Boston University School of Law

The Value of U.S. Patents by Owner and Patent Characteristics

James E. Bessen

Boston University School of Law Working Paper 06-46


This paper uses renewal data to estimate the value of U.S. patents, controlling for patent and owner characteristics. Estimates of U.S. patent value are substantially larger than estimates for European patents, however, the ratio of U.S. patent value to R&D for firms is only about 3%. Patents issued to small patentees are much less valuable than those issued to large corporations, perhaps reflecting imperfect markets for technology. Litigated patents are more valuable, as are highly cited patents. However, patent citations explain little variance in value, suggesting limits to their use as a measure of patent quality.

Keywords: Technology, patents, innovation, patent value, markets for technology

JEL codes: 034, )38, K1

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