How are we doing?

Patents per 10,000 Workers

In 2019, the state of Arizona posted a patent rate of 9.8 patents per 10,000 workers. This ranked Arizona seventh among 10 western states and slightly behind the national rate. California ranked first out of 10 states at 26.5, and Nevada ranked last at 5.8 patents. Arizona’s patent rate increased in 2019 after a decline in 2018 and remains well above the level posted a decade ago. The Tucson MSA posted a patent rate of 17.4 patents per 10,000 workers, nearly double the state and national rate, in 2015. Metropolitan patent data beyond 2015 is not currently available.

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?

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 and the nation. 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 just behind the Portland MSA, which had a rate of 19.5. The rate of patents per 10,000 workers increased dramatically in Tucson between 2007 and 2015.

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 63.3% and 96.4%, respectively between 2008 and 2019. 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.