Who’s Winning Innovation: Organizations or Individuals?


Although the image of the individual inventor is venerated in the U.S., innovation is becoming the domain of organizations. Organizations, especially large organizations, possess the financial resources, human capital, and teams of legal experts necessary to navigate the cumbersome patenting process. Thus, this research seeks to answer the following questions: Are corporations becoming the locus of innovation at the expense of individual inventors? Is the individual inventor becoming extinct? Or, do innovation activities in organizations generate positive externalities that also benefit individuals?


This research seeks to answer these questions by collecting and analyzing qualitative and quantitative data on patenting activity for organizations and individuals in the U.S. Data sources include historical data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, organizational and demographic data for metropolitan areas in the U.S., and interviews with inventors who have been granted solely owned patents as well as patents assigned to organizations.