week, December 1, 1997.


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