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The distribution of patents across U.S. states

Tracking innovation for Californians, Massachusettsans, Idahoans, Mainers, etc. etc.

FRED Blog posts have discussed patent royalties, R&D, and the balance of payments and the changing geography of U.S. innovation. Today, we tap into a recently added data set from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to discuss the distribution of patented new ideas across U.S. states.

The GeoFRED map above shows the number of patents registered in each state during 2019, which is the latest available data point as of this writing. The total number of new patents for the whole country was 186,022, and the map illustrates their uneven geographical distribution. While California recorded 50,667 patents, Maine recorded 249. That might be expected simply because the population isn’t evenly distributed across the country: For each Mainer, there are 29 Californians. But it’s not all about population.

The second graph shows the number of patents divided by the number of persons (in thousands) residing in each state in 2019. At the top of the graph is Massachusetts, with 1.31 patents per 1,000 residents. California is a close second, despite the fact that there are almost 8 Californians for each Massachusettsan.

Let’s take another example: West Virginia and Idaho are the two most similar states in terms of population size, yet Idahoans record 6.4 times more patents than West Virginians.

Factors like the presence of large cities, institutions of higher education, particular industries, and research centers help explain the disparities in the numbers of patents per person.

How this map was created: The original post referenced an interactive map from our now discontinued GeoFRED site. The revised post provides a replacement map from FRED’s new mapping tool. To create FRED maps, go to the data series page in question and look for the green “VIEW MAP” button at the top right of the graph. See this post for instructions to edit a FRED map. Only series with a green map button can be mapped.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

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