Historical Patent Data: A Practitioner's Guide

107 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2019 Last revised: 12 Aug 2020

See all articles by Michael Andrews

Michael Andrews

National Bureau of Economic Research

Date Written: August 11, 2020


I provide a primer on six recent large-scale historical patent datasets for use in innovation research. I discuss how each dataset is constructed, the types of patent information included in each, and the quality and completeness of each. Throughout, I emphasize when our knowledge of the history of invention is dependent on the data source used and provide recommendations about which dataset is most likely to be best for different contexts. Overall, these datasets paint a remarkably consistent picture of the history of U.S. invention. When the datasets do disagree, these differences tend to be minor, although I highlight some important exceptions. I further describe several "niche" historical patent datasets that allow researchers to study institutional contexts that cannot be studied using modern patent data. Finally, I discuss features of patent data that are not available for the historical patents but are available for modern patents.

Keywords: Patent, Invention, Innovation, Economic History

JEL Classification: O30, O34, N00, Y1

Suggested Citation

Andrews, Michael, Historical Patent Data: A Practitioner's Guide (August 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3415318 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3415318

Michael Andrews (Contact Author)

National Bureau of Economic Research ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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