Abstract: Measuring Innovation: What Do Patent Statistics Represent?

Shigehiro Nishimura


The aim of this paper is to rethink patent statistics as an indicator of technological inventions and innovations. Schmookler and Pavitt considered the correlations of patent data with inventions or R&D activities, but corporate patent management—which can have an effect on patent statistics—has not received adequate consideration. To fill that gap, this paper considers how the “visible hand” of top management or professional managers affects patent applications for inventions that come out of research and development. Because prevailing patent management styles can vary by country, a patent data-based international comparison of research and development requires a clear understanding of each country’s patent management and corresponding features. Furthermore, an intertemporal comparison within a specific country requires careful consideration of the evolution and multiple stages of patent management development. This paper clarifies the features and development of Japanese corporate patent management from the 1950s to 1980. A distinctive feature of the development of Japanese patenting was a dramatic increase in patent applications, a progression that seemed to be heterogeneous with the phenomenon in the United States. During that period, corporate patent management spread widely across the Japanese business sphere through international and domestic competition and established a generalized footing through the activities of the Japan Patent Association.