David French recently sent me an e-mail that got me thinking about the rise in foreign-originated patents in the US patent system.
In most countries, the majority of newly issued patents are foreign originated. David notes that in Canada, for instance, “consistently has had over 90% foreign participation in its patent system for over 50 years.”
Although locals have a majority here in the US, foreign-originated patents are approaching the 50% mark and are quickly on the rise. I suspect that our strong tradition of local innovation and patenting is a large driver in the political economy of the US patent system. Because US patent owners are usually located in the US, there is political support for strong patent rights. Will this support decrease as the percentage of foreign-owners rises?