How are we doing?

Patents per 10,000 Workers (2015)

The Tucson Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) posted a rate of 17.4 patents per 10,000 workers in 2015. This rate ranked Tucson fourth among 12 western MSAs and was nearly twice that of Arizona (9.6) and the nation (9.9). The San Diego MSA placed first with a rate 39.4 and the El Paso MSA placed last with 1.1. Tucson’s rate placed it among the top four performers, just behind the Portland MSA which had a rate of 19.5. Among 10 western states, Arizona placed seventh—0.3 patents below the national rate (9.9). The rate of patents per 10,000 workers increased dramatically in Tucson between 2007 and 2015.

Why is it important?

The number of utility patents per 10,000 workers is an important measure of innovative activity and technological change. A high rate may be indicative of firms’ propensity to invest in research and development (R & D). An increasing rate over time indicates that individuals and firms are seeking to improve the efficiency of their productive capabilities. Patent rates can also serve as a measure of entrepreneurial activity and collaboration between an educated workforce and local industry.

How do we compare?

In 2015, the Tucson MSA posted a patent rate of 17.4 patents per 10,000 workers, nearly double the state and national rate. Arizona’s rate in 2015 was 9.6 which ranked the state seventh among 10 western states. This was just below the national rate of 9.9, but far below the top performers which were California (25.0), Washington (20.2), and Oregon (13.3). California ranked first out of 10 states at 25.0, while New Mexico ranked last at 5.2 patents.

What are the key trends?

Between 2000 and 2007, the rate of patents per 10,000 workers in the Tucson MSA tracked closely with state and national trends. Since 2007, however the number of patents per 10,000 workers has doubled in Tucson. The state and nation posted increases of 62.7% and 70.7%, respectively during the same period. The Tucson MSA’s rate (17.4) remains far above the state rate, ranking among the top four MSAs.

How is it measured?

The rate of patents per 10,000 workers is computed from the total number of utility patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and total nonfarm employment reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Current Employment Statistics (CES) program.  Utility patents are issued for the invention of a “new process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter”, which grants the owner exclusive right to sell the invention for a period of up to 20 years. Utility patents are distinguished from others by providing some specific, substantial and credible utility. The most recent utility patent statistics retrieved from USPTO are published through 2013 and display total utility patent counts by geographic region for the calendar year.