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Patent Technology Monitoring Team (PTMT)


- this report has been prepared with support from the National Science Foundation -

General Description of the Report

This report, prepared by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Patent Technology Monitoring Team, summarizes the patenting activity of U.S. Government institutions. While this report reviews patent activity relating to several different USPTO documents including utility patents, (i.e., 'patents for inventions'), design patents, plant patents, statutory invention registrations, and defensive publications, the primary focus of this report concerns utility patent activity.

Several statistical tables are provided that display the patent activity for all U.S. Government institutions taken together as a group. Other statistical tables display the patent activity of individually identified U.S. Government institutions.

Patent data presented in this report have been obtained from the USPTO Technology Assessment and Forecast (TAF) database. The TAF database is maintained by the Patent Technology Monitoring Team and contains selected bibliographic information from patents that have issued since 1963.


In calendar year 2008, the USPTO issued 157,772 utility patents, of which 678 (0.43%) were assigned to an identified U.S. Government institution. The total number of utility patent documents assigned to U.S. Government institutions annually has varied widely, generally between about 700 and 1260 since 1990. During this period, the percent share of utility patents issued to U.S. Government institutions has generally declined. In calendar year 1990, the U.S. Government institution share of all utility patent grants was 1.1 percent; in calendar year 2008, the share stood at 0.43 percent.

U.S. Government institutions that received high numbers of utility patents in 2008 include the U.S. Navy (224 utiliy patents), the U.S. Army (129 utility patents), the Department of Health and Human Services (110 utility patents), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (66 utility patents).

The U.S. Navy has been the top U.S. Government institution receiving utility patents each year since calendar year 1990. The U.S. Army has been in the second position each year since calendar year 2000.

In calendar year 2008, U.S. Government institutions received large numbers of utility patents in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and communications. During the 2008 calendar year, classes of technology in which the most U.S. Government institution utility patents were granted include:

Analysis of U.S. Government entity patents by technology emphasis based on patent shares in the different technologies reveals an emphasis that includes technologies related to military supplies; ammunition and explosives; electrical communications; aeronautics; ships; chemistry: molecular biology and microbiology; and drug, bio-affecting and body treating compositions. See the technology emphasis table in report section 6A for further details.


This report contains statistical tables that profile patenting activity by U.S. Government institutions. The tables in this report have been grouped in two sections, below, to assist in identifying tables that apply to U.S. Government institutions individually and tables that apply to all U.S. Government patents from all institutions, taken together as a group. Please note that some tables may be included in both sections. Numeric identifiers, placed in parentheses, below, indicate the Table of Contents section of the report that contains the identified table. Listed tables are displayed according to the hierarchy of the Table of Contents.


The following statistical tables include consolidated data that display the patenting activity of all U.S. Government institutions taken together as a group:

The following statistical tables include consolidated data for each identified U.S. Government institution:

The following files and documents also are included in this report:

Selection of U.S. Government Institutions

U.S. Government institutions that appear in this report consist of identified patent assignees that were assigned ownership of one or more U.S. utility patents that issued between calendar years 1969 and 2008 or were assigned one or more other types of U.S. patent documents (i.e., design or plant patents, statutory invention registrations, or defensive publications) that issued between calendar years 1977 and 2008.

The selection of U.S. Government institutions is based on a search of patent assignee names that appear in the Technology Assessment and Forecast (TAF) database. The database includes more than 340,000 names of assignees whose names appear on the printed patents.

Only the first-named assignee on a patent is captured in the TAF database. This eliminates double counting of patents when distributions are based on assignee name. Thus, a search of patents assigned to U.S. Government institutions excludes patents with a first-named assignee that is not a U.S. Government institution, but with a second assignee that is a U.S. Government institution.

A comprehensive list of institutions selected for inclusion in this report is presented in alphabetical order in the section, 'Alphabetical Listing of U.S. Government Institutions with Total Utility Patent Counts, Calendar Years 1969 to 2008' (Table of Contents, section 1C).

