There are many different ways we could compare patent production in states over time, and they each tell a different story. Raw patent totals tell us in absolute terms which states are producing the most patents (spoiler alert: it's California and Texas).
The data in the below chart via a downloadable Excel file
There are many different ways we could compare patent production in states over time, and they each tell a different story. Raw patent totals tell us in absolute terms which states are producing the most patents (spoiler alert: it's California and Texas). We would expect population to have a significant impact on utility patent totals for a given state, and in fact that's what we find, with the two most populous states having the highest patent totals (California in first, Texas in second). Analyzing raw patent counts over time ends up being static and unsurprising, but what if we control for population?
The map above displays the average patents per 1000 people for a given timeslice. For the full timeline, Delaware has the most patents per capita, but for the last 20 years, it's Idaho. Idaho, like Delaware, has a relatively small population, but it far and away exceeds the patents per capita for similarly-sized states. What's going on in Idaho?
By referencing the Patenting By Geographic Region (State and Country), Breakout By Organization table (http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/oeip/taf/stcasg/id_stcorg.htm), we find that Micron Technology., Inc is the biggest patent earner in the state of Idaho, starting in 1989 and peaking in 2002 with 1507 (larger than several state-wide totals for that year). In that year, Idaho earned 1828 utility patents, and more than 80% of those were earned by Micron Technology. Despite its relatively low population, Idaho's patent count is greater than states with much higher population counts (such as Maryland).
What about the last 10 years? Idaho still produces a massive number of patents per capita, but they take second place here to Vermont. The Vermont version of the previous table (http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/oeip/taf/stcasg/vt_stcorg.htm) identifies IBM as the top patent earning organization in the state, as well as a large number of individually-owned patents. Again we find a smaller state (Vermont having the second-lowest population in the nation) benefitting significantly from housing a major technology company.
These effects are dramatic, but what about growth rate? Unsurprisingly, California reports an extremely high growth rate, given the patent-earning power of a booming Silicon Valley. But California is only third. First place goes to Washington, and two companies are the benevolent culprit here: Microsoft and Boeing, both of whose patent production rates kicked up in the mid-2000s.
The story is different for each state. Idaho's patent-earning is dominated by a single company, but California's is widely distributed, and Washington falls somewhere in between. If you live in a different state, what's the story there? What about Texas, which as mentioned is the second-most patent-earning state? Can we rely on this organizational analysis for all states, or is there a more subtle story that needs to be told?
State Patent Counts, 1963 - 2015
Census Population Data and Estimates