Apr 13, 2023Legal
Patexia Insight 174: Top U.S. Biotech Patent Hubs

In late March, we released our fifth annual Patent Intelligence Report, which analyzes the patent prosecution landscape over the past five years, spanning from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2022. According to our data, there are 30,777 registered patent attorneys and agents who filed 2,332,609 applications and obtained 1,846,457 patents for their clients. In addition to measuring the activity, efficiency, and performance of all stakeholders, including attorneys, agents, law firms, and patentees, the report offers various statistics related to patent prosecution.

Patexia 173 published last week, featured an instance of such statistics, covering the fluctuation in the number of patents issued from foreign countries. Today's insight will focus on domestic patent activity, with a particular emphasis on the biotech landscape, analyzing the most inventive cities and states in the U.S. as top biotech patent producers.

Our coverage spans across a diverse range of technologies, with a specific focus on high-tech and biotech fields, which currently receive the bulk of R&D investments. Biotech pertains to areas like new drug development, pharmaceuticals, and other life sciences, while high-tech encompasses innovative engineering fields such as software, hardware, telecom, and semiconductors. To categorize patents in alignment with these fields, we assign specific Technology Centers (TC), namely TC 2100-2800 to high-tech and TC 1600 to biotech. In the realm of high-tech, innovation is abundant, but it typically involves small feature enhancements within larger systems. Conversely, in life sciences, a single discovery of a new drug can have a profound impact on people's lives, but it also entails significant challenges regarding research and development time and costs.

During our study, a notable breakthrough was the creation of COVID-19 vaccines by companies such as Pfizer and Moderna. However, drug and vaccine development is a rigorous process that necessitates substantial research capital and investment to progress through clinical trials. The presence of patents and a strong legal framework to safeguard intellectual property rights is critical, as it enables companies to achieve a significant return on their investments. Without such protections, there may be a loss of incentives for future investment.

In Patexia 172, we showed how domestic patent activity represents a significant portion of patent prosecution activity in the U.S., accounting for over half of all cases. Building on this, we also presented findings in Patexia 134 revealing the imbalanced distribution of inventors based on issued patents across various states and cities. Here we are expanding on this research by examining the shifts in the most active states and cities regarding biotech patents, providing insights into the trends within this critical sector of innovation.

As seen in the chart above, California stands at the forefront of the most active states with regard to the number of biotech patents issued over the past five years. Interestingly, this aligns with the list of most active states overall. There are several reasons why California is at the forefront of biotech activity in the US. For one, the state is home to a number of prestigious research universities and institutions such as Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UC San Francisco, which serve as breeding grounds for innovation and research in the life sciences. Additionally, California has a vibrant startup ecosystem and a concentration of venture capital firms that are interested in funding biotech companies. Some of the most active biotech companies are headquartered in California such as Amgen, Gilead Sciences, Illumina, and Genentech. These factors combine to make California a hub of biotech activity and innovation.

In second place comes Massachusetts, while they rank fourth when considering the overall number of patents issued. Massachusetts has established itself as a hub of biotech activity in the US for several reasons. Firstly, the state is home to world-renowned academic and research institutions such as Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which have a strong focus on the life sciences and have produced numerous Nobel laureates and groundbreaking discoveries in biotechnology. Secondly, the state has a thriving startup ecosystem fueled by venture capital firms and angel investors that are interested in funding early-stage biotech companies. Additionally, Massachusetts has a well-developed infrastructure that includes specialized laboratories, research centers, and incubators to support biotech startups. The state also benefits from a strong collaboration between academia, industry, and government, facilitating the transfer of technology and knowledge between these sectors. The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center is a public-private partnership that provides funding and support for the life sciences industry in the state. All these factors have contributed to making Massachusetts a major hub of biotech activity in the US. Biogen, Moderna and Vertex Pharmaceuticals are some of the major biotech companies located in this state.

The states of New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania occupy the remaining spots in the top five for biotech activity, with each issuing between 5,000 and 6,000 biotech patents and closely following one another. Several of the top biotech companies are headquartered in these states such as Johnson & Johnson and Merck in New Jersey, Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer in New York, etc. Although these states are also among the top ten in terms of overall patents issued, their rankings are 8th, 3rd, and 9th, respectively. It’s worth noting that Texas, which is ranked second in overall patent activity, ranks seventh in biotech patents. This could be due to the fact that Texas has a strong presence in other industries, such as oil and gas, and may not have as much focus or investment in biotech compared to states like California and Massachusetts.

Upon further examination of the data, we sought to determine the cities with the highest number of biotech inventors based on the addresses they provided to the USPTO. As anticipated, the distribution of issued patents is uneven even among cities.

The data on the cities with the most biotech inventors based on the provided address data to the USPTO shows again a clear concentration of activity in California and Massachusetts. San Diego tops the list with 4,045 biotech patents issued, followed by Cambridge with 3,175 and San Francisco with 3,095. New York and Boston make the top five list with 2,351 and 2,043 patents issued respectively. The remaining cities in the top ten except Seattle, are located either in California or Massachusetts. This concentration of biotech inventors in certain cities can be mostly attributed to factors such as the presence of major biotech companies such as Illumina in San Diego, Biogen and Moderna in Cambridge, Genentech and Gilead Sciences in San Francisco, etc. Furthermore, renowned research institutions and strong venture capital funding influence the thriving biotech industry in these cities.

The full Patent Intelligence Report provides an in-depth analysis of patent filing and issuance trends, breaking down the numbers for biotech and high-tech by year. Additionally, this year's report offers insights into some of the most important lateral moves for attorneys since the previous report in 2022. For the first time, attorney interviews with the USPTO were considered as an additional measure of attorney activity, resulting in an updated ranking methodology for attorney activity assessments. The report assesses the activity, efficiency, and performance of various stakeholders, including attorneys, agents, law firms, and patentees, among others.

Stay tuned as in the following weeks we will be covering some of the very best stakeholders in patent prosecution earning their mention either for their high activity or distinguished performance.


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