While subcomponents of a larger U.S. Government institution may occasionally appear separately in this report, careful consideration should be given before relying solely on such data to assess the inventive activity of the institutional subcomponent. Patent data for such a subcomponent may also appear under the parent institution name. This can occur because the patent applicant or legal representative, who is responsible for providing the assignee name that appears on the patent, may variously provide the name of the parent U.S. Government institution or the name of one of its subcomponents.

The lack of consistency in the format of assignee names can also pose a problem when trying to identify all possible patents associated with a U.S. Government institution.

Calendar Year and Fiscal Year Data

Some tables in this report present patent counts and statistics by "calendar" year while other tables present patent counts and statistics by "fiscal" year. Because the time periods covered by the calendar year and fiscal year are different, patent statistics for a calendar year will differ from the patent statistics for the same numerical fiscal year.

The calendar year period extends from January 1 to December 31 while the fiscal year period currently extends from October 1 to September 30. For example, calendar year 2008 corresponds to the period from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2008, while fiscal year 2008 corresponds to the period from October 1, 2007, to September 30, 2008.

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Based Product Fields, Fractional Counts, and Whole Counts

U.S. patents are classified in one or more subclasses of the U.S. Patent Classification System (USPC) depending on the content and claimed subject matter contained in the patent. One of these subclasses is designated as the primary classification of the patent (called the patent's 'original' classification, in USPTO-specific terminology), and the remainder, if any, are designated as 'cross-reference' classifications.

In the tables displaying utility patent activity, as distributed by NAICS-based product field, patent counts for each product field (based on the 1997 NAICS) are generated by using the primary classification associated with each patent along with a general concordance between the U.S. Patent Classification System and product fields based on the NAICS. This procedure results, in most cases, in the inclusion of the majority of patents relevant to the NAICS-based product field and few, if any, irrelevant patents. However, since the match between the NAICS system and the USPC is imperfect, the tables cannot be considered to include all relevant patents, nor to exclude all irrelevant patents. (More detail on the Concordance may be found in Review and Assessment of the OTAF Concordance between the U.S. Patent Classification and the Standard Industrial Classification System: Final Report, OTAF, 1984), available from PTMT. Please note that for classification by industry, NAICS has replaced the Standard Industrial Classification System (SIC).

Two tables. a 'Whole Counts' table and a 'Fractional Counts' table of patent counts are presented. In the 'Whole Counts' tables, a single patent may be fully counted in as many as seven unique NAICS-based product fields. The 'Fractional Counts' table eliminates this multiple counting of patents across product fields. Further explanation follows.

The USPC to NAICS Concordance assigns USPC patent subclasses to all (up to seven) identified NAICS-based product fields to which they are pertinent. For each of the 'Whole Counts' product field entries, a patent is counted if the patent's primary USPC classification subclass is matched, via concordance, to that product field. In the 'Whole Counts' entries, for example, if a patent has primary classification in a USPC subclass which is matched to 3 unique NAICS-based product fields, that patent would be counted once in each of the three associated 'Whole Counts' product fields. Consequently, that single patent would result in an effective total count of 3 patents if the three product fields are summed together (i.e., for 'Whole Counts' product field counts, the patent count for multiple product fields, summed together, would total more than the actual number of patents).

The counts displayed in the 'Fractional Counts' table eliminates this multiple counting of patents by dividing each patent equally among the NAICS-based product fields to which the patent's primary USPC classification subclass has been matched, via the concordance. Using the example above, one-third of a patent count would be added to each of the 3 product fields matched with the patent's primary USPC classification subclass.

Except for minor differences due to rounding, the unique product field counts in the fractional counts table should sum to the totals displayed in other PTMT utility patent statistical reports applied to the same time periods.

Database Records

As of December 31, 2008. the TAF database includes bibliographic data items for over 4.3 million U.S. utility patents issued since 1963 and 370,000 non-utility patents issued since 1977. While every effort is made to ensure accurate data for all patents, the size and complexity of the database prevent achievement of a totally "clean" record. The following points are noted.

