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Patents per 10,000 Workers

Patents Fuel Gauge 2020


In 2020, the Tucson MSA posted a patent rate of 16.8 patents per 10,000 workers, an increase of 0.3 patents per 10,000 workers over the 2019 rate. The state of Arizona posted a patent rate of 10.1 patents per 10,000 workers. This ranked Arizona seventh among 10 western states, slightly behind the national rate of 11.5, and slightly above the Phoenix MSA rate of 9.8. California ranked first out of 10 states at 28.5, and Nevada ranked last at 6.0 patents. Arizona’s patent rate increased the previous two years after a decline in 2018 and remained well above the level posted a decade ago.

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. Patent data for all MSAs is currently being updated. The most recent Tucson MSA and Phoenix MSA data is available below and on the comparison page.

The Tucson MSA posted a patent rate of 16.8 patents per 10,000 workers. This was one and a half times the national rate of 11.5 patents per 10,000 workers and substantially higher than the state and the Phoenix MSA rates of 10.1 and 9.8, respectively, in 2020.

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 nearly doubled in Tucson. The state and nation posted increases of 68.3% and 105.4%, respectively between 2008 and 2020. The Tucson MSA’s rate (16.8) remains far above the state and national rate.

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.