Reassessing patent propensity: Evidence from a dataset of R&D awards, 1977-2004

Roberto Fontana*, Alessandro Nuvolari, Hiroshi Shimizu, Andrea Vezzulli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


It is well known that not all innovations are patented, but the exact volume of innovative activities undertaken outside the coverage of patent protection and, relatedly, the actual propensity to patent an innovation in different contexts remain, to a major degree, a matter of speculation. This paper presents an exploratory study comparing systematically patented and unpatented innovations over the period 1977-2004 across industrial sectors. The main data source is the 'R&D 100 Awards' competition organized by the journal Research and Development. Since 1963, the magazine has been awarding this prize to the 100 most technologically significant new products available for sale or licensing in the year preceding the judgments. We match the products winners of the R&D 100 awards competition with USPTO patents and we examine the variation of patent propensity across different contexts (industries, geographical areas and organizations). Finally we compare our findings with previous assessments of patent propensity based on several sources of data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1780-1792
Number of pages13
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Dec
Externally publishedYes


  • Innovation
  • Patent propensity
  • R&D awards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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