Monday 25 June 2018


Celebrating(?) patents, by the numbers

For those of you too busy (watching football, perhaps...) to notice, the 10 millionth US patent was granted last Tuesday (US patents are always granted on Tuesdays, by the way).  This blogger would like to take the momentous occasion to look at some numbers.

The first US patent was granted in 1836. It took about 150 years for the US to grant the first five million patents, and less than 30 years to grant the next five million. It took just over 3 years (38 months, precisely) to grant the most recent million patents. That's an average of 26,315 patents per month, or 6,100 patents per week.

On 30 April 2018, ARIPO recently granted AP4556, the highest number this blogger could find. The earliest ARIPO patents granted in 1987. Although it has taken 31 years to grant 4556 patents, the last 1000 patents were granted in just the last 2.5 years (i.e., about 33 per month). The halfway point, AP2278, was granted in 2011, less than seven years ago. So the numbers in ARIPO are also showing a dramatic increase.

In Kenya, the most recent patent available to this blogger is KE789, granted in February 2018. The first Kenyan patent was granted in 1994, resulting in an average of 33 patents granted over 24 years. As with the US and ARIPO, grants were increasing in Kenya until about 2012. Interestingly, however, the number of grants in Kenya has been declining year-on-year since that peak year. Here are some of the numbers: 43 granted in 2017, 37 granted in 2016, 22 granted in 2015, 53 granted in 2014, 70 granted in 2013, 76 granted in 2012, 63 granted in 2011, and 53 granted in 2010.

As this blogger has said many times before on this blog and elsewhere, the number of patents is a poor measure of innovation in ARIPO and Kenya (and, presumably, most or all of Africa). There are also many other factors that affect grant rate, from population and GDP to culture and tradition. Nevertheless, it is striking to see a per-week grant rate that is more than three orders of magnitude larger in the US compared with African offices.



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