  1. A foreign origin U.S. Government institution patent in this report is a patent, assigned to a U.S. Government institution at the time of issue, with a first-named inventor who resided in a country other than the United States.
  2. Patents assigned to U.S. Government institutions are considered to be in the 'U.S. Government' ownership category. Patents in this report that are classified with owneship in other ownership categories (e.g., U,S. corporate, foreign corporate, foreign government, or individually owned patents) are the result of errors in the patent record.
  3. Patent classification information in this report reflects the U.S. Patent Classification System (USPC) as it existed on 31 December 2008. At the time of issue, each patent is classified into one or more USPC classes of technology--the first class listed is known as the primary class (called the "ORIGINAL" class, in USPTO-specific terminology). Frequent expansion and changes occur in the USPC to accommodate changing technologies. As a result, a patent periodically may be reclassified to a new location. Thus, the current, primary class associated with a patent may change over time and may not be the same class assigned at the time of issue. The distribution of patents by class in this report is based on the primary patent classification, as of 31 December 2008.

Distribution of Utility Patent Data By Year of Grant and By Year of Patent Application

In many of the tables in this report, patent data are distributed by the year in which the patents were granted. In addition, many tables distribute patent data by the year in which each granted patent was filed (i.e., the year of patent application).

Distributing patent grants by the year in which they were filed can be useful in analyses of patent activity, It should be noted, however, that DATA FOR THOSE APPLICATIONS WHICH WERE FILED BUT NEVER ISSUED (HISTORICALLY ABOUT 25% OF TOTAL FILINGS) ARE NOT INCLUDED IN ANY TABLES IN THIS REPORT.

Data displaying patents, as distributed by their year of application, are of significant value since the date an application was filed more accurately reflects when the technology was developed. Additionally, fluctuations in patent data distributed by application date are much more likely to reflect changes in technological activity, since such fluctuations would for the most part be immune to changes in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) processing such as occurred in years such as 1986 when the USPTO issued fewer patents than would normally have been expected due to a lack of funds to print patents. Note that a patent's "pendency" can be quite variable from one patent to another thereby affecting the date of patent grant. Such variation in pendency is determined by many factors, including USPTO workload (which varies between technologies), budget and manpower levels, patent printing schedules, etc.

Since the average time period between the filing for a patent and the issuing of the patent (i.e., a patent's "pendency") is about 32 months, patent counts displayed in the tables that distribute counts by year of patent application are incomplete for the years 2000 - 2008. This is because a significant number of the applications filed from 2000 - December 2008, which will ultimately become patents, were still pending in December 2008. Since they had not yet become patents as of December 2008 (i.e., the patents included in these tables are limited to those patents that were granted from 1969 through December 2008), they are not counted in these tables.

As of 12/31/2008, utility patent application data were approximately 98% complete for patent applications filed in calendar year 2000, 93% complete for calendar year 2001 filings, 90% complete for calendar year 2002 filings, 78% complete for calendar year 2003 filings, 60% complete for applications filed in 2004, 37% complete for applications filed in 2005, and 17% complete for applications filed in 2006. They were essentially complete for applications filed prior to calendar year 2000.

Other Information

Analyzing the Data

Use of spreadsheet software may facilitate analysis of the data contained in these tables. Users should note that many spreadsheet software programs (e.g., Microsoft Excel) can import these tables directly for analysis and data manipulation. Check the spreadsheet software documentation for details.

Printing the Tables

Some web browsers will print these tables acceptably. Printing in landscape mode using a small text font is suggested. Also, importing the web page into spreadsheet or word-processing software may allow a user additional flexibility for formatting the tables for printing. Check the corresponding software documentation for details.


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Patent Technology Monitoring Team compiled patent data in this report, with the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Science and Engineering Indicators Program. Use and further release of these data, in whole or in part, are permitted. However, acknowledgment of the source of the data and absolution of the NSF or USPTO from responsibility for any opinions or recommendations expressed in any document using or containing the data are required. The following language is recommended:

Patent data appearing in this document were prepared under the support of the National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators Program, by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Technology Monitoring Team. Any opinions or recommendations expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

PTMT Contacts

Questions regarding these reports should be directed to:

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Office of Electronic Information Products - PTMT (formerly TAF Branch)
P.O. Box 1450
Alexandria, VA 22313

tel: (571) 272-5600
fax: (571) 273-0110

address of PTMT Internet pages :
selected PTMT files available for download at :


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