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Unpublished Paper
The World as Our Technologist: Visualizing Worldwide Sources of Technologies Patented in the United States
ExpressO (2013)
  • Richard S. Gruner, John Marshall Law School

The World as Our Technologist: Visualizing Worldwide Sources

of Technologies Patented in the United States


Richard Gruner

Emeritus Professor of Law

John Marshall Law School


Patent rewards in the United States incentivize and attract the overseas development of many new technologies used in this country. The United States – as the world’s largest economy – is the primary driver of technology development worldwide. The strength of United States patent laws, court systems, and civil law enforcement processes ensure that parties who produce new inventions of commercial value and who patent and popularize the inventions in the United States can count on patent enforcement and rewards regardless of where the patented inventions were made. In short, the United States pays for technological value through its patent system and has benefitted from international attention to its technological needs as a result. In the process, it has also incentivized the creation of new technologies of international importance and commercial value. In this, persons and businesses in countries with weaker patent systems are incidental beneficiaries – some would say underpaying incidental beneficiaries – of the successful research and production of valuable new technologies that the United States patent system has incentivized and rewarded.

This article uses data visualization techniques to explore the degree to which foreign inventors have taken the United States up on this bargain by patenting and commercializing foreign-generated technologies in the United States. The article identifies countries that have been particularly efficient and effective sources of new technologies patented in the United States. Countries are analyzed here in terms of their invention outputs per home country gross domestic product (GDP) measured in constant United States dollars. This technique treats various countries as if they have equal economies backing their research and technology development efforts. Countries that are particularly efficient technology sources have high United States patent counts per GDP dollar. These countries are identified in this study primarily through data visualization techniques that compare the productivity of foreign inventors in different countries. The technology production efficiencies of foreign inventors in the countries that are the top ten sources of patented technologies in the United States are compared across countries, in different technology areas, and over time.

The results seen through data visualization are striking in three respects. First, United States innovators seem somewhat less efficient in producing new patented technologies in some technology categories than their foreign competitors (taking into account differences in the sizes of the economies of the countries involved). Second, changes in technology production efficiency have evolved over time very differently in different technology areas, suggesting that some areas have seen surges of intense productivity while others may have hit barriers that that have slowed invention production over earlier levels. Third, a few relatively small countries – particularly South Korea and Switzerland – have been highly effective in producing new technologies patented in the United States, suggesting that inventors and companies there have targeted technology needs and commercial markets in the United States as innovation targets in particularly aggressive ways, a strategy that innovators in other small countries may wish to emulate.

  • Technology Development,
  • Worldwide Commerce
Publication Date
March 2, 2013
Citation Information
Richard S. Gruner. "The World as Our Technologist: Visualizing Worldwide Sources of Technologies Patented in the United States" ExpressO (2013)
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