How common is Federal Funding of patented inventions?

Frequency of disclosure of federal funding in patents, 2000 to 2011

Following our filing of a march-in petition with the NIH, seeking a rule that government funded inventions be no more expensive in the United States than in other high income countries, I was asked about the extent of federal funding of patented inventions.

While patent owners are required to report federal funding in patent applications, there is little policing of this obligation, leading to a systematic under-reporting. Also, not all funding that contributed to the development of an invention is required to be disclosed. For example, if researcher A advances the science to point A, but another advances the science to point B, the second researcher is under no obligation to make a disclosure of federal funds received by researcher A.

Looking only at what is declared on the patent, USPTO query tools make it possible to identify patents that include a disclosure of government interests (GOVT/government) or ownership by a federal agency (AN/”United States of America”).

For the most recent 11 full years of data, from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2011, the USPTO reports having issued 2,319,278 patents.

Of these patents, 49,412, or 2.1 percent, report either a disclosure of US government interests (43,569), ownership by the United States of America (10,208), or some combination of both (4,365).

Health related patents

Among the 43,569 patents that disclose government rights, 8,568 patents explicitly identify the National Institutes of Health, but many other patents identify the funding agency by its initials, or list individual Institutes in the NIH, either by initials or by their own name, such as the NIAID, or NCI, or the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, to give a few examples. Other health related funding disclosures include the DHHS, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Science Foundation, various defense institutions or the Department of Energy (quite important in the health genomics area), among other federal funding agencies.

Here are a few additional snapshots of the data, broken down by key words on patent claims (ACLM).

Patents issued, and patents with government interest or ownership, 2000 to 2011, by selected search term on patent claims (ACLM)
Search Term Patents Granted 2000 – 2011 Patents with government interest or ownership in patent Percent
antibiotic 2687 289 11%
asthma 1591 109 4%
breast cancer 2389 455 19%
cancer 9227 1451 16%
chagas 36 5 14%
dementia 856 33 4%
diabetes 4164 203 5%
fabry 1233 109 9%
hepatitis 2113 275 13%
human immunodeficiency virus OR HIV 3237 247 8%
infection 6501 851 13%
influenza 1077 184 17%
malaria 381 70 18%
progressive supranuclear palsy 48 4 8%
stem cell 975 204 21%
tuberculosis 703 134 19%

By Patent Class
Patent classes Patents, 2000 – 2011 Patents w/ government interest or ownership Percent
423 Chemistry of inorganic compound 11454 894 7.8%
424 Drug, bio-affecting and body treating compositions 44257 4574 10.3%
430 Chemistry: Radiation imagery chemistry: process, composition, or product thereof 23205 321 1.4%
433 Denistry 4424 26 0.6%
435 Chemistry: molecular biology and microbiology 64814 9873 15.2%
436 Chemistry: analytical and immunological testing 14470 1915 13.2%
514 Drug, bio-affecting and body treating compositions 57263 4328 7.6%
530 Chemistry: natural resins or derivatives; peptides or proteins; lignins or reaction products thereof 26341 4280 16.2%
600 Surgery 27933 600 2.1%
601 Surgery: kinesitherapy 2378 39 1.6%
604 Surgery 20649 176 0.9%
606 Surgery 22076 156 0.7%
607 Surgery 11277 226 2.0%
530 Chemistry: 11394 167 1.5%
930 Peptide or protean sequence 344 45 13.1%

James Love

James Love is the Director of Knowledge Ecology International. Previously, he was an economist for the Center for Study of Responsive Law where he also directed the Consumer Project on Technology and the Taxpayer Assets Project, Senior Economist for the Frank Russell Corporation, and held lecturer positions at Rutgers and Princeton Universities. His KEI webpage is