The number of patents issued to Austin inventors grew 11.2 percent in 2016 to over 4,000, according to a report put out by the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce this week.
Patents are considered a key indicator of entrepreneurial activity in a region.
The state of Texas was awarded 3.5 percent more patents in 2016 than the year before, so Austin’s patent growth exceeded the state’s.
About 30 percent of all the patents issued in Texas came from Austin, the report says.
The chamber report, from vice president of research Beverly Kerr, notes that this analysis was done based on the residence of one or more of the listed inventors on the patents.
But the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does its own tabulations of patent awards by metro aware, and their numbers are slightly different because they determine residence by the first named inventor.
So the patent office’s database only credits 2,700 patents to one or more Austin inventors in 2015, whereas the chamber’s analysis finds 3,628 in that same year.
One of the more interesting charts the Austin chamber put together deals with patent activity on a per-capita basis.
When looking only at total patents issued, Austin ranks 11th. But when calculating patents issued on a per-capita basis, Austin rises to No. 3, only behind San Jose and San Francisco.
Keep in mind that this analysis deals with patents awarded over a 10-year period and uses each city’s 2010 population as a guide for the per-capita calculations.
It’s also interesting to see which company in Austin is securing the most patents.
I thought for sure it might be Dell Technologies or NXP Semiconductors, which used to be Freescale.
I was wrong. The answer is IBM.
Between 2011 and 2015, IBM inventors in Austin secured 3,495 patents, more than three times as many as the company in the No. 2 spot, Dell Technologies.
The report notes that Austin reportedly secures more IBM patents than any other sites except for Yorktown Heights, which is IBM’s largest research lab.
IBM patents credited to Austin investors by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have actually declined to about 52 percent of the number credited to the Yorktown Heights, but Austin is still doing better than San Jose, which is another major U.S. lab location for IBM, the report notes.
One surprising revelation (at least to this UT-Austin graduate) of the report is that UT-Austin doesn’t account for the highest number of patents issued to a UT-System school.
The chamber reports that Austin accounts for 25 percent of all UT patents between 2011 and 2015, which is slightly below the numbers credited to Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston inventors.
So what kinds of patents are Austin inventors getting?
The report says it isn’t easy to classify patents into easily digestible categories, such as “life sciences,” and “semiconductors.” But the chamber did put together a chart based on the patent office’s classification system:
One of the more interesting revelations is the decline in patents under “semiconductor device manufacturing” between 2011 and 2015. Not exactly a shock considering that there are only three chipmakers in Austin that have manufacturing facilities here anymore.
Still, it’s noteworthy that Austin is getting its butt kicked in this category by cities such as Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Burlington, Vt.
So where is Austin seeing a lot of patent growth? Life sciences.
Patent topic areas such as surgery instrumentation, drugs and chemistry all saw a significant increase in patents issued from Austin between 2011 and 2015 compared to between 2000 and 2005.
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